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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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Armless driver in spotlight
Media outlets are lining up to cover his sentencing.
By JAMAL THALJI, Times Staff Writer
Published August 2, 2007
Michael Wiley demonstrates how he drives in the driveway of his Port Richey home.
[Times photo | Zach Boyden-Holmes]
[Times photo | Brendan Fitterer]
Michael Wiley, a triple amputee, leaves the courtroom after a pretrial hearing before Circuit Judge William Webb. Wiley is still awaiting trial on charges of illegal drug posession and habitually driving with a revoked license. He lost the limbs after an accident involving an electrical transformer when he was 13.
NEW PORT RICHEY - Before there was Paris or Lindsay, there was Michael.
That's Michael Francis Wiley, who has shown far more gumption than any spoiled celebutante but not much better judgment when behind the wheel.
The Pasco County man overcame the loss of two arms and a leg in a childhood accident and taught himself how to drive using his stumps - but not, according to authorities, how to obey the rules of the road.
Wiley's license has been suspended at least 19 times, and on Friday he is scheduled to be sentenced on a host of traffic and drug infractions. He faces up to five years in prison.
The media clamor surrounding Wiley's day in court is reaching a fever pitch, at least by west Pasco standards.
The 6th Judicial Circuit has imposed "pool" rules on media covering the sentencing hearing because so many Florida TV stations requested access.
That means only one videocamera and one still photographer will be allowed in court. They'll share their product with the rest of the media, including any national or international news outlets that want it. Many have already featured Wiley.
"I can't remember since I've been here when they all indicated this much interest," said court spokesman Ron Stuart.
The Wiley case even earned Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis an interview with his hometown newspaper, the New York Post. He grew up in Long Island and was a prosecutor there before moving to Pasco County in 1981.
"It's kind of interesting to see your cases gaining notoriety in other states' newspapers," Halkitis said.
The Post story ran April 30 with the headline: "HE'S GOT SPUNK IN HIS TRUNK."
Not much of the attention has been flattering for Wiley, 40, who was once accused of kicking a highway patrol trooper and whose last car chase with police was in May.
Some of it has been downright insensitive, like this headline from the British tabloid the Daily Mirror: HE MEANT NO 'ARM.
Wiley himself has tired of all the attention. He said so himself to the Associated Press in a story Wednesday.
That story was picked up by at least 73 media outlets from the San Jose Mercury News in California to the International Herald Tribune in France.
"I don't like the idea that I'm Pasco County's most notorious driver. That's hype," Wiley told the AP. "I'm not public enemy No. 1. I'm just a regular guy with some handicaps.
"I made a few mistakes. I'm sorry, and I'm paying for them."
Times researcher Angie Drobnic Holan contributed to this report. Jamal Thalji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 727 869-6236.