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Westchase mom says slur set off lunch fight

WESTCHASE — Sometime before noon Monday, the wife of former Bucs cornerback Tyrone Legette walked into the front office of Westchase Elementary.

Reginene H. Legette walked past the desk without signing in as required by district policy, a school district spokesman said. She went to an outside patio to have lunch with her child, a student at the A-rated school in northwest Hillsborough.

At some point, a parent and a student hurled a racial epithet at her son, who is black, said Legette's attorney, Ralph Fernandez.

Punches were thrown. Handcuffs were slapped on Legette. A bloodied-faced mother was taken to a hospital. All in front of 8-year-olds, teachers and other parents who were eating.

Portions of that account differed vastly from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office version of events, first reported in Tuesday's St. Petersburg Times.

According to sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter, Legette, 42, walked up to a table where kids were eating and punched Mickey Carney several times on the left side of her face, causing "serious head and facial swelling."

By the sheriff's account, she was heavily intoxicated, running from a sheriff's deputy, disobeying 10 commands to stop, jabbing the deputy in the chest, running into a corporal, screaming profanities at officials, and urinating in the school hallway. Deputies found a cold bottle of wine in her purse.

Legette was arrested and charged with trespassing on school grounds, disorderly intoxication, disrupting an assembly, battery striking or touching, two counts of battery on a law enforcement officer and obstructing or opposing an officer. She was released on $5,750 bail.

Carney, 40, was taken to a hospital, but Carter didn't know which one or if she'd been released.

Several attempts to reach Carney at her Westchase home were unsuccessful.

Legette funneled questions to her attorney. Fernandez said "somebody" struck his client first. He stopped short of naming Carney as the perpetrator, but said, "I don't think there were many others there."

Asked about his client's behavior toward deputies, Fernandez said the allegations were outrageous.

"If that kind of behavior happened," he said, "I'm sure they have film of it."

Carter said the sheriff's office stands by its story.

"The deputies responded and documented everything," she said.

Meanwhile, parents worried about the effects Monday's lunchtime brawl had on students.

Principal Scott Weaver alerted them of the incident in a note sent home on Monday.

In the letter, he said students were detained in classrooms for about 10 minutes as the scuffle and arrest unfolded.

He said guidance counselors would be available to talk to them on Tuesday morning.

District spokesman Stephen Hegarty said he did not know if any children sought counseling.

"It's unfortunate that the children had to see their parents acting this way," said Sandi Foster, the mother of first- and fifth- grade girls and treasurer of the Westchase Elementary PTA.

Tracy Urso, president of the parent-teacher group, said the fight has not altered her perception of safety at the school.

"Our campus is very secure," she said. "We have no problems."

Rodney Thrash can be reached rthrash@sptimes.com or (813) 269-5303.

Westchase mom says slur set off lunch fight 09/30/08 [Last modified: Monday, October 6, 2008 10:03am]
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