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Dan Sullivan, Times Staff Writer

Dan Sullivan

Dan Sullivan covers Hillsborough County courts for the Tampa Bay Times. Since joining the Times in 2010, he has written about unsolved crimes, the opioid epidemic, gun control, and Florida's death row, among other topics. In 2014, he was a Livingston Award finalist for a story that examined a legal loophole that allows Florida to hold mentally challenged criminal defendants without trial. A native of Salt Lake City, Utah, he is a 2006 graduate of the University of Tampa, where he earned a degree in writing.

Phone: (813) 226-3386

Email: dsullivan@tampabay.com

Twitter: @TimesDan

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  1. Trial begins for man accused of threatening to kill Tampa federal judge

    Criminal

    TAMPA — Jason Jerome Springer was in jail awaiting trial on a firearms charge when he heard inmates talking about a case that had made the news.

    This one involved six defendants, all of whom had received lengthy sentences. The federal judge who handed them down, Elizabeth Kovachevich, was the same one handling Springer's case. It was around that time, the inmates said, that they heard Springer threaten Kovachevich's life....

    His attorney said Jason Jerome Springer, 39, just talked, and there was “no true threat.”


  2. Prosecutor tries to delay Tampa trial because of eclipse. Judge quotes Carly Simon in ruling

    Criminal

    TAMPA — A federal agent wanted to travel north to view Monday's total solar eclipse. So last week a prosecutor asked a judge to postpone a trial in which the agent is supposed to testify.

    In a three-page missive which is as artful and erudite as it is legally procedural, U.S. District Judge Steven D. Merryday, denied the request.

    Merryday's order makes references to, among other topics, Greek history, the English Romantic poet William Wordsworth, and the popular 1972 Carly Simon song "You're So Vain," to ultimately say that the trial must proceed as scheduled....

    Schweta Kulkarni, from left, Rhea Kulkarni and Saanvi Kulkarni, from Seattle, try out their eclipse glasses on the sun at a gathering of eclipse viewers in Salem, Ore., early Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Don Ryan) ORDR102
  3. Woman convicted in murder of 18-year-old with cerebral palsy gets lighter term

    Criminal

    TAMPA — Linda Bonck, a 90-pound Chamberlain High School senior with cerebral palsy, lived near Tampa's Lowry Park. She struggled to walk and talk but was known for being friendly and trusting of strangers until she vanished one day in 1992.

    Two teens, David Sheren and Georgia Miller, were sentenced to life in prison for beating and stabbing her to death.

    But Miller, now 39, will likely be set free within six years, courtesy of a series of U.S. and Florida Supreme Court decisions that in recent years have found it unconstitutional to give juveniles life sentences....

    Georgia Miller, 39, was 15 when she and her boyfriend killed an 18-year-old in 1992.
  4. Judge in Tampa says 'stand your ground' changes can't apply to pending cases

    Criminal

    TAMPA — A Hillsborough County circuit judge has ruled that the newly tweaked version of Florida's "stand your ground" law cannot apply to cases that were pending when the law was passed in June.

    In an order issued Wednesday, Circuit Judge Thomas Barber joined the growing chorus of judges throughout the state who have weighed in about the constitutionality of the new law.

    "There is a valid question out there as to whether this change applies to pending cases or not," Barber said in court. "I said it doesn't and other judges said it does."...

    Hillsborough Circuit Judge Tom Barber said he hoped an appellate court would act quickly to clarify Florida's "stand your ground" law to avoid  "unnecessary confusion, delay and waste of resources."   [ Times (2009) ]
  5. Selfie plus gun in bathroom at Club Lust end in six-year sentence for St. Pete gang member

    Criminal

    The felon claimed the shooting was an accident, a mishap that occurred as he mugged for a selfie in the men's room at St. Petersburg's Club Lust.

    The single gunshot last December has landed Rorn Sorn in federal prison for more than six years, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced Monday.

    Sorn, 34, sentenced last week, had pleaded guilty in April before U.S. District Judge James D. Whittemore to a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm....

    Rorn Sorn, as a felon, was not allowed to possess firearms.
  6. Despite rescue efforts, three die in Selmon Expressway crash

    Crime

    TAMPA — Don Rogers was driving through South Tampa on his way home to a lasagna dinner Thursday when he noticed a pillar of smoke rising about a half-mile ahead of him on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway.

    As he crested a hump near the Euclid Avenue entrance ramp he saw an inferno of wrecked vehicles scattered across both lanes.

    Rogers, 48, instinctively pulled his pickup truck off to the side of the expressway and ran toward a white Hyundai, its trunk in flames. He and another man cut the seat belt from the unconscious driver and carried him to the median where four others frantically tried CPR....

  7. Former neo-Nazi won't face death penalty if convicted of killing roommates in Tampa

    Criminal

    TAMPA — Devon Arthurs, the alleged former neo-Nazi accused of killing his roommates because they disrespected his conversion to Islam, will not face the death penalty.

    In a routine court hearing Thursday morning, prosecutors announced that they do not intend to seek capital punishment in Arthurs' case.

    The 18-year-old is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the May 19 deaths of Jeremy Himmelman, 22, and Andrew Oneschuk, 18, in the Tampa Palms apartment they shared....

    Arthurs
  8. Palm Harbor oncologist gets nearly six years in prison for smuggling chemo drugs from overseas

    Criminal

    TAMPA — A disgraced former Palm Harbor doctor who bought discounted foreign-label cancer drugs without government approval and used them on unsuspecting patients was sentenced Friday to nearly six years in prison.

    Dr. Diana Anda Norbergs wept through a lengthy statement in front of U.S. District Judge James Moody. She apologized to her patients, 66 of whom were deemed to be victims of her crimes....

    Norbergs
  9. Ballistic tests show man wrongly charged with murder in Tampa drug deal, point to gun of victim's friend

    Criminal

    TAMPA — When a 17-year-old boy died in a shootout at a Busch Boulevard hotel last year, all eyes turned to a man in a dark shirt who was seen in a surveillance video firing a weapon.

    Tampa police jailed Leroy Livingston Johnson, 25, on a second-degree murder charge.

    But the fatal round didn't come from his gun, the prosecutor and defense attorney now say.

    Instead, Kelly Evander Stacy died of a bullet fired from a third man's gun, that of Stacy's friend in a marijuana deal soured by counterfeit $100 bills, according to court records....

    Leroy Johnson, 25, was accused of murder in the death of Kelly Stacy.
  10. State trial lawyers group names Tampa judge 'Jurist of the Year'

    Courts

    TAMPA — Ronald Ficarrotta, the chief judge for the Tampa-based 13th Judicial Circuit, recently received the Jurist of the Year award from the Florida chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates.

    The association of trial lawyers and judges, known as FLABOTA, gives the award to judges who show "a commitment to preserving and improving the jury trial system," exhibit professionalism, knowledge and preparedness in the courtroom and maintain an open and working relationship with the bar....

    Hillsborough Chief Judge Ronald Ficarrotta said he was humbled to receive the Jurist of the Year award from the Florida chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates.

  11. Repeat fraudster gets 9 years added to federal sentence for investment scheme

    Criminal

    TAMPA — The fraudster spoke with all the eloquence he could muster.

    He was sorry for the lies he had told investors. He regretted deceiving them in a scheme that cost them more than $500,000.

    Standing in an orange jail suit Monday in a federal courtroom in Tampa, Anthony J. Klatch Jr. lamented his mental illness and substance abuse. He said it was up to him to better himself.

    "Right now, all I can do is apologize," Klatch said....

    Anthony J. Klatch, 33, pleaded guilty in federal court in Tampa to a charge of wire fraud for an investment scheme that defrauded investors of more than $500,000, according to prosecutors. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  12. Riverview woman accused of killing in-laws said they weren't supportive enough

    Criminal

    RIVERVIEW — Not long after Virgil and Shirley Best were shot to death in their Riverview home, sheriff's deputies searched the trailer where their daughter-in-law lived.

    Inside, near a computer, they found a handwritten diary that appeared to belong to Marisol Best. In an entry dated Nov. 3 — eight days before the killings — the writer expresses frustration over a series of misfortunes....

    A .40-caliber handgun, one of two firearms detectives collected during their investigation of the murders of Virgil and Shirley Best. The couple’s daughter-in-law, Marisol Best, is accused of their murders.
  13. State no longer seeking death penalty for former FSU student in deaths of mother, stepfather

    Criminal

    TAMPA — Nicole Nachtman, a former Florida State University student accused of shooting to death her mother and stepfather, no longer faces execution.

    The Hillsborough State Attorney's Office last week filed a notice that it will discontinue its pursuit of the death penalty for Nachtman, 23.

    The tersely worded document does not elaborate on the reason for the change. But questions about her mental state at the time of the crime may have been a factor....

    Nicole Nachtman was an FSU student at the time of her 2015 arrest.
  14. Before Janessa Shannon's death, parents traded accusations of abuse

    Crime

    TAMPA — Long before Janessa Shannon's remains were discovered in a Hillsborough County nature preserve, her parents tried to convince court officials that she was in danger.

    From her own family.

    A child support battle between her mother, Michelle Mosley, 35, and father, Nahshon Shannon, 37, had played out in court in Manatee County almost all of the 13-year-old girl's life.

    "Nahshon and his family have severe problems controlling their anger," the mother wrote in a 2008 court document. "I fear someone in his family will hurt my children."...

    Janessa Shannon, 13, was found dead in a nature preserve.
  15. State Attorney expands Hillsborough juvenile civil citation program

    Courts

    TAMPA — First-time offenders who commit certain minor crimes as juveniles in Hillsborough County may avoid a criminal conviction by completing a civil citation program, starting Aug. 1.

    Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren announced an agreement Thursday between law enforcement agencies and the courts, which expands the use of civil citations.

    "We've tried arresting and prosecuting kids for just about everything, including minor, nonviolent first-time offenses," Warren said. "It simply hasn't worked."...

    Thursday's announcement of civil citations for first-time juvenile offenders in Hillsborough County marked the fulfillment of a campaign promise by State Attorney Andrew Warren.