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Bonanno to appear before grand jury in office inquiry

Judge Robert Bonanno was found inside a colleague's office. An investigation has expanded.

By SUE CARLTON

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 14, 2000


TAMPA -- Hillsborough Circuit Judge Robert Bonanno is scheduled to appear before a grand jury Wednesday to answer questions about what he was doing in a fellow judge's office after hours last July.

The grand jury is looking into allegations that Bonanno was in the darkened office of Circuit Judge Greg Holder while Holder was out of town on military duty. A bailiff said Bonanno seemed to be trying to conceal himself from her after she happened upon him.

Bonanno later said he was there to chat. Holder called for an investigation.

Jerry Hill, state attorney from Polk County, was assigned by Gov. Jeb Bush to oversee the investigation, and he has taken the case before a grand jury. The parade of witnesses so far has made it clear the investigation has expanded beyond the Bonanno incident.

Witnesses have included several related to the case of Circuit Judge Gasper Ficarrotta, who recently resigned amid allegations stemming from his affair with another bailiff. Among those witnesses were several lawyers and Hillsborough County Sheriff Cal Henderson, who were connected to allegations that Ficarrotta was improperly involved in campaign fundraising for the sheriff.

Now the probe appears to have come full circle to Bonanno. His lawyer Ralph Fernandez confirmed Monday that Bonanno will appear Wednesday.

"We will not need a subpoena," Fernandez said. "Bonanno's always been dashing to go."

The grand jurors are expected to finish hearing testimony in the next few weeks. Then they can indict on criminal charges or decline to indict. The grand jury also can issue a report and any recommendations they have.

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