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AWOL inmate is back in jail again

The man was released from jail to attend his grandmother's funeral.


© St. Petersburg Times, published February 5, 2001

TAMPA -- Convicted crack cocaine dealer Roy Nathan, 20, was supposed to get a taste of freedom Saturday, albeit bittersweet: A judge had granted him a furlough from jail to attend his grandmother's funeral.

He walked out of the Orient Road jail at 10 a.m. Saturday, with orders to return on his own by 5 p.m. But Nathan, who has been in jail awaiting trial on 17 drug-related charges since March of last year, never returned.

On Sunday night, though, sheriff's deputies tracked him and arrested him at a Red Roof Inn on E 23rd and Nebraska avenues.

Furloughs for jail inmates are rare, but not unheard of, and are "totally up to the judge," said Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Debbie Carter.

In this case, the judge was Florence Foster, a Hillsborough circuit judge elected in 1990 and the subject of controversy. In November, Foster commented that Paul Hamill, 41, a man in front of her bench because he violated probation for a drug conviction, would most likely be raped in state prison because he was small and white. Instead, she sent him to a drug treatment program.

When those statements drew fire last month, Foster apologized.

Foster could not answer questions about Nathan's furlough Sunday night, her husband said.

Carter said about five to 10 such furloughs are granted per year, and most of the time there's no problem -- the inmate comes back when ordered.

Nathan wasn't alone when deputies found him. His 19-year-old girlfriend, Joyce Elisha Paris of 314 E Gladys Ave., was arrested and charged with being an accessory after the fact.

Nathan was first charged with dealing cocaine in March 1999 and was sentenced to probation. One year later, in March 2000, he was arrested and charged with 13 new crack cocaine-related offenses and four counts of violating probation. After that, his second arrest, Judge Foster set his bail at $85,000. Nathan was unable to pay bail that high, so he has been in jail ever since awaiting trial.

After he was taken back into custody Sunday night, Judge Foster ordered that he be held without bail.

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