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Teenager charged in fight at JDC

A 15-year-old at the Juvenile Detention Center needed stitches to close a cut on his cheek after the scuffle.

Published June 20, 2003

LARGO - An altercation between a 15-year-old and an officer at Pinellas County's Juvenile Detention Center this week prompted authorities to charge the youth with battery and temporarily reassign the officer.

The boy was cut on the cheek and needed five stitches when officials took him to a hospital after the incident Monday night, Assistant Public Defender Lori Landeen said. He was charged with battery on a detention employee.

Meanwhile the officer, Charles Boatwright, has been placed on "no contact status" pending the outcome of an investigation, said Department of Juvenile Justice spokeswoman Catherine Arnold. That means he is continuing to work for the department, but not directly with youths.

The incident comes about two weeks after the first-ever fatal fight at the detention center, a youth jail that mainly houses juveniles awaiting court dates. That incident occurred between two youths. The Monday night incident occurred after officers instructed all youths to return to their cells. A sheriff's report says the teenager refused, and Boatwright directed him to his cell by placing his hands on the boy's shoulders. Boatwright used an approved procedure called "familiar touch," Arnold said.

A JDC report says Boatwright raised his arm to block a punch from the youth and that in the process, the boy was cut in the face.

But Landeen says her client denied swinging at Boatwright. The youth, who was in the JDC on a burglary charge, says Boatwright shoved him into his cell. After the boy asked why, Boatwright "punched him with a closed fist with his left hand and hit (the boy's) right cheek," Landeen said.

Nurses staff the detention center only from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., so none was available at the time.

Landeen says she met with her client the next day and "he was still sitting in the bloody clothes from the night before, and he told me that he had been denied new clothes and ... not allowed to take a shower."

But JDC staff said they did provide him with clean clothes, Arnold said.

Boatwright has worked for the Department of Juvenile Justice for five years and is a senior detention officer.

[Last modified June 20, 2003, 01:48:08]

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