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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: The teacher, the pot arrest, and the case for civil citations


    On the question of whether our local police should be able to hand out civil citations instead of criminal charges to people caught with small amounts of marijuana, consider the case of Jalem Robinson.

    He was a University of South Florida student working as an after school specialist at Potter Elementary School and planning to become a teacher. One night in 2014, he was pulled over for not having a tag light, according to a Hillsborough sheriff's report. The deputy said he smelled marijuana. Robinson denied he'd been smoking. Nonetheless, a marijuana cigarette was found in a search of his car — less than an inch and old, Robinson said, or 0.8 grams, according to the sheriff's report....

  2. Carlton: Goats, glitz, and sawed-off ducks: Reasons to love the Florida State Fair

    Human Interest

    Last week on opening day of the Florida State Fair, Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober walked the midway to ensure that the games of chance were legal, that those tantalizing jumbo stuffed animals and sacks of live goldfish could actually be won.

    This was not just homey tradition. This was in fact a legally spelled-out duty of the state attorney. (See: Florida Statutes 616.24 (2), Public Fairs and Expositions.) Wielding tape measures and scales, the state attorney and his staff came to toss baseballs, throw darts and shoot water guns in the name of fairness at the fair....

  3. Carlton: Welcome to Florida, the Rip You Off While You Ride State!


    Once I was renting a car at Tampa International Airport, headed south to write about places freshly uprooted by the latest hurricane.

    The clerk behind the counter politely pushed the usual extra insurance (thanks, I have insurance), tried to get me to upgrade to an SUV (car is fine) and then a new one: a GPS device, back when such things were big and clunky and novel — and a bargain, the clerk assured me, at $60 a week. No thanks, I said....

  4. Carlton: One elusive mayor, one tough horse — the week that was


    In a town rarely lacking for political gossip — or gossips, for that matter — news that Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn was headed to New Hampshire this weekend to campaign for Democrat-for-president Hillary Clinton had people whipping out their stubby pencils and calculating odds.

    Two theories often get debated over power breakfasts about what's next when Buckhorn term-limits out as mayor — a job he would surely keep if he could....

  5. Carlton: Is there a road in this town that's not under construction?


    This is a true story about getting around town. Or at least trying.

    I'm driving from my office to a meeting in a downtown Tampa building not far away — except the street where I need to turn is now closed. Not just closed, but behind the orange traffic barrels and barricades, it looks like a war-torn, bombed-out city block.

    Okay, regroup.

    I dutifully turn at the "detour" sign, only to find construction workers busy as bees narrowing a four-lane street down to one for no immediately apparent reason. I inch forward through three painfully slow traffic light cycles, turn and find a whole new set of workers — these, jackhammering concrete in preparation for giant pipes nearby....

    Columnist Sue Carlton asks, “Is there a square mile left in Tampa Bay free of road congestion or construction? Your kids were in diapers when work started on Interstate 275, and you could be stuck in traffic on the way to their high school graduations.” [Times files]
  6. Carlton column: Anticorruption prosecutor for a Hillsborough scandal? Great idea


    What will investigators looking at allegations of cozy relationships in the awarding of a fat Hillsborough County contract ultimately find? Were any actual crimes committed?

    And what sort of person would have to be part of that investigation for everyone who's closely watching to trust the answers we expect any day now?

    More on that mystery man in a minute in what's as close to a cliffhanger as local politics gets....

    Robert “Bobby” O’Neill, former U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Florida, is helping Hillsborough sort out the scandal surrounding the Go Hillsborough transit plan. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times (2012)] 
  7. Tampa's storied mayor gets hospitalized — and a health lesson


    Saturday will mark the first year in decades that Dick Greco, four-time Tampa mayor and city icon, will not be a presence in the Gasparilla parade and festivities.

    You will not see him glad-handing his fellow pirate powerful. He will not pose for pictures along the parade route with all those strangers who are just friends he has not yet met. He will not tip back a traditional brandy-laced milk punch over at the yacht club, and he won't toss beads to the sauciest of wenches along Bayshore Boulevard....

  8. Citigroup looking at major Hillsborough expansion, including maybe at Vinik-Cascade site


    It looks like Citigroup, which already has 5,500 employees in Hillsborough County, is looking for a possible corporate campus of up to 1 million square feet, and that the 40 downtown acres by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Bill Gates' Cascade Investment fund is in the running.

    The New York-based banking giant is well into discussions with more than one local developer. The possibilities include creating a larger campus at a new location or keeping Citigroup's existing operation at Sabal Park near Interstate 75 and finding additional space elsewhere. A decision is expected in the next couple of weeks. All the finalists are in Hillsborough County....

  9. Former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco hospitalized


    TAMPA — Former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco is recovering from surgery after being admitted to Florida Hospital after complications from a hernia.

    Greco, 82, was out of his fourth surgery Thursday morning and appeared to be doing well.

    The four-time mayor and city icon said he had been feeling the hernia for a year before he finally went to the hospital last week in serious pain. His message from his hospital bed Thursday: If you have a condition, don't wait....

    Former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco and his wife, Dr. Linda McClintock, right, are pictured with Pam Iorio, another former Tampa mayor, at "An Evening of Wine and Roses," the annual gala for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay, in September. [Times files]
  10. Carlton: Watching political sausage get made in Hillsborough County


    Campaign checks flow to sitting county commissioners from people who stand to benefit greatly from their upcoming vote.

    Lobbyists paid to sway commissioners often can't be bothered to properly sign in or state their business so the public has a record of who met with whom — and why.

    And everyone's on pins and needles awaiting a Sheriff's Office report on allegations of county cronyism in the handing out of a big contract....

  11. Carlton column: In homeless court, a chance


    One afternoon a month in a busy Tampa courtroom come some unlikely moments in a city's struggle with the homeless.

    Rows of hard wooden benches are filled with street people still in scruffy coats against the wintry weather outside. Most are middle-aged men, plus a few women, who have run afoul of city ordinances by holding up signs that say "homeless and hungry," panhandling or selling water by the road, or drinking a beer too close to a convenience store....

    Richard Stubbs listens to Judge Dick Greco Jr.'s instructions on Wednesday afternoon, January 13, 2015 in courtroom 20 at the Hillsborough County Courthouse in downtown Tampa. [ZACK WITTMAN | Times]
  12. Guns, traffic, and no Jesus Pizza in Pasco: The week that was


    Here was a reason given a couple of years ago to justify a law that would allow people to walk around with guns exposed at the beach or Gasparilla like Florida was the Wild West:

    People with perfectly legal concealed-carry permits were being harassed and arrested by police for inadvertently exposing weapons, open-carry proponents said — like when the wind lifted someone's shirt or a gun poked from a hole of one man's shorts. And no, I'm not making that up....

  13. A city comes together for a good cop

    Public Safety

    He was the best-dressed undercover narcotics cop anyone can remember. And he was good at his job, people say — people being not just cops and prosecutors who are part of the tribe, but also defense lawyers not naturally inclined to compliment someone skilled at putting their clients in jail.

    When Tampa police Detective Jose Feliciano met up with high-level drug dealers for a buy, he sometimes pretended he stuttered, or he was deaf, disarming them into believing he was one of them, a regular guy. It helped to be bilingual and charming. He was soft-spoken and slight, but he rode big Harleys. Always, he looked the part of the well-heeled cocaine dealer....

    Jose Feliciano
  14. Schools and churches and elephants: The week that was


    Headlines from the week that was:

    At least someone in Hillsborough schools remembers church and state

    In what could be the next big controversy for a school district rarely without one, eyebrows are raised over the Hillsborough school system's involvement with church and Christian-based groups.

    No question, community contributions like mentoring and volunteerism are a huge boon for schools. But some people have been rightly taken aback that mega-church Idlewild Baptist's contributions in Hillsborough also include training and motivational sessions for school administrators and shirts with Idlewild's logo for teachers....

  15. Carlton: Getting death sentences right in Florida


    So the U.S. Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional our state's way of sentencing killers to die — a method that gives judges, and not juries, the final say.

    The news, reverberating to Tallahassee and beyond, made me think of one case where this might have actually worked.

    Except it didn't.

    Humberto Delgado, once a police officer himself, had a history of delusions and psychotic behavior and had at some point believed police were out to kill him. Tampa police Cpl. Mike Roberts could not have known this on the night in 2009 when he stopped Delgado, who was homeless and pushing a shopping cart on his way to a veterans hospital. The officer could not have known about the four guns in Delgado's shopping cart....