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Senator's evidence bill may affect his own case

Published January 5, 2007


TALLAHASSEE - Sen. Gary Siplin of Orlando, who's keeping his seat while appealing a felony conviction, has filed a bill that would allow a person to seek civil damages if a conviction is based on fabricated evidence.

Siplin's one-page bill (SB 456) would create a cause of action for anyone "whose conviction was based on evidence that was fabricated or deceptively manipulated by any law enforcement agency or state attorney's office."

As drafted, the bill would take effect July 1, 2007. Whether it would be directly applicable to Siplin's case would depend on how long it takes for his appeal to run its course.

Siplin was convicted in August of grand theft for having employees work on his re-election campaign on state time.

The case against him was brought by the Orange-Osceola State Attorney's Office, and Siplin's lawyers have criticized prosecutors for pressing the case against him.

Senate leaders in November decided to take no action against Siplin because he is appealing his conviction.

The Orlando Democrat also has filed a bill that would ease Florida's long-standing denial of automatic restoration of civil rights for convicted felons.

Sen. Steve Geller, D-Cooper City, the Senate Democratic leader who has defended allowing Siplin to remain in the Senate, said he was not familiar with the details of Siplin's bill.

"It's probably not the smartest bill for him to file," Geller said. "He probably needs to show a little more sensitivity on what bill's he's filing, until the outcome of his appeal."

Siplin, 52, was suspended from practicing law this week.

A phone call left with his office was not returned Thursday.

[Last modified January 5, 2007, 01:25:46]

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