1. Archive


(ran NTP edition)

Trial could embarrass Catholic church

An attorney for Joseph Mondeau predicted "a bloodbath" of a trial that will involve the Catholic church, a 70-year-old priest and a litany of dirty secrets. "Get ready," defense attorney Norman Cannella said. Mondeau, a 36-year-old single father from Odessa, was charged Monday with extorting more than $200,000 from a Lutz priest between 1994 and 1996 by threatening to expose their sexual relationship. Prosecutor Anthony Arena said some of the money the Rev. Simeon Gardner stole from St. Mary's Catholic Church in Lutz to give to Mondeau came from a collection for the poor.

Defense attorney Norman Cannella had fighting words for the prosecutor, the church and the now-retired priest, who is charged with grand theft but is expected to get a plea deal for his testimony against Mondeau. "The Catholic church will lose its integrity. They will be disgraced," Cannella said. Later, prosecutor Arena agreed the case "involves sensitive issues that ultimately won't look good for any of the people involved."

Gardner told investigators that Mondeau, whom he had never met before, approached him in 1994 to ask for money for overdue bills. The two later had a sexual encounter, and their affair lasted more than a year, with meetings at Mondeau's home. The priest told investigators that Mondeau demanded larger amounts of money and threatened to expose their relationship to the Diocese in St. Petersburg. Another defense attorney, Mark Ober, said the men did have "a relationship" and Mondeau did take money, but that it was given to him as a gift.

Mother pleads guilty in daughter's abduction

A mother accused of abducting her 7-year-old daughter from Carrollwood Elementary School in January and keeping her for 15 days pleaded guilty Monday to interfering with child custody. Debra McCauley, 36, was accused of taking her daughter, Sarah McCauley, on Jan. 9 after the child's father, Mike McCauley, dropped her off at school. Sarah's classmates decorated the school's trees with yellow ribbons after the girl disappeared. Sarah was found Jan. 24 in Stafford, Va., with her mother, who did not have legal custody. McCauley pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six months of house arrest, two and a half years of probation and 100 hours of community service. The judge ordered her to have no contact with the child until custody proceedings have been completed. Debra McCauley also faces an unrelated charge of violating her probation in Manatee County.

Children's board looks for leader

The Hillsborough County Children's Board is advertising for a director. The 10-member board is still seeking a way to allocate scarce tax dollars for children and family services from its $14.26-million budget without provoking controversy _ something it was unable to accomplish under two previous directors. The board fired Gerard Malouin in January after nearly two years of conflict over his plans to reallocate money from existing children and family services to groups that had not previously been funded. Malouin's predecessor, Will Michaels, resigned in 1994 amid criticism the board was becoming a cumbersome bureaucracy. April 7 is the deadline for applications. Malouin's replacement will earn between $65,000 and $80,000 a year.

USF cancels Cuban concert

When University of South Florida professor James Lewis heard La Camerata Romeu perform their classical music on his visit to Cuba, he knew he wanted to bring it home. So Lewis and other USF professors went through the tedious process of securing money for the trip and ensuring the government's permission for the eight musicians to travel. But two weeks ago, USF provost Thomas Tighe yanked their funding, forcing the trip to be canceled. USF officials said the provost didn't want to offend the local Cuban community. Many faculty members are unhappy with the decision and said USF officials let a political feeling dictate the boundaries of free speech. "Being an academician, I think it's a violation of my rights as a thinker," Lewis said. Leaders in the local Cuban community said they support Tighe's decision because in the end it is Cuban President Fidel Castro who determines who can visit the U.S. and who cannot, a privilege he should not have.

Deputy suspended in Lutz case

Hillsborough sheriff's deputy was suspended for three days for failing to make a report on a domestic violence incident that merited an arrest, according to a Internal Affairs report released Tuesday. Deputy Stephen Newman violated department procedures when he responded to an emergency call at Lake Carlton Arms Apartment in Lutz on Dec. 31, the report said.

Rose Pogue complained to Newman that her boyfriend, Robert Raymond Taylor, threw water and spit on her during an earlier argument. She also told Newman that Taylor had been arrested before for domestic violence and that she was afraid of him, a sergeant said in the report. Instead of arresting Taylor, the report stated, Newman waited with him at the home while Pogue fetched money for a bus ticket Taylor wanted. He left with the money in a cab.

A few hours later, deputies again responded to the home. Sgt. Harold Winsett arrested Taylor, who was trying to get in, and charged him with battery in the earlier incident. When Winsett confronted Newman about not filing a report or enforcing the domestic violence statute, the deputy said, "the best thing to do was to let the subject leave and go to New Jersey, as that would cure the problem," according to the report.

Residents of retirement center ill

About 90 residents of University Village Retirement Center became ill early last week after what health officials think may have been a tainted meal Sunday night. Two residents were hospitalized and others reported nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, said Cindy Morris, environmental manager for the Hillsborough County Health Department. Officials believe the widespread illness was caused by food contaminated with bacteria or a virus. Tim Parker, executive director of the retirement home at 12401 N 22nd St., said health officials were contacted Tuesday afternoon. Morris said the symptoms were consistent with the Norwalk virus, which is transmitted through food. Meal preparation is done in-house at University Village, which has 550 residents, Parker said.

Carrollwood businessman killed

Two men and a woman were charged with the beating death Tuesday night of Saudi businessman Aladdin El-Egl at his office. El-Egl, 25, was found about 10:25 p.m. by his business partner at Brothers International Exports at 5555 W Linebaugh Ave. Robbery is believed to be the motive. On Thursday, sheriff's officials charged Vontavia Lynn Vance, 23; Leon Scott Clay, 25; and Erasmo Morales, 25, with first-degree murder. Brothers International has been in business about three years, shipping American-made automobiles to Saudi Arabia. The three people arrested had business dealings with the firm, officials said.