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Ex-letter carrier won't be retried

Former Pinellas Park letter carrier William Santiago won't have to stand trial again on charges he stole seven pieces of junk mail.

The office of U.S. Attorney Charles Wilson, the chief federal prosecutor for central Florida, filed papers late Friday afternoon to dismiss the three counts of embezzlement against Santiago.

Santiago had admitted taking a Victoria's Secret catalog, a True Story magazine, and other undeliverable catalogs headed for the dust bin. But he claimed he'd done nothing wrong. The mail either had incorrect addresses or was addressed to dead people.

Santiago, who now works for a beverage distribution company, could not be reached for comment Monday. His attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Anthony Martinez, said Santiago was "extremely pleased with the news" that something "so minor" was finally over.

Last week a jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict after more than a day of deliberation. Their straw votes had run 9-3 and 10-2 in favor of acquitting Santiago, a 52-year-old Vietnam veteran who had worked for the Postal Service for 27 years.

Some jurors said afterward that they felt the case had been a waste of time.

In an interview Monday, U.S. Attorney Wilson disagreed with that conclusion. He did say, though, that a second trial for Santiago "wouldn't have accomplished anything."

"We wanted to send a clear and unmistakable signal that we would not tolerate theft by postal employees," Wilson said. "I think that message was delivered."

Some, though, said that the message came at too high a cost _ to taxpayers, and to Santiago. Some of the strongest proponents of this view were Santiago's former customers in Vendome Village, a retirement community in Pinellas Park.

On that route, Santiago was known as "Willy" _ the carrier who knew everyone's name, always got the mail to the right address and even wrote a condolence note once when someone died. No one there stepped forward to call him a thief.

"We never thought he was guilty of anything," said Ginny Jenness, 77. "We just felt it was a waste of taxpayer's money."

Jenness helped organize a petition supporting Santiago. They petitioned Wilson for a meeting, without success.

And last week they sat in the courtroom to show their support. With the decision to drop the charges, Jenness said, their complaints have finally been put to rest. "We're really pleased," she said.