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Sheriff candidate gets inside look

By KATHRYN WEXLER and SUE CARLTON

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 8, 2000


William Wesley Godwin, the only person challenging Hillsborough County Sheriff Cal Henderson's re-election, has gotten an inside view of the Sheriff's Office.

He was jailed a few weeks ago for contempt of court.

Godwin, a 46-year-old sometime tree surgeon, said he was through handing over his child support checks to the court rather than directly to his ex-wife.

But after thinking it over in his jail cell, Godwin decided to fork over $200 to the court rather spend another six months behind bars.

"They coerced me," he said.

One thing about Godwin, he doesn't put on airs.

"Right now, I do not have a phone," he said from the home of his campaign manager, Andy Flowers. "I live in a rundown little trailer in Seffner. It's all I can afford."

He continued: "Every time I get on my feet, I get thrown in jail for six months. You know what that does to your finances?"

In 1998, Godwin spent nearly six months in a Hillsborough jail for contempt of court. His license was suspended after numerous traffic violations, but Godwin kept driving. So last year he was fined $250, jail records show.

Godwin is a fifth-generation Hillsborough native and divorced father of two who has never held an elected office. He was asked what he would improve as sheriff.

"Hell, let's see ... I'd make sure our jury pool is well-informed," he said, and "change the attitude of guilty until proven innocent."

Godwin said he has "no idea" how many of the 4,640 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot he has gathered.

But consider that he must fit his campaigning around trimming trees, an occupation he said takes a toll.

"I'm 46, and I'm getting too old for that," Godwin said.

Other possibilities? He's considering "probably some kind of gun smithing or something."

There's always sheriff.

FINALLY, ORDER IN THE COURT: After weeks of jury trials, a problem was making itself heard in Circuit Judge Dan Perry's courtroom on the first floor of the courthouse annex.

It wasn't just a noise. It was a squeak. Actually, it was a chorus of really annoying squeaks.

Over time, wooden chairs in the jury box had developed annoying squeaks.

They squeaked when a juror sat.

When a juror stood.

When a juror shifted in his seat out of boredom.

After weeks of trials, the high-pitched noise was driving everyone crazy.

So Monday morning, Perry took matters into his own hands. He grabbed a can of WD-40 and hunkered down in the jury box. Afterward, he sat in each seat to make sure the problem had been fixed.

The wheels of justice may still grind slowly. But, in one courtroom at least, they no longer squeak.

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