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Pitts and Lee hearing officer appointed

Veteran hearing officer Michael P. Ruff has been appointed to determine whether Freddie Pitts and Wilbert Lee are entitled to compensation from the state for being sent to prison for murders another man has admitted.

Jim York, deputy administrator at the Division of Administrative Hearings, said Monday that Ruff will probably set a schedule by the end of this week.

Ruff has been an administrative hearing judge since 1980. Prior to that he worked for the Florida Public Service Commission and the Florida Senate.

Legislators appropriated up to $500,000 for each of the Miami men and ordered a hearing officer to determine whether the state committed a wrongful act in prosecuting them. Pitts and Lee went to prison in 1963 and were pardoned in 1975.

Demolition under way of historic hotel

SARASOTA_ Demolition of the exterior of the 1920s-era John Ringling Towers is under way this week. A yearslong effort to save the hotel failed.