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Attorney puts career on the line

Amy Herdy and David Karp
TAMPA UNCUFFED
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Amy Herdy
David Karp
By AMY HERDY and DAVID KARP, Times Staff Writers

© St. Petersburg Times
published January 31, 2002


As attorney Nat Tindall put three Hillsborough County judges under oath recently, television cameras were there to take in the unusual scene.

Tindall deposed the judges as part of a lawsuit against Travelers Indemnity Co. in which he claims lawyers and a former judge committed fraud in a personal injury case. He wants the chief judge of a different circuit, who is hearing the case, to throw the award out.

Tindall won about $400,000 in the personal injury case against Travelers, but he was seeking more. He now claims several lawyers and judges conspired to rig the case against him; he also claims he refused to pay a judge a $300,000 bribe.

None of these charges have been substantiated.

That didn't stop television stations from reporting on accusations made during the legal proceedings.

But no attention was paid to accusations against Tindall.

The Florida Bar has opened an investigation into Tindall for making false accusations in the case. The Bar has already found probable cause to charge Tindall with violating Bar rules in another case.

This isn't the first time Tindall has made wild accusations against judges and lawyers. In 1989, the Florida Supreme Court publicly reprimanded Tindall for knowingly making false accusations against a judge. A Bar grievance committee also admonished Tindall in 1994 for misconduct when he loaned a client money to continue funding a lawsuit.

Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta criticized Tindall for making "patently frivolous arguments supported by no evidence." The federal appeals court imposed sanctions against him.

Attorney Hugh Smith successfully sued Tindall in 1993 for defamation, and a jury awarded him $150,000.

If Tindall loses this case, "my whole career is on the line," he said Wednesday. Even so, he says he believes he will uncover wrongdoing.

"I know something is back there," Tindall said. "You just have to follow the trail."

IN CASE I'M BEING ARRESTED, LEAVE A MESSAGE AFTER THE BEEP: As the resident law enforcement officer for Gaither High school, Hillsborough sheriff's Deputy Clemente Fiol deals with all kinds of situations from his students.

Including the criminal ones.

Earlier this month, someone rummaged through a locker room during a basketball game and stole items from some of the players, including cell phones and a CD player.

Fiol heard through the grapevine about the identity of a suspect, another student, who denied having anything to do with it.

Later, the mother of one of the players provided Fiol with the telephone number to her son's stolen cell phone. Mom and the officer called from his office.

The thief had changed the voice mail on the stolen cell phone to his own personalized message.

"He had music playing in the background and everything," Fiol said.

After stating his name, the teen instructed his callers to leave a message.

Fiol, who recognized both the voice and the name as the suspect he talked to earlier, decided to pay a visit in person instead, and pulled the youth out of class.

After the 16-year-old gave up the cell phone, Fiol charged him with burglary and theft.

"Not one of my tougher cases," he said.

AND THERE'S NO LINE TO STAND IN: Check out the clerk's new Web site at www.hillsclerk.com. Until now, people would have to make the trip downtown to get public records. Now, you don't have to worry about those parking tickets.

-- Got a tip? Amy Herdy is at 226-3386 or herdy@sptimes.com, and David Karp is at 226-3376 or karp@sptimes.com. Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

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