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    By Times staff reports
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published April 20, 2002


    Bush promotes county judge to circuit bench

    Gov. Jeb Bush has promoted Hillsborough County Judge Denise Pomponio to the circuit judge seat vacated by her uncle, Judge Robert Bonanno, who resigned last December in the midst of a scandal.

    Pomponio said Friday that she was looking forward to the challenge.

    "I feel very fortunate to get this opportunity," she said.

    Bush appointed Pomponio, 44, a Tampa native, to the county bench in August 1999.

    The South Texas College of Law graduate was a Hillsborough prosecutor for 13 years, with a focus on arson and explosives cases.

    Her husband, Peter Pomponio, is a Tampa police sergeant.

    TV, radio personality gets probation for DUI

    LARGO -- Local TV and radio personality Nancy Alexander pleaded no contest on Friday to a misdemeanor DUI charge and was sentenced to one year's probation.

    Alexander was charged in January after she drove off Interstate 275 near Roosevelt Boulevard about 10 p.m. into a construction area.

    Alexander, 39, registered a blood-alcohol level of 0.183 percent, more than twice the level at which a driver is presumed impaired.

    On Friday, Pinellas County Judge William Overton fined Alexander $500, ordered her to pay $50 in court costs, revoked her driver's license for six months, ordered her car impounded for 10 days and ordered her to complete 50 hours of community service, or pay $500 in lieu of community service.

    Her probation will be ended early as soon as she completes all these conditions. Alexander already has completed DUI school.

    Alexander said the DUI conviction does not threaten her job status as a reporter for Fox 13 television and as co-host for the Nancy & Mike Show on WMTX-FM 100.7, though she said she knows a repeat will lead to her firing.

    "It's not going to happen again," she said.

    Driver of 18-wheeler hurt after truck slams into locomotive

    PLANT CITY -- The driver of an 18-wheeler was seriously injured Friday after his semitrailer truck smashed into the side of a train.

    Hillsborough sheriff's officials said Elliott Redden, 48, was hauling citrus about 11:30 a.m. when the railroad crossing lights activated on State Road 39, south of Hopewell Road.

    Redden, who was traveling north on State Road 39, braked but ended up slamming into the first locomotive of the CSX train, which was carrying gravel, said sheriff's Lt. Rod Reder.

    The train's operator was taken to a hospital for observation, Reder said. Redden of Auburndale was flown to Tampa General Hospital in serious condition, but his injuries are not considered life-threatening, Reder said.

    8-year-old boy suspended for bringing knife on school bus

    TAMPA -- An 8-year-old Mango Elementary School student was suspended Friday and may be charged for bringing a 3-inch knife onto a school bus.

    Hillsborough schools spokesman Mark Hart said the student, who was not identified, was showing the knife to his friends on the ride home from school and causing a commotion when the bus driver pulled over near Interstate 40 and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

    The driver searched all of the children before discovering the boy had thrown the knife outside the bus.

    The student was suspended for 10 days and could be charged for possessing a weapon and disrupting a school function, Hart said.

    Man arrested after marijuana is found in his Brandon home

    BRANDON -- A 21-year-old man was arrested Friday after sheriff's deputies discovered 120 marijuana plants growing in his Brandon home.

    Deputies went to the house at 851 Louise St. after receiving a report of a burglary in progress.

    When they arrived, the suspects were gone, authorities said. While looking for possible victims, the deputies found the marijuana in a bedroom and bathroom.

    The resident of the house, Jacob Stein, returned about 45 minutes later. He was arrested at 4:30 a.m. on charges of manufacturing marijuana and driving under the influence.

    Stein was taken to Orient Jail Road and released Friday on a $2,500 bond.

    Detectives seized the plants, a scale, several books on cultivating marijuana and other growing equipment. They estimated the marijuana had a street value of $120,000.

    Reno, McBride to appear at health care rally

    ST. PETERSBURG -- Democratic gubernatorial candidates Bill McBride and Janet Reno will be campaigning in downtown St. Petersburg today at a health care rally.

    The former U.S. attorney general and Tampa lawyer will join a brief march and rally organized by the Service Employees International Union.

    Both candidates are scheduled to speak, and demonstrators will highlight health care problems and call for better, more affordable care for all Americans.

    The march is scheduled to start at noon, beginning at the St. Petersburg Hilton and ending with a rally a few blocks away at south Straub Park.

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