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State to review deputy's role in Polk teen's fatal crash

Gov. Charlie Crist has asked the state to reopen an investigation into a 2002 car crash that killed a Polk County teenager.

The parents of 16-year-old Miles White had written the governor, urging an independent investigation, because they believe the Polk County Sheriff's Office did not properly investigate the role one of its deputies had in causing the crash.

The parents believe that Polk sheriff's Deputy Scott Lawson "forced a vehicle from the road, resulting in the death of Miles White," according to a letter from Crist's assistant general counsel, Robert Wheeler, to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

"A St. Petersburg Times investigation revealed evidence that points to Lawson as the cause of the accident," Wheeler wrote.

The governor's office asked the department's Office of Executive Investigations to "gather facts and evaluate the possibility of any illegal or improper actions" on the part of Lawson and the Polk County Sheriff's Office.

"We will be looking at the Polk County Sheriff's Office and the steps it took to investigate from start to finish," said FDLE spokeswoman Heather Smith.

The Polk Sheriff's Office says the agency has no problem with the scrutiny.

"We welcome an investigation into the tragic vehicle crash and all surrounding circumstances by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement," said spokeswoman Carrie Eleazar. "Their office has an outstanding professional reputation for fairness and accuracy. We will cooperate fully with their agency and look forward to their independent assessment of the facts."

Miles White was killed May 31, 2002. He was a passenger in a Volkswagen Passat driven by 18-year-old Adam Jacoby. The Passat ran off a dark country road in the middle of the night in Lake Hamilton, struck a tree and split in two.

Deputy Lawson had chased the Passat more than 15 miles at speeds that averaged more than 100 mph. Lawson, in an unmarked Crown Victoria, never identified himself as a law enforcement officer. The report he filed after the crash included numerous lies, including that he had never topped 70 mph and that radio dispatch had told him the car he was chasing was stolen.

About a week after the accident, Lawson was charged with sexual battery after several young men saw Lawson's photo in news accounts and told police Lawson had sexually abused them. He took a plea deal and is serving a 15-year prison sentence.

The Sheriff's Office never looked into Lawson's possible role in causing the accident. Instead, the office declared the accident a single-car crash, the fault of Adam Jacoby, who had alcohol in his system.

Jacoby pleaded no contest to manslaughter in a plea deal and served three years of probation. But Miles Whites' parents, Jamie and Gary White, always suspected that Lawson, not Jacoby, caused the accident.

The Times investigation found evidence that Lawson knocked the car Jacoby was driving off the road, causing Miles' death.

His parents concluded their letter to the governor asking for an independent look at the case: "We look forward to this investigation as the truth needs to be exposed and justice rendered by law enforcement in our state."

Meg Laughlin can be reached at mlaughlin@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8068.

On the Web

To read the Times story on the crash, "Right by Miles," go to links.
tampabay.com.

State to review deputy's role in Polk teen's fatal crash 01/22/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 15, 2009 11:13am]
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