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Hillsborough judge steps out of drug case

TAMPA — Hillsborough Circuit Judge Emmett Lamar Battles recused himself Wednesday from a disputed drug case that could land two of his colleagues on the witness stand.

The second jurist to get off the case this month, Battles asked that the chief judge consider having someone from a different circuit appointed to handle it.

The decision didn't surprise attorney Paul S. Carr, who plans to seek testimony from two other Hillsborough judges about their previous involvement in the case.

Carr wants charges dropped against his client, Christopher Snipes, arguing that a sheriff's detective forged a judge's initials after altering the search warrant.

Circuit Judge Chet A. Tharpe signed an affidavit in May stating that the initials and changes weren't written by him.

But a week later, he said that although he had no recollection of the October 2006 warrant, it was possible he had altered it.

The Sheriff's Office cleared the detective of wrongdoing.

Circuit Judge Daniel Sleet, who was presiding over the drug case when Carr made his allegations, notified Tharpe about the alleged discrepancy and reported his colleague's comments to the attorneys in the case.

Sleet recused himself June 6.

Carr said he was going to suggest that the case be assigned outside the county so local judges wouldn't have to determine the credibility of their colleagues.

"I think it's probably the proper decision," Carr said, "because it's a legal hot potato."

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at cjenkins@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3337.

Hillsborough judge steps out of drug case 06/25/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 2, 2008 9:57pm]
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