Briefs and news of note.

Published June 24, 2006

School bus driver accused of sex crime

LARGO - A bus driver for Pinellas County schools was arrested Friday, accused of sexually abusing a child who is a family member.

Mike Satterwhite, 44, of Largo was arrested by detectives from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office on one count of capital sexual battery.

Detectives said Satterwhite engaged in sexual acts with an 8-year-old female family member in March 2005 at a location in Seminole that was not identified.

He told detectives he also was a self-ordained minister. Satterwhite had no arrest record, according to state records.

Detectives said there are no other victims in this case.

Murdered man's family boosts reward

ST. PETERSBURG - The family of Tim Chanthavong, the 22-year-old man who was murdered exactly seven years ago today, has increased a cash reward for information that leads to the arrest of his killer.

The family is now offering $20,000 to anyone who offers information that leads to an arrest. The St. Petersburg police can be reached at (727) 893-7164.

Chanthavong was killed after he drove his red Acura NSX to Spec's Music on 66th Street N. The car was stolen and later was found abandoned.

Teacher cleared in bar shootings

TAMPA - All charges have been dropped against a Cahoon Elementary School teacher who was accused of recruiting friends to try to kill an ex-boyfriend.

Betty Jean Johnson, 30, was arrested Jan. 11, four days after a brawl at Gene's Bar that left three people wounded by gunfire.

With trial set for Monday, Assistant State Attorney Pam Bondi said prosecutors agreed to drop all charges Thursday because witnesses gave conflicting testimony in pretrial questioning.

"She's elated," attorney Timothy Fitzgerald said Friday of his client. "She's excited to go back to teaching."

When arrested, Johnson was a special-education teacher who had worked for Hillsborough County schools for five years. She was suspended without pay after the arrest.

Schools spokesman Stephen Hegarty said Friday that although the charges have been dropped, the School District still must review the case before deciding whether to reinstate or fire Johnson.

Defense argues drug case is tainted

TAMPA - Prosecutors have so badly mishandled the case against a man accused of being a Colombian drug lord that they must be replaced, a defense attorney demanded Friday.

Ronald J. Kurpiers, an attorney for Joaquin Valencia-Trujillo, told a judge Friday his client could not receive a fair trial from prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney's Office from the Middle District of Florida because they gained access to internal defense documents while investigating potential money laundering.

If U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Jenkins doesn't dismiss the case against Valencia-Trujillo, then she should appoint a different U.S. Attorney's Office to handle the prosecution, Kurpiers said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Mosakowski said Kurpiers' complaints were exaggerated.

Jenkins did not issue a ruling Friday. She will send a written recommendation to Chief U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich, who will make the final ruling.

Valencia-Trujillo's trial is scheduled to start July 5.

Federal prosecutors describe Valencia-Trujillo as one of the leaders of the Cali drug cartel.