Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Senate panel: Give boy's family $5M

But the boot-camp settlement could be cut in half when the full chambers vote.

Bill Kaczor
the Associated Press

April 25, 2007

TALLAHASSEE -- A Senate committee Tuesday approved a $5 million settlement between the state and family of a teenager who died after being roughed up by juvenile boot-camp guards, sending it to the chamber floor for a vote.

Lawmakers, though, could still consider cutting the settlement by half, as recommended by a pair of lawyers who reviewed the case on behalf of the House and Senate, while the claims bill (SB 2968) moves through the Legislature.

Gov. Charlie Crist had proposed the $5 million settlement with the parents of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson, who died a day after guards kneed and struck him and forced him to breathe ammonia at the boot camp in Panama City last year. It was all caught on videotape by a surveillance camera.

"This was a black eye in the history of our state, and it was quite embarrassing," said Sen. Mandy Dawson, a member of the committee. "I'm really happy that our governor recognized that we needed to move on and ensure this is just not common practice."

The Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Committee, chaired by Sen. Victor Crist, voted 3-0 to advance the bill to the Senate floor, where a vote could come later this week.

An initial autopsy report blamed the death on complications from sickle-cell trait. A second autopsy, though, found the teen died from suffocation due to being forced to inhale the ammonia.

The state already has paid his parents $200,000, the most allowed by law without legislative approval.

The bill would pay the remaining $4.8 million of the proposed settlement. The camp, although run by the Bay County Sheriff's Office, was part of a state program under the Department of Juvenile Justice.

Victor Crist, a Tampa Republican who is not related to the governor, withdrew an amendment that would have cut the remaining payment to $2.3 million, as recommended by the legislative lawyers. He said he would prefer the issue to be decided by the full Senate instead of a small committee.

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