TAMPA BAY - Here are five things you need to know happening in Florida on Thursday, December 20.
(1) Buju Banton evidentiary hearing
An evidentiary hearing in reggae singer Buju Banton's cocaine trafficking case will be held in U.S. Federal Court in Tampa on Thursday.
The purpose of the hearing is to determine whether juror misconduct occurred during Banton's trial.
Banton was convicted in February 2011 of cocaine conspiracy and trafficking charges. A federal appears court upheld the conviction in June.
The 39-year-old Jamaica native is currently serving a 10 year prison sentence, the minimum sentence allowed under federal guidelines.
Banton's attorney hopes to show jurors were exposed to information they used to convict the Grammy-winning singer that did not come through witness testimony or evidence.
Defense attorneys Imhotep Alkebu-Ian and Chokwe Lumumba are asking U.S. District Judge James Moody to grant Banton new trial.
Today's hearing is scheduled to being at 9:00 a.m.
(2) St. Petersburg red light cameras
The St. Petersburg City Council will discuss the use of red light cameras in the city at their meeting on Thursday.
City staff members compiled a 122-page report for council members about the use of the cameras and how much revenue they brought in. The report was created to support Mayor Bill Foster's plan to expand the red light camera program
After examining the report, the Tampa Bay Times requested total crash numbers at intersections where the cameras were put up. It turns out the total number of crashes did not go down, but increased by 10 percent.
The revenue St. Petersburg generated from the use of the red light cameras also did not meet expectations. Cameras caught 36,185 drivers in the first year. After paying the state and the camera vendor, the city collected just over $700,000, about 17% less than was expected.
City Council members can not stop an expansion of red light cameras in the city, but could decide today to put a permanent end to the camera program.
The City Council hearing begins at 3:00 p.m. For more information, visit www.stpete.org/council/ .
(3) Sun Country operates flights at TIA
Minneapolis-based airliner Sun County begins service at Tampa International Airport (TIA) on Thursday.
Special introductory fares to and from TIA begin at $139.
Sun Country will be offering service Saturdays to Thursday between Tampa and seven cities: Minneapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle.
"We're delighted to connect more travelers from the Midwest to all that the West Coast of Florida has to offer," said Chris Minner, TIA vice president of marketing. "Our beaches, museums and theme parks will provide a great escape from the winter weather up North."
The airliner is also adding Tampa to its list of vacation destinations.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.suncountry.com .
(4) UPS peak holiday shipping day
Thursday is expected to be the peak shipping day of the year for UPS.
The company expects to deliver an estimated 28 million packages worldwide today. That is over 12 million more packages than its daily average of 15.8 million packages.
In the four weeks leading up to Christmas, UPS says they expect to deliver 527 million packages worldwide, an increase of 9.7% over 2011.
UPS also expects an increase of packages to be shipped on January 3 when over a half-million packages are returned to retailers.
"We've seen a 15% increase in retail returns over the last year. UPS research shows that 63% of online shoppers review a retailer's returns policy before making a purchase."
For more information on UPS 2012 holiday shipping deadlines, visit www.ups.com/media/news/en/ups_2012_year_end_schedule.pdf .
(5) National Regifting Day
Thursday is National Regifting Day.
Since 2006 Money Management International (MMI) has declared the third Thursday in December as National Regifting Day. They determined today is the most common day for a holiday office party.
According to a MMI survey, 41% of people who regift presents target coworkers as recipients.
A majority of people believe regifting is okay because it saves money and keeps a gift you do not want out of the landfill.
MMI says only new, unopened items should be regifted. Also, never regift handmade or one-of-a-kind items.
For more tips on how to properly regift something, visit www.regiftable.com .
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