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Defense: Prosecutors should be disqualified

© St. Petersburg Times
published April 17, 2003

TAMPA -- The attorney for a woman accused of attempted murder says the Hillsborough State Attorney's office should be disqualified from prosecuting the case because of "private malice" and political pressure.

Patricia Banks of Gibsonton is accused of shooting her former girlfriend, Olga J. Joanow, an attorney for the University of South Florida, in July 2001.

Banks' defense attorney, Lyann Goudie, wrote a letter to Hillsborough prosecutors on March 12 complaining that the best plea offer the state had made involved a 20-year sentence for Banks. Since Banks was 53, Goudie said, much of her family could be dead by the time she got out of prison.

Goudie cited the case of Nathaniel Gates, who was allowed to plead to 20 years in prison on more serious charge of second-degree murder. Comparing the two cases, Goudie wrote, might suggest the state attorney "values the life of a lawyer more than a blue collar worker."

"It could further suggest that Patti's sexual orientation is the reason for the disparate treatment," Goudie wrote of Banks.

Goudie also suggested prosecutors were acting under pressure from a former Hillsborough prosecutor who has worked with Joanow at USF and is her friend.

State Attorney Mark Ober said he found the letter insulting and condescending. With regard to the Gates case, Ober said, prosecutors offered the defendant a 20-year sentence because there were evidentiary problems that made a successful prosecution before a jury uncertain.

Both sides will present their case at a hearing before Circuit Judge Anthony Black next week.

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