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Rights ruling long way off

Published Oct. 6, 2005

The trial in a civil rights case brought by four black political activists ended Friday, but a final decision on the matter is at least three months away.

The suit against the city of Tampa stems from the Feb. 2, 1989, arrests of Tony Daniel of Tampa and Alvelita Donaldson, Maurice Williams and Junis Wilson, all of St. Petersburg, on charges of incitement to riot and unlawful assembly.

The four were arrested during the second night of disturbances near College Hill after the death of a man suspected of drug dealing. The four maintain they were in the area to counsel youths, not to advocate or incite violence. They said the arrests violated their First Amendment rights.

On Friday, U.S. Magistrate Elizabeth A. Jenkins gave opposing attorneys 60 days to compile and submit fact findings and conclusions of law concerning the case. The 60 days will begin after both sides receive transcripts of the trial in about 30 days. Jenkins will then render her decision.

After the activists were arrested in 1989, Chief Judge Dennis Alvarez set an unusually high bail of $100,050 after discussing the matter with Mayor Sandy Freedman. Bail was reduced or waived the next day, and they were released after being ordered by the court to stay out of College Hill. Prosecutors dropped the charges the following June.

Authorities, including the medical examiner's office, state attorney's office and the police department's internal affairs office, eventually ruled that suspect Edgar Allen Price suffocated in the back of a squad car after being hog-tied by police, but found no fault with the eight Tampa police officers involved in the arrest.