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A tribute to Alex Haley _ he'll be missed

Last month I attended a lecture by Alex Haley in a church on Pasadena Avenue. What impressed me most was his relaxed manner. As he spoke, you felt that he was talking just to you. He explained how he

started by writing love letters for the sailors aboard his Coast Guard ship for 50 cents a letter. He was elated when the gobs came back from liberty reporting how successful the letters were. Encouraged, he went on to write short stories for the Reader's Digest, then his Autobiography of Malcolm X and then Roots. This work captured all America and we were glued to the TV for a week, hanging on every dramatization. He was working on a new book when he died.

The night of the lecture, he fielded a question from the audience which was slanted toward the black culture, but he responded by saying, "We are all involved _ white, black or polka-dot." He mentioned some black role models from early in the century, but in my book he should have included himself.

Alex, I was lucky to meet you and have you sign my old, worn copy of Roots _ "In brotherhood, Alex."

You will be missed.

Helen Torres, St. Petersburg

Physicians defended

I noticed that many writers objected to the physician who made a comparison between physicians' salaries and those of pro athletes.

Students wishing to be physicians work long and hard in college for the coveted degree and don't get it by taking courses like "Basketweaving 101." Most also are not doing so on a fully paid scholarship. I don't feel that physicians are entitled to million-dollar salaries nor are the athletes. I do feel that the work that dedicated physicians perform entitles them to more compensation than pro athletes.

Many people who object to paying $30 for a doctor's visit will pay the same for a ticket to a sporting event without batting an eye.

Charles A. Roberts, Clearwater

More on "Hiding the past'

Re: Hiding the past.

For years I had thought that your publication deservedly enjoyed the reputation of being the "better" of the bay area's newspapers _ not any longer. I am appalled at the level to which your paper has sunk. What an outrage to slander a man who has dedicated his life to the noble cause of justice for all and who has done so much good in pursuing the lofty goals which his long and loyal service on the bench has embodied, the Honorable Edgar A. Hinson.

I personally have had the great privilege to appear regularly before this, one of our finest circuit judges if not, indeed, the very best of the lot. Judge Hinson is a venerable man, an experienced and distinguished jurist commanding and worthy of the utmost respect for his extensive knowledge of the law and legal ethics, and possessed of an unsurpassed talent for their application in the most difficult of cases; a man whose very presence in a court of law evokes the epitome of the ideal "judicial temperament."

If any past errors by Judge Hinson are now coming to the attention of overly zealous reporters in search of material due to the discovery of nefarious dealings by others, Judge Hinson cannot be held accountable because persons and/or situations he believed to be legitimate and without the appearance of impropriety subsequently turned sour. It is an extreme case of grasping at straws and a miscarriage of journalism to attempt to excite the gossip-hungry segment of society with such a feeble basis for your uninformed attack upon the routine practice of judicial rotation, coverage and substitution. Don't any of your court and legal-scene specialists realize that judges must be available, by law, to have various types of cases brought before them 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, just as physicians cover and rotate to care for your medical needs?

I have, on my occasions, observed Judge Hinson go to great lengths, of his own accord, to assure that there is no possible basis for recusing himself before proceeding on a case. You have taken a deplorable, misleading, cheap shot at a man to whom the letter of the law and the Code of Judicial Conduct is sacrosanct. For blunders that are guaranteed to occur in an overloaded, understaffed system of state government, why not look beyond the judiciary to where the problem really lies, viz., in the "good old boy system" that so blatantly and offensively permeates our state agency bureaucracies?

You need not attempt to rattle skeletons in the closet of Judge Ed Hinson, "the Honorable" in its truest sense; those of us in the legal community, who have the most exposure to and knowledge of the way he operates, know that you wouldn't be able to make much noise. This is a man possessed of a rare balance of sincere humanity and unadulterated devotion to the sanctity of the law, legal ethics and the Code of Judicial Conduct, and there is no question in our minds that Judge Hinson has always, and can be depended upon, to uphold these laudable ideals to their fullest.

Jean M. Harper, Attorney at Law, Tampa

There is an old saying, "believe half of what you see and nothing of what you hear." After reading attorney Michael W. LaBarbera's rebuttal to the sealing article, I've come to the conclusion the saying should go, "believe half of what you see and never, ever of anything that is written by a St. Petersburg Times reporter."

I think you guys should get your act together and start reporting some factual articles. Are you trying to compete with the Enquirer?

Robert H. Heuzel, Seminole

Another view

The article concerning the four corrupted judges was very interesting but it isn't surprising as it wasn't anything new. Bonannos, Alvarezes, Hinsons and Coes have always been part of our lives. People of this ilk have been wearing the robes of justice for years.

Any police officer can tell you there are two kinds of justice in this country. One for the haves and one for the have-nots. It isn't uncommon to read in the paper where judges hand out stiff sentences to some poor person and almost in the same breath give probation before verdict to someone of means, for the same violation.

I was a police officer for 28{ years and how often I would hear these words from the bench, "It would serve no purpose to incarcerate this person," when they were guilty of driving so drunk they would fall out of the car. These people were always well-heeled and had top notch attorneys. The same judges would sentence a panhandler to 30 days, in setting an example.

Recently one of our distinguished citizens was caught red-handed, shoplifting. The state attorneys' office used all kinds of excuses in dropping the charges. Several years back when my elderly neighbor was charged with the same thing _ being 81 years of age and suffering from Alzheimers disease _ I didn't hear the state attorney going to bat for her. Her husband had to come up with $800 in attorney and court costs. Just another case of American justice.

John C. Sullivan, a maverick attorney, now retired from Cumberland, Md., wrote a book titled, And Justice For All. He tells just how much the court system stinks in this country. He pulls no punches in taking on the American Bar Association.

How can one sit in judgment of those less evil than they? It is almost impossible to do anything about this and they enjoy political immunity.

Never in the history of our country has corruption in our government been higher. White collar crime has never been more rampant and going unpunished. I really think the National Organization for Women is taking a step in the right direction, by advocating a third party.

Edward "Ed" Phiefer, St. Petersburg

Seizures justified

Your editorial The seizure madness (Nov. 8, 1991) severely criticized our civil actions to seize assets of Carlos Yepes and Robert Guzzo, who faced no criminal charges at that point. My reply letter, which you printed Nov. 25, explained the legal justification of those actions and the safeguards which protect the rights of owners. However, I was unable at that time to discuss the criminal investigation connected with these asset seizures.

Briefly, Yepes and Guzzo have now pleaded guilty to federal bank fraud charges, and they face maximum sentences of five years in prison and $250,000 fines. Moreover, they have agreed to forfeit their interests in 12 parcels of real property. These are the very parcels addressed by your editorial. Valued at about $10-million, these properties were purchased with money obtained by means of false loan applications which several local banks relied on.

These results confirm the propriety of our early asset seizures. Such actions negate the profit motive of those who would victimize our banks. The forfeited assets are shared by the participating law enforcement agencies, and this sharing gives taxpayers a break.

We will continue to utilize asset forfeiture to the full extent of the law. When appropriate, as in this case, we will seize assets in advance of criminal charges. To do so is proper under the law. To do less would be a disservice to all law-abiding tax-paying citizens.

Robert W. Genzman, U.S. Attorney, Tampa

Tough to enforce the law

Re: Let me be chief, by Stephen Koff, Feb. 2.

The chief comes to St. Petersburg with impressive credentials. In 17 months he has done nothing that comes close to justifying his removal or forced resignation. To the contrary, he has shown leadership, administrative ability and personal integrity.

A police department's conduct must be governed by local and state laws and adherence to sound management principles. Politics should not intrude into its operation. This may sound utopian, but in cities that have the least political interference in the internal operations of the police department, the public is better served. The rules of local Civil Service operation govern for the most part, hiring and promotion. The chief makes the final decision from eligible candidates. Eligibility must be based upon merit alone. When politics enter the system, it is corrupted. Such corruption could be as devastating as bribes from drug dealers. The chief has done his best to steer his department through the hassle of political turmoil. He needs recognition for his stewardship.

The hierarchy at City Hall should make a statement that it has confidence in the chief. This would not be political interference. It would be a righteous promulgation of support that is long overdue. City Hall cannot stand passive and idle like a herd of geldings in a pasture. Inaction can be as destructive as overaction.

How can a police department fight crime and improve the quality of life when all the publicity is centered on allegations of internal strife and political harassment?

This story points out the wisdom of an old adage; "you can only enforce as much law as politics will allow."

Vincent A. Rose, Tarpon Springs

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A "vicious conviction'

Re: A final try for truth, Feb. 5.

Your front page story on the Medgar Evers slaying is a vicious conviction of a man awaiting trial. Beckwith's guilt should be decided by honest men and women based upon the evidence, not by hate-mongering articles of your staff writer.

Allan Brown, St. Petersburg

A clarification

Editor's note: The writer's name was inadvertently dropped when this letter was published Feb. 9. We are republishing the letter in its entirety. We regret the error.

Who planned this new budget? Humpty Dumpty or the Red Queen? The only persons who will benefit will be the IRS tax preparers!

After reading How the budget plan affects you, plus all the mind-boggling categories listed in the Times today, the only thing that would have unraveled this mess would be if it had been printed in Russian!

I think fondly of the old admonition: Keep it simple, stupid!

D. S. Heflick, St. Petersburg

Share your opinions

Letters for publication should be addressed to Letters to the Editor, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, 33731, (FAX number, (813) 893-8675. They should be brief and must include the handwritten signature, telephone number if available and address of the writer.

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