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WTVT anchor Russell Rhodes to serve community service, probation

TV anchor Russell Rhodes pleaded no contest to obstructing an officer without violence in an agreement with the Hillsborough State Attorney's office.

WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times

TV anchor Russell Rhodes pleaded no contest to obstructing an officer without violence in an agreement with the Hillsborough State Attorney's office.

TAMPA — Morning television anchor Russell Rhodes will serve 50 hours of community service and six months of probation after a judge approved his plea agreement Wednesday for obstructing an officer without violence in January.

Rhodes, 50, pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor as part of an agreement with the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office. Adjudication was withheld, meaning he will not have a conviction on his record.

Defense attorney Jeff Brown told the court Wednesday there was concern over a morality clause in Rhodes' contract with WTVT-Ch. 13, prompting the court to withhold adjudication. Rhodes can have his probation terminated once the 50 hours have been served.

Rhodes declined to comment.

The state initially planned to pursue a charge of driving under the influence, but County Judge Cheryl Thomas tossed blood evidence last week. She found that the results, which showed Rhodes' blood-alcohol level was more than twice Florida's allowable limit, had been improperly obtained.

An off-duty deputy stopped Rhodes in a Channelside parking garage Jan. 16 because he suspected Rhodes was driving while impaired. Rhodes twice tried to walk away after being told to stay put. He then attempted to run out of the garage.

The officer knocked Rhodes to the ground and arrested him. A jail mug shot shows injuries to his face.

Brown said the arresting officer gave two different accounts of the incident, raising questions about the accuracy of his testimony. Brown said he suspected he had tailored his account to support the state's case.

When asked if celebrity justice influenced the court, Brown acknowledged there had been a lot of talk, but said none of it was true.

Rhodes resumed his on-air duties in mid February. He has not selected where he will perform the community service, but Brown said Rhodes might work at an animal shelter.

Time staff writer Colleen Jenkins contributed to this report. Steven Overly can be reached at soverly@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3435.

WTVT anchor Russell Rhodes to serve community service, probation 07/01/09 [Last modified: Saturday, July 4, 2009 12:38pm]
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