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    Around the state

    Compiled from Times wires

    © St. Petersburg Times, published February 6, 2001


    Prisoner slips cuffs, jumps trooper, flees in her cruiser

    MIAMI -- A prisoner being taken to jail by a Florida Highway Patrol trooper slipped his handcuffs, grabbed the trooper's gun, turned her pepper spray against her and got away in her cruiser Monday.

    The cruiser, without the gun, was found a short time later in neighboring Hialeah. The escapee has not been captured, according to Miami-Dade police.

    Neither the escaped prisoner nor the trooper was immediately identified. The trooper, an eight-year veteran, was treated for cuts at Baptist Hospital and released, said Miami-Dade police Detective Vanessa Cook.

    Brinks worker who stole millions is caught, FBI says

    FORT MYERS -- Authorities in Mexico have arrested the man the FBI believes is behind a multimillion-dollar burglary at a Brinks warehouse five months ago.

    Henry von Schwarc of Cape Coral was arrested by Mexican Federal Judicial Police Thursday in Acapulco, the FBI reported.

    The former Brinks security guard had been on the run since Sept. 2. He is accused of stealing $3.5-million from his Fort Myers employer over Labor Day weekend.

    In December, agents following a trail of safety deposit boxes and lockers in Texas found about $2.4-million of the stolen money. Another $700,000 was seized by German police in October when they arrested Paul Simecek, 52, and his son, Bohdan Simecek, 28, described as von Schwarc's accomplices.

    The remaining $500,000 is still unaccounted for.

    The father and son are being held in Germany on money laundering charges, the FBI reported.

    Assault accusation against commissioner won't stick

    PANAMA CITY, Fla. -- Prosecutors won't charge Bay County Commissioner Danny Sparks with assault based on another commissioner's complaint that Sparks chased him, threatened him and challenged him to fight.

    Assistant State Attorney Shane Vann wrote in a letter to Commissioner John Newberry Jr. that Sparks' actions on Jan. 22 were not an assault, in part because he did nothing overt to create a well-founded fear of imminent violence against Newberry.

    Newberry alleged that Sparks yelled "Let's get it on!" as he fled down a staircase after the pair exchanged words about a planning board appointment following a special meeting. Newberry then filed a complaint with sheriff's deputies.

    Investigators interviewed Newberry, Sparks and a third commissioner, Richard Stewart, who witnessed part of the confrontation.

    "According to the statements, Commissioner Sparks did not say or do anything which would constitute an intentional threat towards Commissioner Newberry," Vann wrote. He added that they were never in proximity after the initial exchange, which all parties agreed Newberry had instigated.

    Sparks told investigators he followed, but did not run after, Newberry, saying, "Hey we need to discuss this." He denied challenging him to fight.

    Pressurization problem forces jetliner to land

    FORT LAUDERDALE -- A Continental Airlines jetliner heading from Nassau, the Bahamas, to Newark, N.J., made an emergency landing Monday afternoon because of air-conditioning problems, then took off again after getting the problem fixed.

    No one on Flight 1201 was injured in the landing at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport.

    The MD-80 jetliner "reported a pressurization problem," said Kathleen Bergen, an FAA regional spokeswoman in Atlanta.

    A Continental spokesman said there were 103 passengers and five crew members on the flight.

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    From the Times state desk