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Panel slams doctor report

Published June 13, 2007


TAMPA - A state panel says the medical examiner in the case of a teenager who died at a Panama City boot camp likely made several missteps in his initial assessment of the death.

The state's Medical Examiners Commission meets today in Tampa to review those findings and recommend whether Bay County Medical Examiner Charles Siebert should receive sanctions ranging from a reprimand to suspension from his duties.

Siebert was thrust into the national spotlight last year after concluding that 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson, who was beaten by several guards at a juvenile boot camp, died of complications from sickle cell trait.

A national outcry, prompted by a videotape of the beating, led to a second autopsy that found Anderson suffocated when guards forced his mouth closed and stuffed ammonia tablets into his nostrils.

The review panel, consisting of medical examiners assisted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, did not evaluate the conflicting autopsy findings. Rather, it looked at whether Siebert conducted his autopsy properly.

The panel found that Siebert likely failed to conduct a thorough examination of Anderson's organs and misrepresented the extent of his work.

"First and foremost, it doesn't surprise me, " said state Rep. Gus Barreiro, R-Miami Beach, who helped bring the case to light and is familiar with the review panel's report. "It doesn't surprise me he is being found incompetent in his job duties."

Attempts to reach Anderson family members and their lawyer were not successful and Siebert's wife, Gladys, said, "Dr. Siebert is not going to be making any comment at this time."

In his autopsy report, Siebert depicted the visual appearance of several glands or organs. The review panel found it unlikely that Siebert could see those glands and organs because the body parts around them were left largely intact.

The panel's report notes that the second autopsy revealed hemorrhaging in Anderson's thighs and right forearm not revealed by Siebert's examination because he failed to sufficiently examine areas beneath the teenager's skin and around his groin.

The panel found there was probable cause to find Siebert was either negligent or failed to perform his duties, then made "material misrepresentation of data upon which an opinion or conclusion as a medical examiner is based."

The nine-member Medical Examiner's Commission, having already received the report, is expected to decide whether to recommend sanctions against Siebert today, said FDLE spokeswoman Kristen Perezluha.

If he is sanctioned, Siebert can seek a formal hearing in front of an administrative law judge, request an informal hearing in front of the commission, accept the findings and sanctions, or accept the sanctions without admitting wrongdoing.

It may be moot. The commission has already recommended that Siebert not be reappointed to the 14th District post when his term expires June 20 after finding fault with several other autopsies he conducted.

Since Anderson's death, seven guards and a nurse at the camp have been charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child and the boot camp system has been closed. Gov. Crist signed legislation this session granting Anderson's family $5-million to settle any claims they may have and Bay County has settled for another $2.4-million.

Times researcher Cathy Wos and staff writers Christopher Ave, Alex Leary and Abbie Vansickle contributed to this report.

[Last modified June 13, 2007, 01:00:09]

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