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Prosecutor takes gig in New York

By AMY HERDY & DAVID KARP

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 7, 2001


When we last left Pam Bondi, the Hillsborough prosecutor had turned down her chance at stardom.

Television producers had offered Bondi a spot on a true-crime show on ABC being created by author Aphrodite Jones. The job would have required Bondi, who also serves as spokeswoman for State Attorney Mark Ober, to fly each week to California to tape the show. She would have played a prosecutor for a TV team that tried to close unsolved cases.

Bondi decided to stay in Tampa.

But then New York City called.

Executives at MSNBC offered to make Bondi a legal commentator. She would fly to New York from time to time to share her insights about national cases.

Last week, Bondi made her debut. She spent a day on MSNBC discussing the case against Timothy McVeigh, convicted of the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.

Bondi looked nervous at first but was soon speaking easily in MSNBC's studio -- just as she does with Tampa's news crews on Jefferson Street.

FORMER COLLEAGUES FACE OFF: When the Tampa Tribune lost a public records case recently against Chief Judge F. Dennis Alvarez, the paper's attorney, Gregg Thomas, vowed to appeal to the Florida Supreme Court "on principle."

The newspaper already had obtained many of the e-mail records about former Circuit Judge Edward Ward from different sources. But the Tribune considered it important to establish the public's right to get judicial e-mails.

Thomas apparently wasn't the only attorney moved by principle in the case. Steven Yerrid, who once worked at Thomas' law firm, Holland & Knight, volunteered his services to Judge Alvarez for free.

Yerrid, who struck gold as part of the team of lawyers in the state's lawsuit against tobacco companies, runs his own law firm. Alvarez appointed him as his special counsel for this case.

"I think we have an obligation to step up and do something for the judges, the judicial assistants and the people who work their tails off to protect them from abuse," Yerrid said.

Thomas said the issue was simply the public's right to know.

"The newspaper has an obligation to understand what's really going on at the courthouse rather than simply Judge Alvarez's soundbite," he said.

The litigation between these two former colleagues already has heated up. Thomas filed an emergency motion recently, which was granted, to prevent Alvarez from destroying the judicial records he wants. Yerrid's firm responded in court papers that false accusations in the Tribune's motion were meant to harass Alvarez.

AND THE SWEETEST BROWN EYES: : The newest member of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office will be presented to the public today -- all 10 pounds of her.

And although she's intended purely for work, you can tell that Erica the bloodhound pup is already stealing hearts.

"She's a cutie," raved the normally taciturn K-9 Sgt. Mark Olive about the 8-week-old recruit.

Donated by the Jimmy Ryce Foundation, Erica, who is worth about $1,000 now, will begin easy training as early as age three months, Olive said. Bloodhounds as young as 9 months have been known to successfully track suspects. Once trained, she will be valued at between $6,000 and $8,000.

Although Erica is not the first bloodhound in Sheriff's Office history, she is the first to arrive in more than a decade. She has been partnered with K-9 Deputy Ron Cain, who also has Otis, a German shepherd.

Matter of fact, it was Otis who prompted the decision to obtain a female bloodhound instead of a male.

Females tend to have a better sense of smell, Olive said, and although she will reach between 80 and 100 pounds, Erica will still be smaller than a typical male, and therefore easier to handle.

But the deciding factor was the fact that male dogs who have not been neutered tend to, shall we say, get distracted on the job.

"All he wanted to do was sniff and mark," Olive said of Otis. "So we took his manhood from him, and he's become an excellent tracking dog." (The change was so successful, the Sheriff's Office had half of its canine corps, all male German shepherds, neutered to follow suit).

Anyone wishing to meet and fawn over Erica will have a chance to do so at 2:30 today at the Sheriff's Operation Center at 2008 Eighth Ave. in Ybor City.

- Got a tip? Call Amy Herdy at (813) 226-3386 or David Karp at (813) 226-3376.

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