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Three-time escapee sentenced to prison

DADE CITY — Amanda Kaye Driggers' parents were hopelessly hooked on drugs. They gave them to their daughter, family members said. One time, they were so high they passed out in church. Both have since died.

"(Amanda and her two sisters) have been through hell from the day they were born," her grandmother, Delores Driggers, said in a courtroom Thursday afternoon.

The lifestyle led Amanda to escape to Kentucky with her boyfriend, the grandmother said

Literally.

And that's why Amanda, only 20 years old, found herself standing before Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa. When she left Florida, it was in violation of his order to stay at a local drug rehabilitation center. She slipped out a bathroom window. And after nine months on the lam, she briefly escaped from custody again in Kentucky.

The first time she met Judge Siracusa, she had been charged with a burglary. She had tried to run then, too, popping out the panel of a Pasco sheriff's cruiser. Siracusa gave her a break, understanding her need for drug counseling.

This time, her attorney, Todd Thurow, asked for another chance for rehab as prosecutors pointed to three escapes.

In the end, Siracusa said, Driggers left him with no choice.

"The question now becomes what can I possibly do but put you in the Department of Corrections," he said before sentencing Driggers to seven years in prison. "I have to make some kind of an example of you."

Driggers, whose arms were in restraints that stretched over the top of her pregnant belly, started to cry. A bailiff handed her a tissue.

Relatives who filled a pew in courtroom cried, too.

They had tried their best to persuade the judge not to put Driggers in prison. The baby is due in March.

"I know she did wrong," an aunt told the judge. "But prison's not the place for her."

Prosecutors said it was the only place for her. They wanted 15 years, given her previous record. Even that was less than the 25-year maximum listed in the sentencing guidelines.

Juvenile probation reports paint her as a disruptive student who skipped class and shouted at authorities. Once, she tried to run away from her mother at a bowling alley. When her mom caught her, Amanda kicked her in the legs and tried to choke her inside their car.

Drug addiction factors into all of her arrests, which include charges of burglary, criminal mischief and retail theft. According to court records, a hospital drug test performed in July 2009 revealed she had amphetamines, barbiturates, benzodiazapines, cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana and opiates in her system.

Her most recent escape was from a jail in Booneville, Ken., 650 miles away from her home in Zephyrhills. Her boyfriend's mother lives there.

Florida authorities had a warrant out for her arrest, but she managed to stay in the shadows until Sept. 29 when she and her boyfriend were arrested together in Booneville.

That was the same day a group of photojournalism students from the University of Kentucky were in town for a photography workshop. Britney McIntyre, a senior, was taking pictures at the Three Forks Regional Detention Center. She met Driggers and decided to make her the focus of her project.

Two days later, a Friday, Driggers made her break. McIntyre was there with her camera. She captured an image of Driggers clearing the fence, which was topped with razor wire. She clicked two more shots of the petite, pregnant girl in orange and white jail garb sprinting into some woods. A female guard yelled into a radio.

Outside the jail, Driggers ditched her jail jumpsuit. She had a T-shirt and flannel pajama pants on underneath. With guards swarming all around, she crouched and hid under some brush.

But soon — 12 minutes according to the time stamp on McIntyre's pictures — she was caught and marched back to confinement.

On Thursday, Siracusa expressed his disappointment.

When he allowed her into rehab at a place called Covenant House, he gave her a long lecture about the importance of following the rules and breaking the cycle of addiction so she could lighten a sentence to be handed down four months later. He even withheld a formal finding of guilt in hopes treatment would succeed.

When that sentencing date came, he said, "I found out you went out the window in the bathroom.

"I tried," he said. "I didn't want this day to come."

Three-time escapee sentenced to prison 12/30/10 [Last modified: Thursday, December 30, 2010 8:53pm]
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