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Forget gag order; tape works, too

Jimmy Bogan II has had bones to pick with his last couple of court-appointed lawyers, not to mention a few words for a judge.

Bogan, who is facing a felony cocaine possession charge, first had an assistant public defender assigned to his case, but the relationship deteriorated.

Bogan at one point wrote a letter telling the lawyer he declined to speak "with you, or your cousin Boo!" Eventually he was assigned another attorney.

At a hearing before Hillsborough Circuit Judge Dan Perry, Bogan, 56, called the judge a "bald-headed motherf-----." In letters, he has told an attorney to "take your ugly a-- somewhere else" and described another as a "two-legged mule."

In court this week, after writing a letter saying he wanted a sexy lawyer in her 20s ("I don't like nothing old and ugly, save myself," he said), Bogan repeatedly cursed the hapless Judge Perry again.

The judge had had enough. He ordered Bogan's mouth taped shut.

Taping a defendant's mouth, while uncommon, is not unprecedented. Over the years there have been similar incidents reported from Cincinnati, Los Angeles and Houston. Assistant Public Defender John Skye said his office would prefer other judicial avenues for handling bad behavior, such as postponing hearings or holding a defendant in contempt.

The postscript in Bogan's case: Judge Perry ultimately granted Bogan's motion and took himself off the case. Bogan now will have to deal with Circuit Judge William Fuente.

DEADLY BAGS: A Tampa police officer was cleared recently in the unusual death of a man he chased during a drug-related investigation last year.

After a complaint one night last October at the Scruggs Manor Apartments on Fowler Avenue, Officer Raymond Esteves was in hot foot pursuit of a suspect, caught him, and then noticed the man was choking, according to police reports. The officer performed first aid on Tommy Pugh, but Pugh, a 23-year-old carpenter, died days later at University Community Hospital.

Police said that Pugh had tried to swallow something that night, but they weren't sure what. The answers were in the autopsy. From Pugh's throat, the medical examiner removed a plastic sandwich bag containing three 1-inch bags of marijuana and ruled that the cause of death was asphyxiation.

Police investigators said that Pugh was trying to get rid of evidence that night and that the officer "in no way contributed" to his death.

HIGHER GROUND: Not only will Tampa's keepers of the peace be watching out for civilians this hurricane season. Next time the wind blows, officers can rest assured their own kin will be safe as well.

"It's been an issue for years," said Joe Durkin, emergency management coordinator for the Tampa Police Department. "Everyone's concern is "What do we do about our families?' "

After wrangling and hand-wringing, the police department has completed reservations at the student union building at the University of South Florida, in the event of a full-blown evacuation.

The Hyatt it isn't. But Durkin is counting his blessings.

"It wasn't easy," Durkin said. "I looked at hotels, large businesses, city buildings. I made a number of calls and choices that didn't pan out."

Situated on some of the highest ground in Hillsborough County, USF is the primary shelter for the area. The campus is prepared to house about 20,000 residents, and the Red Cross is set to provide cots, blankets and food. Hillsborough deputies have standing reservations at various public schools throughout the county.

Durkin says he has checked with a national meteorologist, and as many as nine hurricanes are predicted to be heading toward Florida this summer. The reservations will give officers some peace of mind, Durkin says.

"The better prepared they are, and their families are taken care of, the more likely they are to come to work and do their job," Durkin said.

_ Times researcher John Martin contributed to this column.