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Shower and a haircut, 6 months // Judge says neatness gets better sentence

Add long and unkempt hair to the list of things not to bring into County Judge Gary Graham's courtroom. A 14-year-old Lecanto boy found that out Wednesday, when Graham delayed sentencing on a traffic violation to give the youth time to clean up and get a haircut.

"You know," Graham said to the boy's father, who also was in court, "if he'd come to court looking decent and show a little bit of respect and consideration he might get a better sentence."

The boy pleaded guilty to the charge, and Graham eventually sentenced him to six months' probation.

A tape recording of court proceedings and court records give this account: The boy, whose name is being withheld because of his age, was stopped in January near the intersection of State Road 44 and County Road 581. He was issued a ticket for not having a driver's license.

He did not appear for a Feb. 7 court appearance on that ticket, apparently because he was in a juvenile detention facility.

The father said the boy has been at the facility for the past three weeks because he is one of several youths suspected of breaking into Lecanto Middle School.

The boy's hair had not been cut in at least three weeks, probably longer, the father said.

"Is that the way they do his hair at detention?" Graham asked during the court hearing. "Did you tell him to get his act straightened up in front of the court, looking decent?"

Graham told the father to get the boy cleaned up and bring him back at 2:30 p.m., at which time Graham delivered his sentence.

Graham withheld adjudication of guilt and waived all court costs.

In addition to the probation, he ordered the boy to stay away from the other youths accused in the school break-in and to adhere to a 9 p.m. curfew.

Graham was not available Wednesday to comment on the case.