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DUI guilty plea a sobering moment for Hillsborough judge

In a sobering moment, a judge is expected to go to court today to say: Guilty, your honor.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Tracy Sheehan intends to plead guilty to what she calls her truly terrible decision to drive home from Ybor City one night after drinking. She won't fight the charge nor try to get it reduced to reckless driving, as first-time offenders sometimes do.

"I'm anxious to move forward with my sentence and get working on my sanctions," she said. "And start to put this all behind me."

She spent a night in the county jail and finished two-day DUI school, a class that included people from all sorts of backgrounds and also two fellow lawyers.

Driving is off-limits except for work, so she rides her bicycle to the grocery store. In an odd moment, she found herself thinking the other day: no to that jar of pickles, because she would have to carry it in her backpack.

Because she is a Hillsborough judge, Polk County is providing the prosecutor and Pinellas the judge, Patrick Caddell. She faces a likely sentence of probation, license suspension, community service and no alcohol, among other things. A spokesman for the prosecution said it's expected to be a standard resolution to a standard case — no more, and no less.

• • •

On to baseball. And pipe down with your Bronx cheers for Hillsborough Commissioner Victor Crist's pie-in-the-sky idea for a Rays' stadium in Tampa's blighted Sulphur Springs neighborhood.

If the Rays come to Tampa, they need to be downtown. A few reasons: walkability, residents, restaurants and assorted amenities at the ready in a growing downtown that on occasion can be justifiably called "vibrant."

But Crist pitched a place a few miles north — one you see from Interstate 275 with that old white water tower on one side and the sad old dog racing track on the other. (I can't pass by without calling up the ghost of Harry Lee Coe, Tampa's troubled state attorney and serious gambler who had been writing bad checks at that very track before he died by his own hand.)

An old dog track a stadium reborn? Sulphur Springs, even with its used car lots and pockets of blight, has its merits — like all that available land and easy highway access, for starters.

But if the Rays come, both baseball and boosters will want it downtown, and that's where it should be. Still, it's nice to hear talk of pumping energy into a place that's needed it as long as anyone in these parts can remember.

• • •

A hardscrabble dirt parking lot in a part of town where the homeless gather might seem an odd place for hope and help, but that's what happened.

Last month, Hillsborough Tax Collector Doug Belden made good on his plan to periodically bring a mobile state drivers license van to town and strategically place it so homeless people can more easily get state ID cards — free.

So they came to that hardscrabble lot behind Metropolitan Ministries, stepping out of the baking summer heat into the cool AC to get cards that make things like an apartment or a job possible.

I met Marc Ruggere, 22, with his new ID in one hand and in the other his resume detailing his skills as a fry cook, deli clerk, cashier, anything, just work. "A sigh of relief," he said of getting the ID that can only help. Then he stepped back out into the sweltering sun.

DUI guilty plea a sobering moment for Hillsborough judge 08/22/13 [Last modified: Thursday, August 22, 2013 11:30pm]
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