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Ben Montgomery, Times Staff Writer

Ben Montgomery

Ben Montgomery is an enterprise reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and founder of the narrative journalism website Gangrey.com.

Montgomery grew up in Oklahoma and studied journalism at Arkansas Tech University, where he played defensive back for the football team, the Wonder Boys. He worked for the Courier in Russellville, Ark., the Standard-Times in San Angelo, Texas, the Times Herald-Record in New York's Hudson River Valley and the Tampa Tribune before joining the Times in 2006.

In 2010, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in local reporting and won the Dart Award and Casey Medal for a series called "For Their Own Good," about abuse at Florida's oldest reform school. He lives in Tampa with his wife, Jennifer, and three children.

Email: bmontgomery@tampabay.com

Twitter: @Gangrey

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  1. Former mailman Doug Hughes gets 4 months in prison for gyrocopter protest at U.S. Capitol (w/video)

    Criminal

    WASHINGTON — For 13 years, Doug Hughes delivered the mail for the United States Postal Service without issue. Now he's being sent to live in a prison cell for trying to deliver the most important message of his life.

    The former mailman from Ruskin, who landed a gyrocopter on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol building last year to protest how political campaigns are financed, was sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court to 120 days in prison. Hughes also received one year of probation, and he can't enter the Capitol building or the White House without special permission from the court....

    Doug Hughes of Ruskin arrives at the Federal Courthouse in Washington, on Thursday. Hughes flew a gyrocopter into restricted airspace over Washington to protest the need for campaign finance reform. [Cliff Owen | Associated Press]
  2. Awaiting his sentence for landing on Capitol lawn, gyrocopter pilot Doug Hughes still seeks campaign finance reform

    Human Interest

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — The protesters gathered under a gray sky in front of Union Station. They wore ball caps and skullcaps and stocking caps and yarmulkes and carried signs that said OVERTURN CITIZENS UNITED and Democracy, not DOLLACRACY and Stop Legalized Bribery. One hundred or so had marched here from the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, 140 miles through wind and cold and rain. A few hundred more had just finished learning how to be arrested peacefully....

    Doug Hughes shows off his ankle bracelet that he must wear while on house arrest in his Ruskin home.  [JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Times (2015)]
  3. Gyrocopter pilot Doug Hughes ends challenge to Debbie Wasserman Schultz

    Blog

    Doug Hughes, the former mailman from Ruskin who landed his one-man flying machine on the lawn of the United States Capitol last April to protest big money in elections, has ended his run to unseat South Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. ...

    Doug Hughes speaks to reporters outside federal court in Washington after a May hearing.
  4. Two more sets of remains identified from Dozier reform school excavation

    State Roundup

    Some of the boys from the reform school use to take lunch down to the graveyard. They'd eat bologna sandwiches and wonder aloud about the boys buried beneath their feet. The dead boys' names were lost to time and neglect and, if you believe the men who made it out of Florida's oldest reform school alive, the callous hearts of guards who took home paychecks signed by the state.

    It was always a mystery for Michael Littles, 58, from Tampa, who was sent to the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys outside Marianna the first time when he was 12, in 1969....

    Anthropologists from the University of South Florida worked to exhume gravesites at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna in 2013. A total of 51 sets of remains were found on the campus. [Times files]
  5. Teen bowler finds himself on path of perfection toward sport's holy grail

    Human Interest

    CRYSTAL RIVER

    Everyone at Manatee Lanes had long since quit what they were doing and gathered behind the boy bowling on Lanes 9 and 10. This was a Saturday morning, Halloween.

    The adult men's tournament going on had all but stopped as the bowlers peeled off to cluster behind the kid throwing strikes. Nobody dared to speak as they bore witness to his magic. They didn't want to jinx him. Heaven forbid someone say "Good luck" and ruin this moment, this unbelievable thing they were watching....

    A sign outside Manatee Lanes in Crystal River commemorates the feat Christian Miller accomplished there on Halloween.
  6. Influential Salt Rock chef Tom Pritchard dies after battle with Parkinson's

    News

    ST. PETERSBURG — Chef Tom Pritchard, who lied his way into the food and service industry and rose to become one of the most inventive and influential chefs in Florida, died Wednesday morning at his home in St. Petersburg. He was 74.

    He died from complications after a surgery to alleviate the symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

    Mr. Pritchard was executive chef for Baystar Restaurant Group, owner of Salt Rock Grill in Indian Shores, Island Way Grill in Clearwater, Rumba Island Bar & Grill in Clearwater and Oldsmar, Marlin Darlin' in Belleair Bluffs and Salt Rock Tavern in Oldsmar. He trained or inspired many of the Tampa Bay area's most recognized chefs. Known for his connections in the industry and his penchant for storytelling, Mr. Pritchard is hailed by many as a legend....

    Kiel Lombardo and Tony Bellanca of Roy's work with chef Tom Pritchard of Salt Rock Grill to prepare a first course of Maine lobster and mango sushi rolls with avocado shiso puree and hog snapper and serrano chile ceviche for the 2009 Third Annual Fork Fight, a fundraising dinner for Second Harvest of Tampa Bay. [Photo by James Branaman]
  7. Florida mail carrier Doug Hughes, who landed gyrocopter on Capitol lawn, pleads guilty

    Criminal

    WASHINGTON — The Ruskin mail carrier who landed his lightweight gyrocopter on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol in April to protest how money corrupts U.S. politics pleaded guilty to a single felony on Friday.

    Doug Hughes, 62, faces up to three years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 for operating a gyrocopter without a license. While prosecutors have asked for no more than 10 months in prison, Hughes' lawyers will argue that he should get probation....

    A Capitol Police officer flashes a thumbs up after inspecting Doug Hughes’ gyrocopter after it landed on April 15.
  8. Friends finish odyssey to make sure UF remembers a Vietnam War hero

    Human Interest

    GAINESVILLE — The old men met after sun up Saturday in the parking lot of an abandoned Mexican restaurant on the south side of town. They shook hands and hugged and climbed aboard a bus, careful not to fall.

    Chuck Ruffner, 79, carried the plaque. "Don't drop it," he kept saying as he passed it around.

    A police motorcade led the way to campus, past the co-eds in short shorts and the tailgaters playing corn hole and all the University of Florida homecoming hoopla....

    William Taylor, right, shakes hands with Col. Clyde Dillender, his battle group commander, as Dillender gives Taylor a diploma for graduating from Airborne school April 4, 1959. William Taylor (right) shakes hands with Col. Clyde Dillender, his battle group commander, as Dillender gives Taylor a diploma for graduating from Airborne school April 4, 1959. [Family photo]
  9. Manila is a city steeped in history, filled with contrasts

    Travel

    MANILA, Philippines

    We trudged through the dark, me half lit and engorged from neo-Filipino fare, my daughter tugging my hand and looking for familiar landmarks. We walked down dark alleys and through underground tunnels and over elevated walkways until she finally saw something familiar.

    "I think we're back where we started," she said.

    We'd been walking forever around Makati, the hip business district in Manila, trying to find our hotel. But somehow we had circled back to Your Local, a Brooklyn-style bare-bulb eatery with a secret entrance where we had earlier enjoyed dinner among the hipsters of Manila. Now we were both sweating and her frustration was growing....

    The Taal volcano, a two-hour drive south of Manila, is actually a lake inside a volcano inside a lake. The ridge above the mouth of the volcano is accessible by donkey.
  10. DNA testing identifies another body at infamous Florida School for Boys

    Crime

    TAMPA — Robert Stephens was murdered in 1937 and buried in an unmarked grave on the campus of Florida's oldest state-run reform school, the Florida School for Boys, in the Panhandle town of Marianna. On Tuesday, University of South Florida researchers announced that they have identified his remains using DNA and returned them to the boy's family.

    "Sometimes persistence pays off," said Erin Kimmerle, a forensic anthropologist at USF who is leading a project to identify the human remains excavated from the brutal reformatory campus. Stephens is the sixth boy to be identified. The state believed the cemetery contained 31 burials until USF researchers found 51, most of them buried in the woods surrounding a marked burial ground....

  11. Twists, turns and colorful characters brought Lightning hockey to Tampa Bay

    Human Interest

    TAMPA

    Good quest stories start at the beginning, so let us untangle all the various narratives about the improbable birth of the Tampa Bay Lightning and begin with the bold desire of one man, a man whose life was defined by hockey, a man who got emotional when he talked about hockey, a man who would let go of his wife before he let go of hockey.

    Phil Esposito wanted a hockey team.

    That's the beginning, a man with a wish. On May 1, 1990, eight months after the NHL announced its intentions to expand from 21 teams to 28 by the year 2000, Esposito told the hockey world he was interested in bringing a team to a place most unlikely: Tampa Bay. And he had a name: the Lightning....

    Jeff Vinik, with now-face-of-the-franchise Steven Stamkos, right, bought the Lightning in 2010 for an estimated $110 million. He has since moved to Tampa from Boston and upgraded Amalie Arena.
  12. Just another night for Lightning's national anthem singer

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — She's not sure where the music inside her came from, but maybe it started in Greenville, S.C., when she was two. She doesn't remember this, but her mother has told her the story. Sonya Bryson was obsessed with dolls, soft fuzzy ones. She sat them in front of her at one end of her crib, and she sang. Her first audience. The songs were unintelligible, but the fans didn't seem to mind....

    Technical Sargeant Sonya Bryson, United States Air Force, seen on the Jumbo Tron, signs the National Anthem before the start of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals in Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla. on Wednesday, June 3, 2015.
  13. Gyrocopter pilot Doug Hughes still living his 15 minutes of fame

    National

    RUSKIN — Doug Hughes doesn't get out much anymore, not since April 15, a month ago, when he flew his gyrocopter from Gettysburg, Pa., through protected airspace above Washington, D.C., and plopped down on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

    The temporary punishment for his daring "Freedom Flight," to bring attention to campaign finance reform, has him stuck behind closed doors at his little house on Pleasant View Avenue, shades drawn, often tethered to the charging unit that keeps his GPS ankle monitor alive. He can't run down the street to the Dollar General for a Pepsi. He can't even mow his own lawn....

    Doug Hughes will drive, not fly, to his hearing in Wash?ing?ton, D.C.
  14. Welcome to hockey country

    Human Interest

    Here we are again, on the edge of our seats, our flags unfurled, our overpasses adorned with lightning bolts. The hockey team from Tampa Bay is again making a run at greatness, up two games to none against the longest continuously operating professional ice hockey organization in the world.

    Game 3 is tonight, and if you hadn't noticed, hockey, more and more, is a thing here in the subtropics....

    Lightning fans gather at Amalie Arena last month before a playoff game against the Detroit Red Wings in Tampa. The Lightning ousted the Red Wings with a Game 7 victory and the team is enjoying a ton of support.
  15. Gyrocopter pilot returning home to uncertainty after D.C. protest stunt (w/video)

    News

    Flying in from the north over the buildings of Washington, D.C., Doug Hughes could make out a white tower in the distance, the most notable spire on the skyline. When he got close enough to see the Potomac River, he knew what he was looking at: The Washington Monument.

    He was freezing, his face and hands going numb. He wore a heavy U.S. Postal Service jacket, but he hadn't expected it to be so cold at 300 feet. He'd been buzzing through the gray sky at 45 mph for more than an hour, having left an airport in Gettysburg, Pa., at noon on Wednesday....

    A bomb squad technician walks past the gyrocopter that Doug Hughes landed on the grass in front of the United States Capital Wednesday, April 15, 2015.