tampabay.com

Belleair woman won't be charged in hit-and-run

By LORRI HELFAND
Published August 16, 2006


BELLEAIR — The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office has decided not to pursue a hit-and-run case that drew the ire of Belleair’s mayor.

A top prosecutor said Wednesday that Mayor George Mariani’s objections to the arrest of Elizabeth “Callie” Raymond, 19, had nothing to do with the decision to drop the charge.

Rather, there wasn’t the evidence to prosecute a case, said chief assistant state attorney Bruce Bartlett. But he said the state expects to review two witness affidavits that it has not seen yet and could re-open the matter if additional evidence warrants it.

Mariani had complained in an email to police and fellow city officials that police exhibited a “stunning display of poor judgment” by charging Raymond with leaving the scene after driving over a lawn worker’s foot.

“The complaint was brought by a lawn service person who is, in my opinion, trying to scam a 'wealthy’ Belleair family,” Mariani wrote the town manager in a July 12 e-mail.

Other commissioners have criticized Mariani’s e-mail, saying that he shouldn’t have gotten involved in an ongoing police investigation. But Mariani has shrugged off such criticism, saying he’s not trying to control the investigation.

On July 7, Raymond was heading west on Ponce de Leon Boulevard when her 2001 Saab struck Paul George, 22, of Largo, police said.

George was doing yard work a couple of blocks from Raymond’s home, according to the accident report.
Police say the Saab hit George’s arm and ran over his right foot.

Raymond pulled into a driveway, got out of her car, stood near her vehicle and then got back into her car and left, the police report said.

Doug Prior, Raymond’s attorney, has said his client knew there was some contact between her vehicle and George or that he may have inadvertently struck her car when he was working.

Raymond did not know that George needed any medical treatment and felt somewhat threatened because George was loud and profane, according to Prior.

Raymond, who attends the University of Texas, was arrested at her home four days after the incident.
— Lorri Helfand can be reached at 727 445-4155 or lorri@sptimes.com.