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Researcher's long battle with USF rooted in family

In 1993, Petr Taborsky had a choice to make.

If he didn't back down in his patent dispute with the University of South Florida, he knew he might end up in prison for theft. It might even threaten his marriage.

So he got divorced.

"I essentially chose to pursue the case," Taborsky recalls flatly. "I gave it priority over our marriage. So, we both agreed it would be better to get a divorce so she could go on with her life."

She's gone her way, while Taborsky pursues his case from a steamy cell.

You can agree or disagree with Taborsky about ownership of the invention he has been fighting USF over for 7{ years.

Maybe the science student's method of using a clay-like chemical to treat wastewater is all his. Maybe it belongs to the university. It's hard to be sure.

But one thing is certain. Taborsky does not have to be behind bars today.

State officials want to give him clemency. USF leaders, embarrassed by publicity over his case, seem prepared to make the whole thing go away. All Taborsky has to do is cut a deal with the school.

Fat chance.

"I would want to be free," the owlish 34-year-old says. "But I'm not going to do anything that would compromise what I have been fighting for. You have to understand, this is important to me."

It's hard to comprehend this level of single-mindedness _ giving up freedom, career, marriage, all to stake claim on a new way to use a chemical in kitty litter. But in Taborsky's family, there is precedent for holding stubborn for principle's sake.

There was the time Taborsky's sister, barely out of college, sued government officials, saying local election rules violated Florida's Constitution.

And the time Taborsky's father, Jiri, protested mandatory garbage pickup.

And the time his father spoke with such fervor against a sex education program that he got himself arrested. He chose to spend the night in jail instead of posting bail. It would have cost $69.