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Court officials increase staffing to handle RNC arrests

TAMPA — Both early birds and night owls who get in trouble during the Republican National Convention will be accommodated by a triple shift of judges, prosecutors and public defenders camping out for RNC week at the Falkenburg Road Jail.

Officials have no idea how many arrests to expect from RNC protests Aug. 27-31, but one worst-case estimate is 1,000.

If the worst happens, the courts and the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office say they have plenty of judges and jail cells. Judges will convene at 8 a.m., 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. every day and will be prepared to stay late.

The first step will be to entirely fence off the downtown courthouse and annex, as well as the State Attorney's Office and Public Defender's Office on Aug. 24.

No juries will be summoned convention week. Court proceedings will be parceled out to the Falkenburg Road Jail and satellite offices.

The plan was actually developed years ago for natural disasters like hurricanes. It has never been needed. The Republican convention and any "waves" of violence or other lawbreaking, "is a good opportunity to test it out," says the 13th Judicial Circuit's Trial Court administrator, Michael Bridenback.

Court officials won't neglect the everyday, run-of-the-mill crooks, either.

At Falkenburg, Judge Walter Heinrich will conduct his usual first-appearance court every morning at 8. He'll hear a mixed docket of routine arrests and any protester arrests. Depending on circumstances, arrested protesters could plead guilty to misdemeanors or they could seek bond and help from public defenders.

They won't be in the same room as the judge. They'll appear before him from large gallery rooms at Falkenburg and Orient Road jails by way of closed-circuit TV.

Other judges will take over at 2 and 8 p.m. All will be authorized to go late.

Other court proceedings, including hearings for domestic violence, juvenile delinquency, child-support enforcement and the emergency shelterings of abused and neglected children, will take place at satellite offices.

No hearings will be held at the downtown courthouse, but a security staff will be on hand. Anyone who shows up will be directed to the right place.

John Barry can be reached at (813) 226-3383 or jbarry@tampabay.com.

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Revised court schedules, locations

Many courthouse hearings and services will be relocated to these facilities, some of them several days before and after the Republican National Convention:

Falkenburg Road Jail, 520 N Falkenburg Road: First appearances and preliminary hearings will be heard from Wednesday to Friday, Aug. 22-24, at 8:30 a.m.; and on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 25-26, at 7:30 a.m. During the convention, Aug, 27-31, hearings will be held at 8 a.m., 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Plant City Courthouse, 301 N Michigan Ave., Plant City: Domestic violence hearings will be heard during convention week, Aug. 27-31, at 8:30 a.m.

Floriland Mall Business Center, 9309 N Florida Ave., Room 103: Shelter hearings for abused and neglected children will be held Wednesday through Friday, Aug. 22-24, at 1:30 p.m.; on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 25-26, at 7:30 a.m.; during convention week at 1:30 p.m.; and on Saturday, Sept. 1, through Monday, Sept. 3, at 7:30 a.m.

Child support enforcement hearings will be held at Floriland from Wednesday, Aug. 22 through Friday, Aug. 31 at 1 p.m.

Hillsborough Juvenile Detention Center West, 948 W Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.: Juvenile detention hearings will be held Wednesday through Friday, Aug. 22-24, at 9 a.m.; on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 25-26, at 7:30 a.m.; during convention week at 9 a.m.; and from Saturday, Sept. 1, through Monday, Sept. 3, at 7:30 a.m.

For more information, call (813) 272-5894 or go to fljud13.org.

Court officials increase staffing to handle RNC arrests 07/24/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 12:15am]
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