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Anna M. Phillips, Times Staff Writer

Anna M. Phillips

Anna M. Phillips writes about legal affairs and criminal justice in Tampa and Hillsborough County. Before joining the Times in 2012, she covered the New York City public schools for the New York Times and for the education news website Chalkbeat New York (formerly GothamSchools).

Phone: (813) 226-3354


Twitter: @annamphillips

  1. As gun crimes rise in Hillsborough, more youth are charged as adults


    TAMPA — After years of being the poster child for Florida's tough treatment of children, Hillsborough County appeared to be finally ceding that title.

    Law enforcement officers were arresting fewer juveniles, and prosecutors were filing fewer adult-level charges against defendants under the age of 18. Last year, Palm Beach County usurped Hillsborough's dubious distinction of charging more children as adults than any other jurisdiction in Florida. Hillsborough wasn't even in the top three....

  2. Ignored for years, Tampa teenager's rape kit is linked to a previous offender


    TAMPA — For months after she voted not to convict a man accused of raping a teenage girl, the jury forewoman couldn't get the case off her mind.

    Robin Chase didn't think of herself as someone who easily dismissed a young girl's word. But the 16-year-old's testimony was rife with small inconsistencies. There were moments when she could have fled from the older man pursuing her, yet chose not to. The defendant, Michael H. Hunt, left a more favorable impression — a decade after the trial, Chase recalled that he was well-spoken, married and a father of five....

    Crime laboratory analysts Carolyn Krieger, left, and Jared Baum work in a DNA lab at the FDLE’s Tampa facility in September.  In Hillsborough County, 428 rape kits have been unexamined because of budget cuts or other factors.
  3. Adams & Diaco lawyer charged with misdemeanor battery


    Jacksonville prosecutors have charged a partner at the Tampa law firm of Adams & Diaco with misdemeanor battery, saying he punched a woman during the Florida-Georgia football game last month.

    Robert D. Adams is one of three lawyers with the Adams & Diaco firm currently facing possible disbarment for their roles in a conspiracy to have an opposing attorney arrested during a trial in 2013. In August, a judge recommended that all three lose their law licenses, a recommendation that is subject to the Florida Supreme Court's final approval....

    Adams & Diaco lawyer Robert Adams is charged over an incident at a football game.
  4. Court filings detail 'stand your ground' defense in Pasco movie theater slaying


    The lights were dim and the trailer was playing loudly when Chad Oulson picked a fight in a Wesley Chapel movie theater last year. He loomed over the elderly man who had politely asked him to stop text­ing, spewed profanity, tossed the man's popcorn and threw his iPhone at the man's face.

    By the time retired Tampa police Capt. Curtis Reeves reached for his gun and shot the unarmed Oulson last year, he had been repeatedly assaulted and was convinced another attack was coming, his lawyer argued in documents that became public Monday....

    Evidence photographs were released in the Wesley Chapel movie theater shooting case against Curtis Reeves.
  5. Adams & Diaco lawyer under investigation for brawl at Florida-Georgia game


    Prosecutors are looking into allegations that a Tampa lawyer involved in the DUI setup of a rival punched a woman at a college football game in Jacksonville last weekend.

    The inquiry concerns Robert D. Adams, 46, one of three lawyers with the Adams & Diaco firm currently facing possible disbarment for their roles in a conspiracy to have an opposing attorney arrested during a trial in 2013. As he awaits a final decision on his law license from the Florida Supreme Court, Adams appears to have landed in trouble again....

    Robert Adams wasn’t arrested but was ordered to leave the Florida-Georgia game.
  6. Former assistant swimming coach at Berkeley Prep resentenced for child porn


    TAMPA — A former assistant swimming coach at Berkeley Preparatory School who was charged with 100 counts of possessing child pornography was resentenced Thursday to 15 years.

    But that doesn't mean Jay Goldstein, 55, will spend another day in prison. Hillsborough Circuit Judge Christopher Sabella immediately suspended Goldstein's sentence, assuring he will only serve time if he commits another offense. ...

    Jay Goldstein, 55, won’t serve the sentence of 15 years unless he commits another offense.
  7. Lawyer for Curtis Reeves to invoke 'stand your ground' law


    The lawyer for Curtis Reeves, the retired Tampa police captain accused of shooting and killing a man in a Wesley Chapel movie theater last year, said Wednesday that he plans to use Florida's "stand your ground" self-defense law to have the criminal charges against Reeves dismissed....

    Curtis Reeves is charged with murder in a 2014 movie theater shooting.
  8. Plant City kidnapper sentenced to 35 years' hard labor in Louisiana


    A Plant City man who kidnapped a 16-year-old girl and took her to Louisiana pleaded guilty last week to attempted murder and was sentenced to 35 years of hard labor, according to Lafayette Parish, La.'s The Advertiser.

    For a week in June 2014, Steven Patrick Myers, 42, was a wanted man, hunted by law enforcement officials in Hillsborough County and accused of absconding with Ashley Lyon, a vulnerable teenager who had exchanged text messages with him. ...

    Steven Patrick Myers and Ashley Lyon are shown on a surveillance monitor at Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, La. Insets: Ashley Lyon, left, and Steven Patrick Myers. [WAFB - Baton Rouge, La.]
  9. As U.S. prepares to release 6,000 prisoners, many come from Florida


    They are former smugglers caught tossing kilos of cocaine off the sides of boats, methamphetamine traffickers found with stashes in their homes, and marijuana dealers intercepted by federal agents. And next weekend, when prisons across the country open for the largest ever one-time release of federal inmates, many of them will be returning to Florida.

    Agreed to over a year ago by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the release of about 6,000 prisoners who committed drug offenses is the result of a policy change designed to reduce prison overcrowding and offer relief to inmates with harsh sentences. Between Friday and Nov. 2, most of these inmates will transition from Bureau of Prisons custody to halfway houses or federal, GPS-monitored probation. Others — just under a third — will be sent directly to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation proceedings....

  10. Judge: Hulk Hogan can investigate leak of racist rant


    ST. PETERSBURG — Hulk Hogan's legal team will be allowed to investigate its claims that Gawker employees were behind the leak of a racist rant by him captured on a sex tape, a Pinellas judge ruled on Wednesday.

    In a nine-page order, Circuit Judge Pamela Campbell wrote that because of the seriousness of Hogan's allegations against the New York-based news and gossip website, Hogan is entitled to a "forensic inspection" of certain Gawker employees' computers, servers, emails and text messages. Her order went so far as to list the specific terms an investigator can search, including "racist," "Hulk Hogan," and "DVD details."...

    Hulk Hogan (real name Terry Bollea) sued Gawker for $100 million over a sex tape that it published, but his racist remarks on that tape were only released this year. [SCOTT KEELER | Times] 
  11. Man suspected in more than 60 burglaries arrested in Tampa


    TAMPA — Sometimes the burglar threw a brick through a business window. Sometimes he used a crowbar to pry open the door. Each time, he left police guessing.

    That was the normal course of events until early Friday morning when Tampa police arrested a man they suspect of burglarizing 60 businesses in the Tampa Bay area over the last two years, including 29 in South Tampa.

    At a press conference hours after the arrest, Tampa police Captain Calvin Johnson said officers on both sides of the bay had been tracking the whereabouts of Antonio E. Wright Jr., 31, for about a week before catching him in the act....

  12. Tampa teenager pleads guilty in case of dog tied to railroad tracks


    TAMPA — The teenager accused of shooting a dog, tying it to railroad tracks and leaving it for dead last March was sentenced Wednesday to seven months in the county jail and barred from going anywhere near animals.

    "You're to have no contact with animals," Hillsborough Circuit Judge Lisa Campbell told Natwan Callaway, 17, his eyes downcast and shoulders slumped. "That's any animal. I don't care if it's a fish."...

    Natwan Callaway, 17, was one of four young men arrested last March after police rescued a pit bull mix named Cabela that had been shot and tied to railroad tracks in the Sulphur Springs neighborhood. Callaway pleaded guilty and took a deal that involved jail time. [SKIP O’ROURKE  |   Times] 
  13. Freed by Supreme Court, Pasco man walks off death row


    More than two years after a Pasco County judge sentenced him to death row, Derral W. Hodgkins walked out of prison Monday under fewer restrictions than if he had never been convicted of murder.

    Hodgkins, 56, is the beneficiary of a Florida Supreme Court decision in June that overturned his conviction for first-degree murder, finding that a jury had insufficient evidence to hold him responsible for the 2006 stabbing death of his former girlfriend. He will not have a new trial — he can't be prosecuted again for the same crime — nor will he spend a day on probation. ...

    The Florida Supreme Court in June overturned Derral Hodgkins' conviction for first-degree murder, finding that a jury had insufficient evidence to hold him responsible for the 2006 death of a Pasco woman. [BRENDAN FITTERER | Times]
  14. Former Marine agrees to 15-year sentence after jury deadlocks in deputy shooting


    TAMPA — After seven hours of deliberations Friday, a deadlocked jury could not reach a verdict in the trial of Matthew Buendia, the Iraq War veteran who shot a Hillsborough sheriff's deputy in 2011.

    So both sides struck a deal: Buendia agreed to spend 15 years in prison and spend the rest of his life on probation. But with credit for time served and good behavior behind bars, he could be freed from prison after just 10 years....

    Matthew Buendia had earlier rejected a plea deal.
  15. Man convicted, sentenced to life in I-4 mistaken identity murder case


    TAMPA — Accused of killing a man in a drive-by shooting on Interstate 4, Jerome Hayes took the stand Thursday, the only witness to testify in his defense.

    Hayes, 51, a small, tense man who mumbled his testimony, said that on July 29, 2013, he was driving 80 mph on one of Florida's busiest highways when he pointed his handgun at another car and fired three rounds.

    But, contrary to prosecutors' arguments, Hayes said he had no intention of killing anyone. After drinking all afternoon, he said it was a "spur of the moment" decision to scare a driver he thought was following him....