tampabay.com

After debate, Senate approves settlement for boot camp death

By ALEX LEARY
Published April 28, 2007


TALLAHASSEE - The family of a teenager who died after a violent encounter with guards at a boot camp is closer to receiving a $5-million settlement from the state.

But Friday's 29-5 Senate approval of the bill came after an impassioned debate over the appropriateness of paying a claim before the court case has been heard.

"I don't think the Florida Senate wants to send anybody out of here with the message that if you do a crime in Florida, we get to convict you in the Florida Senate long before a court of law does, " said Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton. "I think the lynch mobs went out a long time ago."

Bennett was successful in getting the preamble to the bill removed because it contained an account of the January 2006 incident at the Bay County boot camp.

Martin Lee Anderson, 14, collapsed during a run around a dirt track, and then a half dozen guards tried to get him back up, claiming he was combative. Their blows to his body were captured on a surveillance video.

The seven guards and a nurse accused of negligence have yet to go to trial.

"I believe this young man was murdered, " said Sen. Alex Villalobos, R-Miami.

A lawyer, Villalobos said Senate approval was not evidence and the Legislature did not have the same burden of evidence as a court of law.

Sen. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, said the case was tragic "but I don't believe anyone tried to kill him."

Posey voted for the measure, but later said he did so by mistake.

The claims bill is for $4.8-million, because the family already has gotten $200, 000 from the state, the maximum allowed without the Legislature's approval. Gov. Charlie Crist has urged the Legislature to pay the full amount. The bill now needs House approval.