TALLAHASSEE — Federal officials won't pursue civil rights violations or other charges against boot camp guards implicated in the death of a 14-year-old who was hit and kicked by the guards while a nurse looked on, the boy's relatives and their attorney said Friday.
Ben Crump, an attorney for the parents of the teen, Martin Lee Anderson, said they were told of the decision by representatives of the U.S. Justice Department. The family's supporters gathered outside the federal courthouse in Tallahassee during that meeting.
Anderson died Jan. 6, 2006, a day after being hit and kicked by the guards. A videotape of the 30-minute incident attracted national attention and led to the closure of Florida's boot camps for juvenile offenders. Anderson had just been assigned to the camp after he was caught trespassing at a school, which violated his probation on another charge.
A state court jury acquitted the guards and the nurse of manslaughter on Oct. 12, 2007. Federal authorities then began investigating whether the boy's civil rights were violated.
The Justice Department said Friday that investigators did not have enough evidence to pursue criminal charges.
A coroner initially ruled that Anderson died because of a fatal hemorrhage related to a undiagnosed case of sickle cell anemia trait. Protests of that ruling inspired then-Gov. Jeb Bush to order an independent prosecutor to look into the case.
A subsequent autopsy determined that guards killed Anderson by depriving him of oxygen when they pushed the ammonia tablets into his nose and covered his mouth.
The acquittal in the state's manslaughter case came after a two-week trial in Panama City. Jurors said they agreed with the contention of the guards' attorneys that the men were employing widely accepted boot camp tactics and that the death was caused by the sickle cell trait.
Said Hillsborough County Assistant State Attorney Michael Sinacore, who prosecuted the case: "The decision by the Justice Department not to prosecute a civil rights violation is consistent with what we found in our investigation. There was insufficient evidence to prove the guards intentionally harmed Martin Lee Anderson."
Information from Times staff writer Alexandra Zayas was used in this report.