WTVT-Ch. 13 anchor Russell Rhodes makes brief apology on air for DUI arrest
Russell Rhodes, the WTVT-Ch. 13 morning anchor whose face was left bruised and battered after an arrest that led to charges of drunken driving and resisting an officer without violence, made a brief apology as he returned to the airwaves this morning for the first time since the incident a month ago.
"I want to apologize for my recent off the air behavior," said Rhodes, 49, standing alone before the camera just after 7 a.m. "And I want to thank everyone who has offered me support during this time."
The brief mea culpa did not address the details of Rhodes' behavior, which included a Jan. 16 arrest after a scuffle with an off-duty Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputy working security at the public parking garage at Channelside. The anchor, who had not appeared on camera since the incident, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
According to a previous St. Petersburg Times story, Rhodes was arrested after the deputy stopped him in the parking garage on suspicion that he was driving under the influence. According to the deputy, the anchor tried to walk away twice after being ordered to stay put and surrender his car keys. When Rhodes tried to run out of the garage, the deputy took him to the ground, the story said.
From the moment of Rhodes' arrest, officials at WTVT and station owner Fox have had little comment; neither Rhodes nor his attorney have returned this reporter's calls. But the incident made national news, as Rhodes' injured face was featured on Web sites across the country.
So the anchors' reappearance raises several questions: Why is he returning now, before his legal issues have been resolved? How has he dealt with the appearance of his face? What is his perspective on what happened on the night of his arrest?
His return has answered one question, however: Despite an embarrassing and very public arrest, it appears Rhodes will keep his job, at least for a while.
Often in similar incidents involving notable TV station employees -- including last May, when WTVT's then-general manager Bob Linger was arrested and accused of masturbating in a public area of a Tampa adult movie theater -- legal issues are resolved before work status is addressed.
Many thanks to FTVLive.com, which first tipped me to the possibility that Rhodes might return to work this week, forwarding a copy of an item from their Web site.
Below is a videotape released by the Tampa Port Authority that appears to show Rhodes' arrest.