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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

Email: aphillips@tampabay.com

Twitter: @annamphillips

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  1. Falling prices and fewer workers cause Florida strawberry farmers to doubt future

    Agriculture

    PLANT CITY — Three aerial photographs hang on the wall of strawberry farmer Carl Grooms' office, each a testament to years of expansion.

    Taking a visitor from one to the next, he begins the tour in sepia in 1974, when he bought 15 acres and set out to grow nothing but strawberries and more of them every year. It's a rosy walk through history until he returns to the present and sits down heavily at his desk beneath a mounted buck wearing a straw hat....

    Strawberries from Fancy Farms near Plant City. [SKIP O'ROURKE  |   Times]

  2. Moffitt Cancer Center sues one of its own doctors over a surgical invention

    Medicine

    TAMPA — Locked in a patent dispute, Moffitt Cancer Center has filed a lawsuit against one of its own doctors, accusing him of trying to claim sole ownership of a medical invention the hospital says it played a role in creating.

    The suit, filed last week in Hillsborough County, names Segundo J. Gonzalez, a surgical oncology fellow who began working at Moffitt in 2012. Over the next few years, Gonzalez and Yanhui Guo, a professor at St. Thomas University in Miami, developed a Google Glass-type device that uses 3-D ultrasound technology to help surgeons better see patients' tumors during operations. In a grant application, they called it "GoogleGlass for Surgeons," and described the wearable technology as specifically targeted to improving the accuracy of breast cancer surgery. ...

  3. Widowed Florida man seeks recognition of marriage to his late husband

    Courts

    For Charles Pohlman and William H. Ross of Brooksville, getting married after 37 years together was easy. But persuading Florida health officials to recognize their marriage after Ross died this week proved far more complicated.

    More than a month after same-sex marriage became legal in Florida, the state's bureaucracy is struggling to come to terms with the change. Today, marriage licenses still refer to a "bride" and "groom," prompting awkward, if amusing, conversations among gay and lesbian couples over who is which. And although they won the federal lawsuit challenging the state's gay marriage ban, the Tallahassee couple at the center of the case have been unable to update their state employee retirement plan to reflect the fact that they are legally married....

    William H. Ross, left, and Charles Pohlman were married in November in Pinehurst, N.C. Hospitalized with an infection, Ross suffered a stroke and died Monday.
  4. Hillsborough judge's wife claims he used court records to pursue her

    Courts

    TAMPA — Among the many people who appeared before Hillsborough County Judge Eric Myers in domestic violence court, one woman caught his eye.

    That's how Shirley Odom, who was 30 years old and married, recalls it.

    Nearly a year earlier, Odom had been arrested and accused of attacking her husband with a kitchen fork, according to court records. The deputies who responded to her husband's 911 call found him bleeding from four small puncture wounds to his head. When the husband appeared before Myers in 2004, he wanted a restraining order....

    Judge Eric Myers was arrested on a domestic battery charge in January accusing him of hitting his wife during an argument in their Odessa home.
  5. Prosecutors investigating whether to bring charges against both judge and wife

    Courts

    TAMPA — Allegations of domestic abuse and violence are flying both ways in the case of a Hillsborough County judge arrested last month and his wife, who could wind up facing prosecution herself.

    At a hearing Friday, Shirley Sanchez-Myers, the wife of Judge Eric Myers, said her husband is alleging that she attacked him first, instigating the brawl on Jan. 16 that culminated in his arrest. Although Myers' wife was not arrested, Hillsborough County sheriff deputies did alert prosecutors to the allegations against her. Recently, when the case was transferred to Pinellas County, prosecutors there began investigating whether to bring charges against both husband and wife....

    Eric Myers, 58, who hears criminal cases for the 13th judicial circuit, was taken into custody by Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies last month.
  6. Widow sues Tampa, police officers over husband's death

    Civil

    TAMPA — The widow of a man who died last year after suffering a diabetic seizure during an encounter with Tampa police officers is suing the city of Tampa, as well as the officers involved, claiming their actions led to his death.

    Filed in federal court Tuesday by Lena Young, who was married to Arthur Green Jr., the eight-count lawsuit alleges that when Green became unresponsive in the middle of a traffic stop, the two Tampa police officers at the scene essentially ignored his worsening medical condition. Rather than immediately administering CPR or summoning paramedics, the officers pinned the 63-year-old to the ground and handcuffed him, according to the lawsuit....

    Lena Young filed a suit claiming that police officers’ actions led to the death of husband Arthur Green Jr.
  7. Jury finds Tampa pharmacist guilty of wife's murder

    Criminal

    TAMPA — Jurors convicted a Tampa pharmacist on Friday of beating his wife to death with a baseball bat in 2010.

    The conviction of Olufemi Ademoye, 56, followed weeks of testimony in which defense attorney Barry Cohen sought to convince jurors that the defendant's wife, Juliet Ademoye, had died from an accidental fall in the couple's Tampa home. But physical evidence — in particular, Juliet Ademoye's blood found on a baseball bat — suggested otherwise....

    Olufemi Ademoye, 56, faces 25 years to life in prison. His sentencing is set for 
March.
  8. For Hillsborough judge in domestic violence case, courtroom drama gets personal

    News

    TAMPA — Since his arrest nearly two weeks ago on a domestic violence charge, Hills­borough County Judge Eric Myers has continued to preside over criminal cases, going to work every morning as though nothing has changed.

    But his own legal troubles are not fading away.

    On Wednesday, Myers' wife, Shirley Sanchez-Myers, 40, who has accused her husband of beating her until she lost consciousness, filed a motion claiming he had violated a temporary restraining order. Although a judge had barred Myers, 58, from coming within 500 feet of his wife, she said that on Monday, he showed up at their house in Odessa unannounced and tried to enter while she was home....

    A photo of the Myers' garage door in Odessa. According to his wife, Judge Eric Myers (inset) tried to pry it open to enter their home; her attorneys say that violates a court order.
  9. For gay couples in Florida, an easier path to adoption

    Civil

    Five years ago, when Vicky Fales and Heidi Quintana took their son home from the hospital, they entered into a state of worry beyond what most new parents experience. ¶ The Dunedin couple immediately grasped how vulnerable their family was in Florida where, at the time, gay men and lesbians couldn't legally marry or adopt children. The bans meant that Quintana — whom Aidan came to call ''mama'' — would have no parental rights if anything happened to Fales, his sole biological and legal parent. ¶ The couple had documents drawn up outlining Fales' wish that Quintana raise their son if she died, but they knew that might not hold up in court if Fales' relatives objected. ¶ "There was always that fear that this life that you bring into the world and that you help to nurture could potentially be taken away," Quintana, 43, said. "I tried not to worry, but of course it was always there.'' ¶ "There are members of my family I don't really speak to for personal reasons,'' Fales, 43, said. "That they could have more rights to Aidan than she would was really tough.'' ¶ For same-sex couples, protecting themselves and their children from worst-case legal scenarios has been a long-standing concern. ¶ Although gay individuals won the right to adopt children in 2010 when a judge struck down Florida's ban, same-sex couples still couldn't adopt jointly. The only way to give gay couples the same parental rights as straight couples was a cumbersome, costly legal procedure that experts say often depended on finding sympathetic judges. But as family law in Florida shifts to recognize legal gay marriage, adoption is about to become significantly easier....

    Kelly Essary, left, and Nila Allen pose with their daughter Kyla Allen-Essary, 2, at home in St. Pete Beach. They went through a process called second-parent adoption that cost roughly $6,000 to ensure Allen would have full parental rights of Kyla. That process may no longer be needed now.
  10. Hillsborough judge arrested for domestic violence ordered to have no contact with family

    Criminal

    TAMPA — A judge has ordered Hillsborough County Judge Eric Myers to stay away from his wife and daughter temporarily, after he was arrested Saturday morning on a domestic violence charge.

    The order came at the request of Myers' wife, Shirley Sanchez-Myers, 40, who petitioned the court for protection over the weekend. In her petition, she accused her husband of five years of beating her to the point of unconsciousness and leaving her in their shared home in Odessa with their 5-year-old daughter....

    Judge Eric Myers, 58, who hears criminal cases for the 13th judicial circuit, was charged with domestic battery early Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015. [Hillsborough County Circuit Court]
  11. Pharmacist's wife found lying in her own blood died accidentally, defense says

    Criminal

    TAMPA — Found lying on her bed in a pool of her own blood in 2010, Juliet Ademoye's death held little mystery for investigators.

    Their main suspect was the only other person home the night she was killed: her husband, Olufemi Ademoye, 56, whom deputies promptly arrested and charged with second-degree murder. Their search for a murder weapon didn't take long. Under a box of toys, they found a baseball bat with traces of her blood....

    Olufemi Ademoye is accused of beating his wife to death. 
  12. Gay couples travel from neighboring counties, states to wed in Pensacola

    Courts

    PENSACOLA — From Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia and Mississippi, gay couples traveled to this quaint Panhandle city on Tuesday, eager to take part in a historic moment: the arrival of same-sex marriage in the Deep South.

    "We came because it felt like home," said Virginia Jeffries, 30, of Foley, Ala. "And because if we waited for Alabama, we'd be waiting forever."

    Jeffries and her wife, Marrekia, 28, were married on Tuesday morning in the M.C. Blanchard Judicial Building in downtown Pensacola, where same-sex couples lined up outside an hour before doors opened. They came from neighboring states untouched by the marriage equality movement and from less-welcoming territory next door — Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties —where clerks of court have chosen to stop holding courthouse weddings rather than perform them for gay couples....

    Pastor Patrick Rogers performs the wedding ceremony for Bryan and Levette Prescott on Tuesday, the first day that gay couples could be married across Florida.
  13. Tampa Bay area gay couples prepare to tie the knot on Tuesday

    News

    ST. PETERSBURG — The first time Nicole May and Amanda Ryan tried to plan their commitment ceremony it was a complete disaster.

    It was 2010, two years after Floridians had approved a constitutional amendment restricting marriage to one man and one woman, and every Pinellas beach hotel they called kept hanging up on them. "We don't want your money," one hotel employee told them.

    Calling caterers and florists seemed like a waste of time. If no one would host their ceremony, who would sell them flowers?...

    Nicole May, 26, left, and Amanda Ryan, 24, both of St. Petersburg have been together for nine years and plan to exchange vows and become one of the first same-sex couples married Tuesday in the Tampa Bay area.
  14. As gay marriage approaches, several counties' clerks opt out of wedding ceremonies

    Courts

    As gay marriage comes to Florida, Pasco County's clerk of court is among a growing number of clerks who are refusing to hold courthouse marriage ceremonies.

    Rather than extend the practice to gay couples, they are ending it entirely.

    From as far west as Santa Rosa County to as far east as Duval County, much of North Florida is opting out. But in the Tampa Bay area, home to the largest gay pride celebration in the southeastern United States, only the Pasco clerk has chosen that route....

    William Lee Jones, left, and Aaron Huntsman, center, receive marriage license application paperwork Friday at the Monroe County Courthouse in Key West. At right is Amy Heavilin, Monroe's clerk of the court. Jones and Huntsman are planning on receiving their license just after midnight Monday, and getting married immediately afterwards. [AP photo]
  15. Judge Hinkle says all 67 counties may issue marriage licenses to gay couples

    Civil

    Clerks of court across Florida should issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples next week, a federal judge ordered on New Year's Day, warning recalcitrant officials they could face legal consequences if they refuse.

    The decision, by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle of Tallahassee, ends weeks of speculation and legal maneuvering as clerks throughout the state waited to hear whether gay marriage would become legal statewide, or restricted to Washington County in the Panhandle. ...

    Vanessa Alenier, left, and Melanie Leon Alenier, right, walk out of the Miami-Dade Courthouse together in July after asking that LGBTQ couples have their marriages recognized by the state of Florida. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle on Thursday said that all 67 Florida counties may issue marriage licenses to gay couples.