Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Officers forbidden from leaving prisoner, chief says

ST. PETERSBURG — Police Chief Charles "Chuck" Harmon said Thursday that department policy prohibits officers from leaving prisoners alone.

But Harmon said he couldn't say if an officer violated that policy by leaving a college student shackled in the back of a transport van while she ate lunch at a local cafe this fall. That's because an investigation is under way to see if the student's story is true.

If the story holds up, it appears the officer broke policy. "Once they're arrested, there's supposed to be a police officer with them at all times," Harmon said.

University of South Florida student Francesca Fretta, 20, was arrested Oct. 17 on a misdemeanor charge of refusing to sign a citation.

Her attorney, John Trevena, wants the case dropped.

Harmon defended the arrest that landed Fretta in the back of the van in the first place.

"You would think she would understand the law once it's been explained to her," he said. "That's not really the time for a person to argue with law enforcement. You go to a magistrate and plead your case. Fighting it on the side of the road is never the right thing to do."

Nearly 14,000 people were arrested in the city in 2007, only seven for failing to sign a citation. Just three, including Fretta, have faced the charge this year.

She admits doing 57 mph in a 45-mph zone on the Pinellas Bayway. But she denies ignoring warnings of arrest if she didn't sign the ticket.

"She asked where does it say if you do not sign that you will go to jail," Douglas wrote in his report. "I showed her on the citation where it was written. She still would not sign the citation."

Fretta said the officer never gave her a chance to sign it.

After her arrest, she fainted and was diagnosed with diabetes at a hospital. Then she was taken to a transport van, where she said she was left alone in chains, with the air on, for up to 45 minutes while Officer Sandra Minor stopped to eat lunch.

Both officers are under investigation.

Minor, 47, is a 22-year veteran. She was in the news in 1996 when her partner, Officer James Knight, shot motorist TyRon Lewis, which led to two days of rioting. A grand jury said both officers acted properly.

Douglas, 45, joined the force in 1990. In 2001 he was commended for snatching a 5-year-old girl from a violent drunk.

Officers forbidden from leaving prisoner, chief says 12/18/08 [Last modified: Monday, December 22, 2008 12:44pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trigaux: Florida's jobless rate looks great — but 25 other state rates look even better

    Economic Development

    No debate here: Florida's unemployment rate continues to drop — even as more people move to Florida and enter the workforce. What's not to like?

    Who remembers the remarkable lines of hundreds of people looking for construction work in Tampa back in March of 2010 at a job fair at the Encore construction site near downtown Tampa? Now the construction industry is struggling to find skilled workers to meet building demand. [
  2. Tampa police investigating fatal shooting at Busch Boulevard motel


    TAMPA — Police are investigating a shooting at a motel near Busch Gardens that left one woman dead.

  3. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 21: Tears of love and parting mark the beginning of the final leg of a pilgrim's journey.


    Day 21: León to Hospital de Orbigo: 32.6 km, 8.75 hours. Total for Days 1-21 = 498 km (309 miles)

  4. Pinellas detectives investigating shooting that led to car crash

    Public Safety

    LARGO — Pinellas Sheriff's detectives are investigating a shooting that investigators said led to a man crashing his car after he was shot in the abdomen early Tuesday.

  5. Trump tweets, McCain return set stage for health bill vote (w/video)


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump urged Republicans to "step up to the plate" for Tuesday's crucial Senate vote on their bill eviscerating much of the Obama health care law. The stage was set for high drama, with Sen. John McCain returning to the Capitol to cast his first vote since being diagnosed with brain …

    President Donald Trump, accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, and others, speaks about healthcare, Monday, July 24, 2017, in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington. [Associated Press]