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Schiavo Web rumor pegs Rice as a villain

An online critic says he is the center of a conspiracy to deny care for Terri Schiavo.

Published March 19, 2005

In Terri Schiavo's room, quiet
Tube is removed after a chaotic day
Schiavo Web rumor pegs Rice as a villain
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Terri Schiavo: Complete coverage
What are your thoughts? Share them in our guestbook
Decision day: Photo gallery

TALLAHASSEE - As sheriff of Pinellas County, Everett Rice gave Michael Schiavo a job.

As a state legislator, Rice opposed a bill that would have blocked the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube.

To Rice, the two acts are unrelated. But to some people who are using the Web to try to stop Terri Schiavo's death, they are just some of the evidence of "conspiracy, collusion and coverup."

Rice, a Treasure Island Republican and one of the Legislature's newest members, finds himself a target of an Internet attack accusing him of complicity to deny care to the Pinellas Park woman.

His chief critic is June Maxam of Chestertown, N.Y., who challenges what she calls "judicial tyranny." Working from a home computer near Albany, Maxam has been fighting New York judges who she said did not properly file their oaths of office.

Maxam writes for and co-owns The Empire Journal, an online newspaper. Her other targets include Circuit Judge George Greer, Attorney General Charlie Crist and Florida legislators who, like Rice, opposed a new feeding-tube law.

But Maxam has aimed most of her outrage at Rice, a four-term sheriff first elected to the Florida House in November. As sheriff, Rice declined to investigate charges of abuse against Terri Schiavo.

Other legislators have been receiving e-mails with copies of the anti-Rice articles attached.

Rice was unfamiliar with Maxam's Web site until Friday, and he laughed off her conspiracy theories. But they are an example of the intensity of the Schiavo debate in cyberspace.

Maxam has published online stories about Rice's hiring of Schiavo; Rice's longstanding friendship with Greer, the judge who ordered Schiavo's feeding tube removed; the role of Rice and Sheriff's Office equipment in a TV ad supporting Greer's re-election; and Rice's former membership on the board of a hospice where Terri Schiavo is a patient.

Weeks before he left the Sheriff's Office, Rice said, he hired Michael Schiavo for a job as a nurse in the county jail, near Largo. He began work Oct. 11.

"I hired him," Rice said, "but I never saw him. I don't know him. It's hard to find good nurses, and he was right at the top of the stack of applications."

While Rice hired Schiavo, he said, he is sure he acted on the recommendation of one of his assistants.

Rice said he and Judge Greer are friends, and he acknowledged making a TV ad and was on the hospice board several years ago, as an honorary member because he was sheriff.

Rice was one of eight Republicans in the state House who voted against a bill that would have prevented the withholding of food and water to incapacitated patients who did not make their intentions clear beforehand.

"I tried to vote my conscience and not necessarily do what's popular," Rice said. "I wasn't counting votes. I think the Republicans might have misread this thing."

[Last modified March 19, 2005, 01:00:09]

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