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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Autopsy may lead to firing
A state board recommends the removal of the boot camp medical examiner.
By ABBIE VANSICKLE
Published June 14, 2007
TAMPA - The state Medical Examiners Commission voted unanimously today to remove Dr. Charles F. Siebert Jr. as medical examiner in Bay County.
The panel cited concerns about the honesty of the doctor, who conducted the first autopsy of Martin Lee Anderson, the Panama City teen who died after being roughed up at a boot camp.
"He was less than complete, less than thorough," said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, a commission member. "There should have been no stone left unturned -- and there was."
Siebert is already scheduled to leave the governor-appointed post at the end of this month, long before any administrative hearing would take place.
But it's up to Bay County State Attorney Steve Meadows to determine whether to keep Siebert as the interim medical examiner until a permanent replacement is found.
"We're sending a clear message to the state attorney there," Judd said of the commission's decision.
Job status unknown
Meadows will not announce a decision before a press conference scheduled for Tuesday at his Panama City office, said his spokesman.
Siebert could not be reached for comment. He released a statement saying that he didn't know about the commission's decision but disagreed with their findings about his autopsy.
"I was not at the meeting today as I was notified that I was not going to be recognized to speak on the issue at hand," he wrote.
The commission found that Siebert put false information in his report and failed to follow basic autopsy procedures, according to commission chair Dr. Stephen Nelson. Siebert made notes about body parts without examining them and didn't look closely enough for signs of the alleged abuse at the boot camp, Nelson said.
The 14-year-old's family has received a multimillion-dollar settlement from the state because of his death.
Siebert found that the teen died of complications of sickle cell trait. But a later autopsy by Hillsborough County's medical examiner Dr. Vernard Adams found he died as a result of the behavior of the guards, who blocked his mouth and put ammonia capsules to his nose.
Adams attended Wednesday's meeting but declined to comment.
Despite a videotape showing guards kneeing and punching the teen, Siebert said the body showed no signs of trauma, except for abrasions behind his ears and small cuts on his lips.
Siebert, 45, was first appointed as interim medical examiner to the six-county, largely rural District 14 in July 2003. A year later, after review by the state's Medical Examiner Commission, he was appointed permanently to the job by then-Gov. Jeb Bush.
Eight await trial
Eight people were charged in Anderson's death. Each has pleaded not guilty and awaits trial.
News of the commission's decision pleased Anderson's family, who objected to Siebert's findings from the start.
"They always maintained that the autopsy by Dr. Siebert was wrong, and they're relieved that the medical examiners agree that it was done wrong," said Ben Crump, the family's attorney.
They are still concerned about the potential impact of Siebert's testimony on a jury at the upcoming criminal trial, Crump said. Anderson's parents fear that Siebert will try to provide reasonable doubt of what caused the teen's death.
"Will he be able to tell the lie that Martin died of natural causes?" Crump said.
The only audience member to speak at Wednesday's meeting -- and the person with the harshest assessment of Siebert -- was Dr. Barbara Wolf.
Wolf was assigned by the commission to directly supervise Siebert during the commission's inquiry.
Over the last few months, she noticed an improvement in his autopsy reports, she said, but she remained concerned by issues of his truthfulness.
"We're talking about honest and integrity," she said.