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Theft of card may cost brother dearly

The 1955 baseball card has been carefully preserved. Rookie pitcher Sandy Koufax grins though the plastic case, his blue Brooklyn Dodgers cap firmly in place. For dealers, it's worth up to $1,000. For 19-year-old Scott Batronie, it could mean up to 15 years in prison.

Batronie stole the card from his 16-year-old brother in May. His brother called the police, and his father signed the complaint to teach his older son a lesson.

Wednesday, the family squabble ended up in Hillsborough County Court, where Scott Batronie was charged with grand theft and dealing in stolen property. He was given a trial date of Dec. 3.

But Batronie doesn't think he should be in court. He returned the card to his brother a week after his August arrest. His father has asked the state attorney's office to drop the charges.

So far, that hasn't happened.

"It's ridiculous," Scott Batronie said. "They're letting drug dealers off on technicalities, and I'm stuck with this."

The state attorney's office has made no decision on dropping the charges.

"I'm going to be looking into that case," said Assistant State Attorney Darrell Dirks. "I'll be talking to my supervisors before a decision is made."

Now the whole family is mad about the situation. Gene Batronie, the boy's father, said he spent most of Wednesday on the phone, arguing with the state attorney's office.

"I was told it was going to be dropped," said the elder Batronie, who works as a hypnotherapist and counselor in Brandon. "Now, all of a sudden a hotshot attorney who wants to make a name for himself decides they want to make points."

The squabble started in May, when Scott Batronie, who lives with his girlfriend, sneaked into his father's Brandon home and stole his brother's baseball card. He sold it for $150.

When Scott Batronie refused to return the card, his brother called the police. His father signed the complaint. Batronie was arrested and spent the night in the Hillsborough County Jail.

Released on his own recognizance, Scott Batronie returned the card. He even got a job cleaning houses for a local cleaning service. But the charges have not been dropped, and if he is convicted, he faces a sentence of 22 months to 15 years.

He returns to court for a pretrial conference Nov. 30, and he hopes everything will be worked out by then.

"My little brother's happy that he's got his card back," Batronie said. "I'm happy that I've got things together. My father's happy because we're happy. There ain't no problem anymore."