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Man to leave home in deal with drug panel

Jerome Magwood must leave his home because of an agreement Tuesday between his mother and a city board specifically designed to fight neighborhood drug-sale problems. But Magwood said he does not quite understand why.

"I could see if I was a dealer, but I'm not," said Magwood, 40. "I don't consider myself part of the problem."

Tampa Police say Magwood has never been convicted of drug sales or possession at the home. And he does not live in a city-regulated housing project.

But because of a special agreement between police and his mother, who owns the house, he will have to leave the home. Also under the agreement, Ruth Magwood agreed not to let her two other adult sons visit the home unless she is present.

Mrs. Magwood said she does not live in the house, but she acknowledged the drug problems existed on her property.

Mrs. Magwood said after the hearing that she was was not responsible for the drug problems. "I didn't have anything to do with it," Mrs. Magwood said.

Later, she said she did not have any problem with the agreement or the board's action.

Tampa Police officials said they filed the case against Mrs. Magwood because she is accountable for what happens on her property.

"We're trying to work with her," said Joan Dias, the corporal who filed the complaint. "I certainly don't want her home taken away from her."

The city's Drug-related Public Nuisance Abatement Board was formed in November and began hearing cases in May. The board handles complaints from residents and agencies about property at which illegal drugs are sold.

According to state law, the board has the power to order that drug sales cease at a business or home and, if necessary, close a business. However, the law does not give the board any enforcement powers such as the right to fine property owners.

The board has handled six cases _ all filed by the Police Department. Mrs. Magwood was the first homeowner before the board.

Mrs. Magwood did not have an attorney in the case. But a lawyer said Tuesday that if she had, the agreement probably would not have been reached so quickly.

"Nobody understands the powers of this board," Ms. Rochelle Reback, a civil defense lawyer. "It's sad to think these citizens are being held before these boards with the threat of losing property, or businesses or family relationships."