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Blood sample thrown out in TV anchor Russell Rhodes' DUI case

TAMPA — A Hillsborough judge has thrown out the blood evidence in the driving-under-the-influence case against WTVT-Ch. 13 morning anchor Russell Rhodes.

That evidence showed that Rhodes had a blood-alcohol level of 0.179 and 0.178 — more than twice the limit at which Florida considers a driver to be impaired — after he was arrested at Channelside in January.

The state will now have a difficult time proving Rhodes, 50, was impaired. Rhodes was not given a breath test.

"This is the only evidence they have of the DUI," said Jeff Brown, Rhodes' attorney. "There's no case here."

Rhodes, who lives in Tampa, was arrested Jan. 16 after an off-duty deputy stopped him in the public parking garage at Channelside on suspicion that he was driving under the influence. The deputy said the morning news 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, authorities said, the deputy took him to the ground and arrested him on a charge of obstructing or opposing an officer without violence.

His face bruised and bloodied from the incident, Rhodes was taken to Tampa General Hospital for treatment. That's where he signed a consent form to have his blood drawn as part of a DUI investigation.

But Brown argued in court Tuesday that Hillsborough sheriff's Deputy Shawn Morrey neglected to tell Rhodes that he was not required to sign the form. Rhodes gave consent under duress, Brown said.

At the hearing, Morrey said he had informed Rhodes of his options. However, that testimony was at odds with statements the deputy made under oath in March, Brown said.

County Judge Cheryl Thomas granted Rhodes' motion to suppress the blood sample because his consent was not voluntary.

The judge previously denied Rhodes' request to toss out his arrest on the obstruction charge.

The case is set to go to trial on Monday.

Times TV/media critic Eric Deggans contributed to this report. Colleen Jenkins can be reached at cjenkins@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3337.

Blood sample thrown out in TV anchor Russell Rhodes' DUI case 06/25/09 [Last modified: Thursday, June 25, 2009 10:50pm]
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