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Teen's trial in fatal beating will be moved to Pinellas

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 28, 2003

BRADENTON -- A judge agreed Monday to move the trial of a teen accused of fatally beating a classmate.

The trial of John Acosta, 19, was to begin Monday in Manatee County with jury selection, but defense attorney Michelle Berthiaume asked that it be moved to Pinellas County, arguing that in questionnaires 40 percent of the potential jurors said they had made up their minds about the case.

Prosecutors and Judge Marc Gilner agreed. Gilner will remain the judge on the case and said the move will delay the trial about two weeks, depending on the Pinellas County Courthouse schedule.

It will be the second trial of Acosta, who is accused of killing James Brier in a fight after school on Oct. 18, 2001.

A mistrial was declared in August after a jury failed to reach a verdict on a manslaughter charge. In October, prosecutors changed the charge from manslaughter to principal to manslaughter, meaning they will have to prove only that Acosta's alleged kicks and punches "aided" in Brier's death.

If convicted, the former Manatee High School student could get up to 15 years in prison.

Medical experts testified in the first trial that Brier died from a burst artery at the base of his skull, caused by such a violent strike that his head snapped backward and sliced the artery.

A number of teens who saw the fight testified that other students besides Acosta hit Brier.

Cruise workers carried cocaine, agents say

FORT LAUDERDALE -- Five men were charged with masterminding a cruise ship drug ring that officials say smuggled cocaine into the United States by duct-taping it to workers on cruise lines.

Federal agents seized about 60 pounds of cocaine, which had a street value of about $6-million, said Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Joe Kilmer.

The ring shuttled cocaine from Jamaica to Key West, Miami and Port Everglades on various cruise lines, prosecutors said.

Three Jamaican nationals living in South Florida were arrested Saturday and are being held without bail. Two suspects are still at large.

Kilmer declined to name the cruise lines that carried the drugs, saying the companies assisted in the investigation and did not have any knowledge of the crime.

FAU finalist withdraws; Brogan one of two left

BOCA RATON -- The field of candidates for president of Florida Atlantic University narrowed again Monday after one of three finalists withdrew from consideration.

The announcement means FAU trustees will consider only Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan and Thomas Hanley, engineering dean at the University of Louisville, for the job.

Stanley Fish, liberal arts and sciences dean at the University of Illinois at Chicago, cited personal reasons for withdrawing.

Trustees are scheduled to select the next president on Friday.

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