Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Clemency hearings heavy with alcohol and remorse

Ten years have passed since that night on the Howard Frankland Bridge when two innocent people were mowed down by a drunken driver. But the pain never ends.

Kristen Fagerlund, who had just regained her license from a previous DUI, was going 89 mph when she struck a car in the emergency lane, killing Alfonza Bradberry and Sheila Davis of St. Petersburg.

In Tallahassee on Thursday, Fagerlund's mother stood before Gov. Charlie Crist and the Cabinet. She pleaded for mercy for her 38-year-old daughter, who has served 10 years of a 21-year sentence.

"Kristen has already paid a huge price for making the wrong choice 10 years ago," she said, fighting back tears. "Please give us our daughter back."

No, said Crist and the Cabinet, sitting as the Board of Executive Clemency, after a victims' advocate read a letter from Sheila Davis' family. "We pray that you say no," the letter said.

Four times a year, Crist and Attorney General Bill McCollum, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson sit in judgment of Floridians who have made terrible mistakes and seek forgiveness — a pardon, a commuted sentence, the right to carry a gun. The proverbial clemency case involves the guy with a streak of violence in his past who just wants firearm authority "so I can go hunting with my grandson."

The four officials have the power to grant mercy, as long as the governor votes on the prevailing side. They can release people from prison, or wipe away felony convictions. They often refuse when the victims' families object.

It's a pathetic scene as people, their heads bowed in humiliation, atone for their sins in a room filled with strangers, a bank of TV cameras lining a side of the room. It's also a highly instructive lesson in life itself, not just civics.

The clemency gears in Florida move agonizingly slowly and will likely move even slower, now that the Legislature has cut the Parole Commission's budget by 20 percent for a loss of 24 positions, nine of which are assigned full time to clemency cases. The snail's pace underscores how long the trauma endures in each human tragedy.

Thursday's parade of mercy seekers included a courtly, white-haired man from Broward County whose son struck him in a flash of anger seven years ago, giving the son a conviction for elderly abuse, a felony in Florida. The dad, a Harvard-educated trial lawyer, spoke eloquently about his son's bipolar disorder. Pardon granted.

There was the father from Daytona Beach who can't rebuild his life because of one 1993 act ("shameful and disgusting" by his own admission) in which he exposed himself to a teenage girl, and is registered as a sex offender. (Pardon denied). His wife walked away sobbing uncontrollably.

What was most striking about Thursday's clemency hearing was how many cases involved alcohol. An hour of testimony should be mandatory for anyone who tempts fate by driving drunk, because the scars left by drunken drivers never heal.

Well, almost never.

Eddie Joe Anderson, living in a Panhandle prison work camp, won a pardon for a 1999 crash in Bradenton that resulted in four counts of driving under the influence causing serious bodily injury. His victims — five members of a family struck head-on by Anderson's car, including a boy of 9 then — said they supported Anderson's release.

So after serving nine years of a 17-year sentence, Anderson is free at age 34. His lawyer, Joe Bodiford of Tampa, said Anderson is remorseful and rehabilitated and will move to West Virginia to live with the 10-year-old son who doesn't know him.

"Justice has been served," Bodiford told Crist. "If he messes up again, send him back. Innocent people should not be hurt by alcohol."

Steve Bousquet can be reached at or (850) 224-7263.

Clemency hearings heavy with alcohol and remorse 06/06/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 10, 2008 5:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Duterte declares martial rule in besieged south Philippines


    MANILA, Philippines — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte warned Wednesday that he'll be harsh in enforcing martial law in his country's south as he abruptly left Moscow to deal with a crisis at home sparked by a Muslim extremist siege on a city, where militants burned buildings overnight and are feared to have …

    Policemen watches vehicles at a checkpoint in Manila, Philippines, Wednesday, May 24, 2017 as the Philippine National Police is placed under full alert status following the declaration of martial law in Mindanao southern Philippines. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte warned Wednesday that he'll be harsh in enforcing martial law in his country's south as he abruptly left Moscow to deal with a crisis at home sparked by a Muslim extremist siege on a city, where militants burned buildings overnight and are feared to have taken hostages. [Associated Press]
  2. Manchester police say they have made three more arrests in concert bombing


    BREAKING: Manchester police say they have made three more arrests over pop concert bombing. Stay with for updates.


    People light candles after a vigil in Albert Square, Manchester, England, Tuesday May 23, 2017, the day after the suicide attack at an Ariana Grande concert that left 22 people dead as it ended on Monday night. [Associated Press]
  3. Who will headline the 2021 Super Bowl halftime show in Tampa?


    The NFL announced Tuesday that Tampa will host Super Bowl LV in 2021, a result of stadium construction delays in Los Angeles.

    Taylor Swift performed at Raymond James Stadium in 2015. Could she return for Super Bowl LV in 2021?
  4. New DEP secretary says there's no conflict in political side businesses


    TALLAHASSEE — When Noah Valenstein, the newly appointed head of the Department of Environmental Protection, was applying in April to be the state's top environmental regulator, he left one thing off the application: Companies he started and his wife runs have been paid nearly $1 million by politicians and lobbying …

     Noah Valenstein got the job as secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection on Tuesday May 23rd, on a unanimous vote by Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet. He will take the helm on June 5, with a salary of $150,000 per year. [Florida Governor's Office]
  5. Trump says 'we can use peace' during meeting with Pope Francis


    VATICAN CITY — President Donald Trump and Pope Francis, two leaders with contrasting styles and differing worldviews, met at the Vatican City on Wednesday, setting aside their previous clashes to broadcast a tone of peace for an audience around the globe.

    Pope Francis meets with President Donald Trump on the occasion of their private audience, at the Vatican, Wednesday, May 24, 2017. [Associated Press]