Anderson family to get $5M

Published May 24, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - The family of a Panama City teen who died after being roughed up by juvenile boot camp guards last year will receive $5-million under a bill signed Wednesday by Gov. Charlie Crist.

Martin Lee Anderson was 14 when he died in January 2006 shortly after being kneed and struck and having ammonia tablets held to his nose at the military-style facility run by the Bay County Sheriff's Office in Panama City.

Crist and the black legislative caucus successfully pushed for the settlement this spring despite the Legislature's general distaste for claims measures.

The state has already paid Anderson's parents $200, 000, the most allowed by law without legislative approval. The bill signed by a somber Crist at a ceremony attended by the teen's parents, Gina Jones and Robert Anderson, pays the remaining $4.8-million.

"What's being done here today is the right thing to do, " Crist said just before signing the document. "No dollar amount can bring Martin back."

Bay County separately settled with Anderson's family earlier this year for $2.4-million.

Seven guards and a nurse employed at the camp still face manslaughter charges.

An initial autopsy said Anderson died of complications from sickle cell trait. But a second autopsy blamed the death on suffocation. The youth had entered the camp on a probation violation for trespassing at a school after he and his cousins were charged with stealing their grandmother's car.

The Legislature abolished the boot camps in 2006 in the aftermath of Anderson's death.

Legislators failed to approve a $1.25-million compensation measure for Alan Crotzer of St. Petersburg for the 24 years he spent in prison before being cleared by DNA evidence - another bill pushed by Crist.

But the governor said he wasn't sure he could include it in the upcoming special session on property taxes scheduled June 12-22