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    Molester breaks rule, gets probation

    By WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published March 20, 2002

    LARGO -- A millionaire heir to the Thompson submachine gun fortune who is a convicted child molester pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges that he failed to register with police as a sex offender.

    Russell Ambler Maguire Jr., 76, who has been in and out of trouble with the law since 1984, was sentenced to three years' probation in a plea agreement with prosecutors.

    Under state guidelines, he faced up to 18 months in prison. But prosecutors said his age, his ill health and the minor nature of the violation convinced them that probation made more sense.

    "It wouldn't be a particularly appealing case to a jury," said Pinellas prosecutor Mark McGarry III.

    Maguire came to court with a walker. His attorney, Bruce Denson, said his client has severe heart problems and is no threat to the community. He said Maguire, who now lives in a Largo nursing home, would not comment.

    "Just the task of daily living is difficult for him," Denson said.

    Denson said Maguire moved from a home in Dunedin last year. Maguire reported his move to police, properly registering as a sex offender as the law required. But he did not find a new home in Dunedin to his liking, moving back to the original home after just three or four days, Denson said.

    After this second move, he did not register again.

    "It's not like he was out there trying to evade the reporting requirement," Denson said.

    Maguire first got into trouble in 1984, when he pleaded no contest to fondling an 8-year-old girl.

    Two prison stints have not deterred a defendant who once hired F. Lee Bailey to defend him.

    In 1990, while on probation, Maguire was accused of approaching children in a supermarket parking lot in Palm Harbor and offering a 12-year-old boy $100 to get into his car.

    While later under house arrest, Maguire spent two hours in a grocery store, trying to talk to one underage girl who walked away from him, then blocking a checkout line for 15 minutes to chat with a 16-year-old cashier.

    A nine-year prison sentence for probation and house arrest violations was later overturned by an appeals court.

    On Tuesday, Maguire seemed barely able to make it out of the courtroom on his own power.

    "This is ridiculous," he told his lawyer, "having to rest every 30 feet."

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