Saturday, June 23, 2018
News Roundup

Murderer facing possible life sentence represents himself in Pinellas drug case

LARGO — Wandering through courtrooms in Pinellas County's Criminal Justice Center is like surfing the channels of justice. You can find cases of murder or shoplifting. A woman is ordered to pay a traffic ticket, a man is sentenced to death.

Even with all this variety, it's still really hard to find a felony trial in this building on 49th Street that doesn't change a single thing in anyone's life.

Yet in the Division D courtroom this week, a convicted murderer represented himself on a drug charge that in all likelihood will not affect one day of his prison sentence.

"Honestly, this is a farce," said Jorge Angulo, court-appointed standby counsel for the defendant, William Chad Routenberg, 37.

Angulo seemed pained to watch the untrained Routenberg attempt to defend himself against a cocaine charge: "He doesn't know what he's doing."

Prosecutors say the trial — which likely won't result in a longer prison sentence for a man already facing a life sentence — was a matter of principle.

Earlier this year, Routenberg was convicted of second-degree murder for stabbing his girlfriend in the neck. Shanessa Lynn Chappie was found buried in the couple's back yard.

He will be sentenced for the murder in June and could get life in prison.

When Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Keith Meyer sentences Routenberg, he may reflect on a previous case that led a different judge to say "you scare me to death" and prompted a prosecutor to call him "one of the scariest individuals we have ever had in this county."

That was after Routenberg, at age 14, was arrested for raping an 11-year-old in a St. Petersburg middle school stairwell. He was sent to the now-closed Dozier School for Boys, where he ultimately pleaded no contest to lewd and lascivious behavior after a boy there accused him of trying to coerce him into sex.

Now, decades later, Routenberg was in court again starting Tuesday, serving as his own attorney. Even though Routenberg faced up to 15 years in prison for the cocaine charge, there's a strong chance it would simply be folded into whatever sentence he gets for the murder.

So why go forward?

"Prosecutors have certain principles," Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett said, and gave this background:

The State Attorney's Office offered to give Routenberg a concurrent sentence — meaning he would serve his drug and murder sentences simultaneously if he pleaded guilty. He refused.

Prosecutors also offered "time served" — meaning Routenberg's sentence on the drug charge would be over as soon as he pleaded guilty. He refused that, too, Bartlett said.

This presented another option: Prosecutors could simply drop the charge. No way, Bartlett said, not "in light of all the circumstances and all his history."

Bartlett said it was well worth it to have assistant state attorneys Ellen Germuska and Frank Piazza prosecute the case. And on Thursday afternoon, the jury had a verdict: guilty of cocaine possession with intent to sell.

"We just didn't feel that it was appropriate to just walk away from it," Bartlett said.

Comments
Rays team up to beat Yankees again 4-0

Rays team up to beat Yankees again 4-0

ST. PETERSBURG — With all that's been said, tweeted, ranted and written on these pages and elsewhere about the Rays' odd, unorthodox, weird and some days downright wacky pitching plan, this might be the craziest thing yet:It's working.Like, rea...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Greg Auman answers your questions about NFL’s investigation into Jameis Winston

Greg Auman answers your questions about NFL’s investigation into Jameis Winston

There are many unanswered questions and discrepancies about the story of Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston and the March 2016 Uber ride in Arizona that has led to his upcoming three-game suspension for violating the NFL's conduct policy.The Bucs won't ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Will this be Jameis Winston’s last season in a Bucs uniform?

Will this be Jameis Winston’s last season in a Bucs uniform?

A t his introductory news conference after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Bucs in 2015, Jameis Winston said to judge him on his actions moving forward."Actions speak so much louder than words, or what they may have read or what they may have hear...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays Tales: Why ‘trades’ and ‘prospects’ are always in same conversation

Rays Tales: Why ‘trades’ and ‘prospects’ are always in same conversation

Besides the continual evolution of their intriguing pitching plan, the primary topics of conversation for the Rays over the next several weeks will be trades and prospects. And not mutually exclusively.Some sooner than others, the Rays are going to c...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Former Mitchell High player Nathan Smith taken in NHL draft by Jets

Former Mitchell High player Nathan Smith taken in NHL draft by Jets

It's rare to see an NHL draft pick with Tampa Bay ties, but the Jets used a third-round pick Saturday on center Nathan Smith, 19, who played for Mitchell High School in Trinity and most recently for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL.Smith was ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Report: Lightning to talk to John Tavares during free-agent courting period

Report: Lightning to talk to John Tavares during free-agent courting period

Despite limited salary-cap room, the Lightning is among at least five teams expected to talk with Islanders All-Star center John Tavares, who can be a free agent July 1, when the courting period begins Sunday, ESPN reported.Tavares also is expected t...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Strangers are coming together to honor two killed in Bayshore crash

TAMPA — John Reisinger has seen miracles since his niece and 21-month-old grand-niece were killed while trying to cross Bayshore Boulevard 30 days ago. Some, he says, are too painful to talk about. Others he’s still trying to make sense of, such as h...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays journal: New confidence carries over for Willy Adames

Rays journal: New confidence carries over for Willy Adames

ST. PETERSBURG — The key to SS Willy Adames rapping two of the biggest hits in the Rays' 4-0 win Saturday actually took place the night before.An RBI single that snapped an 0-for-12 and a second hit two winnings later in Friday's game restored ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Another small, quick forward headlines Lightning’s draft picks

Another small, quick forward headlines Lightning’s draft picks

Even without a first-round pick, the Lightning wrapped up its draft with seven picks Saturday, starting with Gabriel Fortier, an undersized 18-year-old forward from Quebec in the second round."They were guys that we really wanted," Lightning director...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Yankees game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Yankees game

INF Daniel Robertson has only played two games after a short DL stint, but it seems like he has already made a half dozen great plays. Willy Adames and Jake Bauers get the attention, but Robertson has the skills to steal the show any night.It is obvi...
Updated: 2 hours ago