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USF student not guilty in traffic ticket-signing case

Francesca Fretta confers with defense attorney John Trevena in court Thursday.

EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times

Francesca Fretta confers with defense attorney John Trevena in court Thursday.

LARGO — A jury found college student Francesca Fretta not guilty Thursday of the little-prosecuted charge of refusing to sign a traffic ticket.

But another matter — whether a police officer left her shackled in a van for up to 45 minutes while on a lunch break — is still under investigation by the St. Petersburg Police Department.

Officer John Douglas cited Fretta for the misdemeanor charge on Oct. 17 after she was stopped for speeding on the Pinellas Bayway. Douglas says he told her that she could still fight the ticket in court, but she needed to sign it.

During Thursday's daylong trial, Fretta testified that she never refused to sign the ticket, she was simply pointing out to the officer that he had misidentified her car as a Hyundai. It's a Daewoo. In hindsight, she said she wished she had signed it.

Assistant State Attorney Ajay Pallegar said Douglas and Officer Sandra Minor gave Fretta several opportunities to sign the citation but "she chose not to sign it and that's the bottom line."

But defense attorney John Trevena hammered at what he called inconsistencies in the officers' accounts, and questioned why a "supplemental report" was written three months after the incident.

Fretta, a 21-year-old political science and pre-law student at the University of South Florida, was "ecstatic," with the verdict, Trevena said.

Fretta has said that while being transported to the Pinellas County Jail, the female officer left her shackled in the van alone, with the air on, for up to 45 minutes.

That did not come up during Thursday's trial because the charge she faced dealt only with whether she refused to sign the ticket.

Police Chief Chuck Harmon said his department's internal review of that matter is still ongoing, but expects it to be concluded soon.

USF student not guilty in traffic ticket-signing case 02/12/09 [Last modified: Thursday, February 12, 2009 10:54pm]

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