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Around the state

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 23, 2001


Student wins battle over pledge

PENSACOLA -- A high school student's suspension for refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance will be removed from her record.

Woodham High School officials conceded Wednesday that Ieisha Gilliam, 15, who served her one-day suspension Tuesday, had a constitutional right to remain seated.

The sophomore was ordered suspended last week when she wouldn't stand during the pledge. She said she does not believe parts of it.

Woodham principal William Slayton removed the suspension after conferring with Escambia County School Board attorney Francisco Negron. "The law states that students cannot be compelled to participate, including standing," Negron said.

"We thought we were punishing her for not following a teacher's instructions," Slayton said. "It's still a gray area on what you can and can't make a child do."

Not so, said Susan Watson, chairwoman of the Florida Panhandle chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. "This is not an issue of discipline," she said. "This is an issue of constitutional law. This is about civil rights."

Man sentenced to TB hospital

TAVARES -- A burglar who was kept in jail for three weeks after his sentence ended because he has balked at treatment for tuberculosis has been ordered to a TB hospital.

Melvin Sherrod, 46, on Wednesday pleaded no contest to a criminal contempt charge filed last week by the state Department of Health. Lake County Judge Richard Boylston then sentenced him to 179 days, or until his TB is treated, in A.G. Holley State Tuberculosis Hospital in Palm Beach County.

Holley's medical director, David Ashkin, and the chief legal counsel for the state's Bureau of Tuberculosis, Kim Tendrich, wanted the judge to keep Sherrod in the Lake County Jail to finish his treatment. They said Sherrod has fled Holley three times and was abusive toward staff members there.

But Boylston ordered that Sherrod be kept in an isolated room at Holley and asked Holley officials to install special locks on the door and bars on the windows.

Two held in chained woman’s death

FORT PIERCE -- Police arrested two men Wednesday in the killing of a Vero Beach woman whose mutilated body was found in a canal wrapped in chains.

Richard Johnson, 23, was charged with first-degree murder after confessing to police, spokeswoman Audria Moore said Thursday. John Vitale, 36, admitted helping Johnson dispose of Tammy Hagin's body and was charged with accessory to murder and racketeering.

The body was discovered Sunday by two men canoeing in the Savannas Recreation area, An official cause of death has not been determined, the St. Lucie County medical examiner's office said Thursday.

The body of Hagin, 34, was found wrapped in about 20 feet of chain binding her feet at the ankles and attached to three cinder blocks, according to police. She had a stab wound on her head and was mutilated, the report said.

Johnson and Vitale were held without bond.

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