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Officer is hospitalized after fight with transient

By Times staff writers

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 17, 2000

CLEARWATER -- A Clearwater police officer was taken to the hospital after sustaining an injury to his right shoulder during an altercation with a knife-bearing Clearwater transient Tuesday.

According to arrest reports for Paul S. Trucillo, the alleged perpetrator, Officer Scott Ballard was treated at Morton Plant Hospital, but Morton Plant officials could not confirm that. Trucillo was arrested on charges of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, resisting arrest with violence and battery on a law enforcement officer.

Trucillo is being held at the Pinellas County Jail on $60,000 bond.

Judge questions Pasco manslaughter charge

NEW PORT RICHEY -- Craig C. Villanti, the circuit judge presiding over the case of a Ridgewood High School student accused of killing his best friend, called lawyers to the bench Tuesday to say something was bothering him.

So far, Villanti suggested, the facts presented appear too weak to support a count of manslaughter with culpable negligence against 16-year-old Steven Moschella.

If Moschella's shooting of Teddy Niziol on Jan. 19 was an accident, as a presentence investigation by a probation officer says, Florida case law appears to undermine that charge, Villanti said. Moschella has pleaded not guilty, and the case remains in the early stages.

Palm Harbor man ticketed in Lake Tarpon fatality

PALM HARBOR -- The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday issued two citations to the 24-year-old Palm Harbor man who was operating a WaveRunner at 2 a.m. Saturday on Lake Tarpon when his friend fell off and died.

Marianne Pasha, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Office, said Thomas O'Neil, 24, of Palm Harbor was cited on charges of operating the watercraft after dark and not having proper flotation devices on board.

O'Neil told sheriff's deputies he turned the watercraft and his passenger, John E. Kasting, 23, of Palm Harbor fell off. O'Neil said he circled quickly, but couldn't find Kasting. It wasn't until Sunday afternoon that search crews found Kasting's body. A cause of death is still undetermined.

Suit claims driver, club are to blame in fatal crash

TAMPA -- Dione Ortiz buried her 15-year-old daughter last year with a dolphin necklace around her neck and ticket stubs from a recent rap concert tucked inside the casket beside her.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, Ortiz claims that a drunken driver, a minor, and the club that served him are responsible for her daughter's death.

Ashley Rubera was one of three teens who died in an accident early Sept. 11 in Town 'N Country. She and four friends got into a car driven by 17-year-old Michael Jones, who had spent the evening at Pony Tails, a strip club on Dale Mabry Highway that serves alcohol.

The Acura crashed into a utility pole. A test revealed that Jones, who survived the crash, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.12 percent. He is charged with three counts of DUI manslaughter.

However, Ortiz and the parents of 19-year-old Marc Berenguer, who also died in the crash, believe Pony Tails and its parent companies are equally responsible. Berenguer's parents filed suit against the club months ago.

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