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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Accused teacher drowning in debt
By SHANNON COLAVECCHIO-VAN SICKLER and CHRISTOPHER GOFFARD
Published November 12, 2004
Debra Lafave, a suspended Greco Middle School teacher accused of having sex with a 14-year-old student, faces a criminal trial sure to play out before an international audience ravenous for salacious details. If convicted, she faces the possibility of serious prison time.
But all that is months away. For now, the 24-year-old Lafave has more pressing difficulties, such as clawing her way out from under mountainous debt, much of it resulting from her brief marriage, which imploded after the scandal.
She and husband Kristian had been married less than a year when her June arrest on charges of lewd and lascivious battery made headlines. Two months later, he asked for a divorce.
The School Board has suspended Lafave without pay until her case is resolved, and she now makes $10 an hour as an office assistant at an Apollo Beach air-conditioning company, according to a financial affidavit in the divorce file.
Lafave's liabilities exceed her assets by $31,575.60, according to court papers. Among her debts: $2,532.98 in Visa payments from her honeymoon, and $47,500 for the Riverview home she and her husband bought in Feb. 2003.
Plus, Lafave has hired one of Tampa's top-drawer lawyers, John Fitzgibbons, to defend her. He doesn't come cheap.
"I normally do not discuss fee arrangements with the press," Fitzgibbons said, when asked how she could afford him. "But Debbie's family has been very supportive, emotionally and financially."
Lafave is back in court at 8:30 a.m. Nov. 30 for a pretrial hearing.
BELATED PROMOTION: Veteran Tampa firefighter Steve Brand said early this year that former Fire Chief Aria Green passed him over for a promotion because of a lingering personal disagreement about a fence repair gone awry.
The firefighters union filed a grievance on Brand's behalf, alleging Green let dissatisfaction with Brand's work on his fence interfere with the promotion decision. The city ruled in Green's favor, saying the city's agreement with the union gives Green the ultimate say over who gets promoted.
Now, several weeks after Mayor Pam Iorio demanded Green's resignation amid pressure from union leaders, Brand has gotten his promotion to driver/engineer.
The promotion means Brand will make $60,300 a year, or $500 more than he was making, said newly appointed Fire Chief Dennis Jones. It also means Brand will drive and maintain the fire truck instead of riding on the back doing "all the real hard labor," Jones said.
Jones said Brand, who joined the department 23 years ago, was the first name on a ranked list of firefighters in line for promotion. The list is based on how firefighters score on a written exam, as well as their seniority and education.
"He was No. 1 on the list, he had no disciplinary action in his personnel file, and he was recommended by all supervisors," Jones said. "And my commitment has been that I will promote straight down the list unless there is a disciplinary issue, or if there's a chance to promote underutilized classes like women and African-Americans."
TASER DEBATE The police union raised something of a stink a few months ago when the Police Department began its first round of Taser training for officers.
Police Chief Steve Hogue wanted every officer who carried the gun lookalike to get zapped for one second, to understand how the jolt of electricity works in controlling unruly subjects - and how it feels to have all that juice coursing through the body.
But union leaders made clear that no officer could be forced to feel the Taser's buzz. Fine, Hogue said; whoever doesn't get zapped doesn't carry one.
A few months and 480 trained officers later, Hogue said just one detective has declined to be hit with the Taser. Another 400 or so officers will be trained when the last batch of Tasers arrives.
Hogue said they wouldn't make officers do anything the department considered unsafe, and obviously most officers agreed.
"One didn't agree, but you can always find one person who doesn't agree, no matter what the issue is," Hogue said.