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Sue Carlton, Times Columnist

Sue Carlton

Sue Carlton is a native Floridian from a longtime Southern family that her father always said consisted of thieves and cattle rustlers run out of Georgia. She grew up in Miami and joined the Tampa Bay Times in 1988. Over the years she has covered community news, politics, cops, government, and her all-time favorite, criminal courts. For nearly nine years she wrote about the kind of strange cases that only seem to happen here, about intriguing legal issues and courthouse politics. On that beat, she authored a lengthy narrative series on a trooper who killed his wife and co-authored a series on a suburban mother murdered by her teenage daughter and her friends. Sue was the deputy editor of the features section and was the Tampa city editor before she became a columnist in 2005. Three times a week, she writes about politics, outrages, observations, court cases of the day and whatever else comes up. She lives in Tampa with her husband and their very good dog.

Phone: (813) 226-3376 or toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 3376


  1. Carlton: Diaco ends with some yucks, judges get fashion tips


    Is radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge Clem sweating the trial that could end the legal careers of lawyers who represented him?

    One of them being pal Stephen Diaco?

    All signs point to: Nah.

    Thursday morning, as the Florida Bar disciplinary trial was about to conclude against Diaco and two others at his firm — all accused of conspiring to set up an enemy lawyer for a DUI arrest during a trial involving Clem — the shock jock was hanging out on-air with Diaco's brother Dan, the plastic surgeon best known for breast enhancements called "Diacos."...

    Bubba the Love Sponge Clem has been up to his usual shock jock ways.
  2. Carlton: Yes, gay pride, even at MacDill Air Force Base


    MacDill Air Force Base is getting into the swing of things with its first big gay pride event.

    No, really.

    June is Pride Month, a celebration of our gay, lesbian and transgender communities, set on the anniversary month of New York's Stonewall riots, an important moment in the fight for gay rights.

    Minds do open. The world does evolve. And shut my mouth, here's Tampa's own MacDill Air Force Base front and center and ready for pride with an LGBT luncheon on the base June 15 — featuring as the keynote speaker banker Ashley Brundage, who is transgender....

  3. Carlton: Helen Gordon Davis and the Gucci Cadillac


    Helen Gordon Davis probably shocked a few people after she landed in this small Southern town nearly 70 years ago from New York, gorgeous and glamorous and Jewish to boot, a woman who later dared take a seat in a good ol' boy state Legislature like she had the right to be there.

    There are the big stories about her making her mark as a politician, championing women and minorities and pointing out the lopsided nature of things, no matter how much the boys rolled their eyes and tried to ignore her....

    Then-Sen. Helen Gordon Davis, D-Tampa, talks Sen. Quillan Yancey, left, and Sen. Bob Johnson in the Florida Senate in 1992. Davis was the first woman from Hillsborough elected to the state House.
  4. Carlton: A whole new Diaco, plus plenty of politics


    Even as embattled attorney Stephen Diaco says he'll give up his law license in the face of this week's bruising disciplinary trial with the Florida Bar, another well-known Diaco is poised to appear on Tampa's legal scene.

    Plastic surgeon Dan Diaco, 48 — a man whose breast work is sometimes referred to as a pair of "Diacos" — is older brother to Stephen, 46, and also-lawyer Joseph, 44....

  5. Carlton: Getting to know the body farm in your back yard

    Local Government

    A lesson in local government: If you're hoping to build a body farm filled with actual cadavers in the name of science, you might want to get to know your living, breathing neighbors first.

    You know, bring over a nice banana bread or something.

    The University of South Florida had big plans for some serious work out in south Hillsborough County in the name of forensic science and anthropology. There, they hoped to create a Facility for Outdoor Experimental Research and Training — a body farm, if you want to be indelicate about it — in which donated dead bodies would be left out to decompose in an open-air, fenced-in facility under Florida's unique environmental conditions. We even have regional insects that help get the job done....

  6. Tampa's mayor slams Scott, Legislature

    State Roundup

    TAMPA — Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn on Tuesday blasted Florida Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature over their inaction on Medicaid expansion and the resulting state budget impasse.

    A leader like the late Gov. Lawton Chiles would never have allowed the legislative meltdown that Tallahassee saw this past spring, the mayor said.

    "Shame on this governor," Buckhorn said. "Shame on this Legislature. They need to get back to work."...

    Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn blasted Gov. Scott over his inaction on Medicaid expansion and the resulting state budget impasse. Buckhorn is looking at running for governor himself in 2018.
  7. Carlton: DUI setup trial a legal game of Clue (or is that clueless?)


    The paralegal did it. At the steak house. With the swizzle stick.

    What else would you expect in Tampa's infamously sleazy legal drama but a defense that sounds straight out of a game of Clue, Courthouse Shenanigans Edition?

    The case against three Tampa lawyers accused of setting up opposing counsel for a DUI arrest using a young female employee, a dark downtown bar and a few vodka cocktails has taken more turns than a Busch Gardens roller coaster. This week comes the disciplinary hearing that could leave them suspended or disbarred — and the twists just keep coming....

    An attorney for an Adams & Diaco lawyer being investigated by the Florida Bar over the DUI arrest of an opposing counsel says paralegal Melissa Personius went too far, and hatched a plan of her own.
  8. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn: 'Shame' on Rick Scott, Florida Legislature over Medicaid impasse


    Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn Tuesday blasted Florida Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature over their inaction on Medicaid expansion and the resulting state budget impasse.

    A leader like the late Gov. Lawton Chiles would never have allowed the legislative meltdown that Tallahassee saw this past spring, the mayor said.

    "Shame on this governor," Buckhorn said. "Shame on this Legislature. They need to get back to work."...

    Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, shown here at an event in January, on Tuesday said Gov. Rick Scott compares poorly with the late Gov. Lawton Chiles.
  9. The shining and flawed legacy of Tampa police Chief Jane Castor

    Public Safety

    Before dawn on her final day as Tampa's police chief — her last after 31 years and two days as a cop — Jane Castor put on the midnight-blue uniform that has become as much a part of her public persona as her lanky 6-foot frame and cap of blond hair.

    How much a part? Someone once spotted her at the courthouse in a suit and called out, "Hey, I've never seen you in clothes before!"...

    On her last day of official duty, Tampa police Chief Jane Castor speaks before swearing in the force’s newest officers.
  10. Carlton: For sex on the beach, some common sense in the court?


    You can see it on YouTube in all its dubious glory, a couple appearing to couple on their towel on the sugary sands of busy Bradenton Beach.

    What a shocked beach-goer's cellphone captured Elissa Alvarez and Jose Caballero doing in broad daylight that balmy Sunday last July definitely makes them unlikely martyrs for a legal system gone astray.

    But aside from the salaciousness in this, isn't there room for some sensibility here?...

  11. Carlton: A race for clerk (yawn) turns contentious


    The race to become clerk of the circuit court — sorry, had to stifle a yawn there — is traditionally as scintillating as picking who sits on your local mosquito control board.

    Not that Florida's court clerks don't do critical work as the counties' record keepers and chief financial officers. The risk of having the wrong person mucking up an office that handles everything from marriages to jury duty — or, worst case, using the job for nefarious deeds like fixing traffic tickets — is big....

  12. Sue Carlton: A homeless soul who was loved to the end

    Human Interest

    I met Steve Gruetz­macher at his office, which is what he called the bus bench he regularly commandeered near the Walgreens at the edge of downtown Tampa.

    You could find him there sitting with a friend — the streets are safer in twos, he said — or reading the paper, or holding his ragged cardboard Anything Helps sign asking motorists for cash, or just watching the world pass him by. When we met, he kept a can of beer in a paper sack within arm's reach....

    A friend contacted Debra Exum after the name of her brother, Steve Gruetzmacher, appeared in the newspaper.
  13. Carlton: Tampa gets 'quiet storm' of a police chief in troubled times

    Public Safety

    Tampa's own Eric Ward, a cop who has done pretty much everything in the Tampa Police Department in his 26 years rising up the ranks, becomes his town's police chief in what you could call interesting times.

    It is a moment when everyone in America knows Ferguson, when questions smolder on the streets of Baltimore, when we are confronting issues of police power, poverty and race.

    Ward, 48, whose exhaustive resume includes working everything from street crimes to the marine unit to the SWAT team, won't be Tampa's first black police chief, something that happened three mayors ago. But if you doubt an eye toward diversity from the mayor who appointed Ward top cop Thursday, you have only to recall that Mayor Bob Buckhorn's recent inauguration festivities included ministers both Catholic and Baptist, a rabbi, a gospel choir and a gay men's chorale, just for starters....

    Eric Ward, 48,  is liked and respected in the department.
  14. Carlton: Keep your carpetbagging out of our state parks


    Sometimes it seems like there's not enough actual Florida left.

    In many places, we are an endless stretch of highways and strip malls, gas stations and golden arches, same as anywhere else in America.

    But then maybe you get lucky enough to find yourself wandering one of Florida's state parks, with real Florida all around you. Might want to hurry, though. Those Tallahassee politicians are pondering big plans for your parks....

    The Department of Environmental Protection is working on a plan that would allow cattle ranchers to take over a portion of Myakka River State Park .
  15. Former Tampa mayor Dick Greco moves to St. Petersburg

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Dick Greco, Tampa's long-serving mayor and the face of his city, would want his fellow citizens to know the sky is not falling. He is not committing an act of treason. He will not abandon his town.

    But this much is true: Greco, raised on West Tampa devil crabs and Ybor City Cubans, is leaving Tampa for St. Petersburg.

    Except, he insists, not really. "I don't want anyone to think I'm leaving Tampa — I'm not leaving Tampa," he said Tuesday. "I'm just going across the bridge."...

    Dick Greco said that he and his wife, Linda McClintock Greco,  will be in Tampa daily at their respective offices in West Shore.