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Tampa uncuffed


© St. Petersburg Times, published November 2, 2000

Elected or not, judges in trouble

On Tuesday, voters get to decide if they want to give up electing their circuit and county judges and leave the job of selecting them to the governor and local nominating committees.

With that in mind, here's a review of some of our local judges who have been the subject of recent investigations and how they got to the bench.

Gasper Ficarrotta -- resigned in the face of allegations stemming from an affair with a bailiff. Appointed.

Ed Ward -- resigned in June after he was accused of sexually harassing four women at the courthouse, including two fellow judges. Appointed.

Robert Bonanno -- under grand jury investigation after he was found inside a fellow judge's office after hours. Appointed.

Cynthia Holloway -- accused of interfering in a friend's child custody case and then lying about her involvement. Appointed.

Dennis Alvarez -- believed to be the subject of an inquiry into how he initially handled the Ward investigation. Elected.

Elizabeth Hapner -- removed from the bench in 1997 for abandoning her law practice, neglecting clients and lying in a divorce proceeding. Elected.

Now, you be the judge.

NO ROCKET SCIENTIST: As he wades through the mire of auto thefts, it's rare that Detective James Moffitt is hand-delivered a clue.

But that's what happened when the owner of a stolen-and-then-recovered Oldsmobile Toronado brought Moffitt some photos, developed from his camera left in the backseat.

The pictures included touching shots of someone's home and family, as well as a dark-brown wooden ramp next to a cream-colored house. Railroad tracks were discernable in the distance. And there was the stolen car in the background.

The street looked to Moffitt like Sulphur Springs, so he drove around there awhile until he found the place.

A family member at the home was glad to identify her relatives in the photos, including her brother, 37-year-old James Mike Williams, who had been driving the car in question for a few weeks, she said.

He eventually was charged with grand theft auto, but not before his sister offered up his childhood nickname: Squirt.

WHO WANTS TO BE A JUDGE: And in the that-was-fast category, applications are already being accepted for the position to be vacated by Circuit Judge Gasper Ficarrotta at the end of December. The position is open to lawyers who are Hillsborough residents, registered voters and members of the Florida Bar for the past five years. Applications are available at the office of Judicial Nominating Commission chairman Anthony Martino, 3407 W Kennedy Blvd. An original plus nine copies are due back by 5 p.m. Nov. 27.

- Sue Carlton can be reached at 226-3346 or carlton@sptimes. Amy Herdy can be reached at 226-3386 or herdy@sptimes.

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