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Crusading mom has brush with the law

Linda Duty, who has been an advocate for organ donation and school bus safety, was convicted of a criminal charge on Friday.

Duty had plead no contest to writing a bad check for $192 in August 2000 to Cindy Draskovich, who has a business called Creative Memories. After her conviction, Duty made restitution on Friday. She also admitted to a probation violation stemming from a previous charge of grand theft for credit card fraud. That charge involved her use of a credit card in her parents' name.

"She stole it from us," said her mother, Donna Walker.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge John Schaefer gave her until Dec. 20 to make restitution of about $300 on that charge.

Duty has been in the news twice earlier in the year.

She co-founded the Kids Organ Donor Education program, called KODE, "to teach students in grades 5 through 12 about the major organs of the body and the importance of organ donation," according to a press release. The impetus, Duty said, was the memory of her infant daughter who died in 1990 and whose liver was given to a baby with chronic liver disease. She and co-founder Laurie Johansen, who lives near Orlando, developed a program to take to classrooms and started a Web site, www.kodeprogram.org.

A disclaimer now appears on the KODE Web site that states, "KODE will not comply with any warranties or representations made by Linda Duty as of July 2001. We would like to hear from any persons who have donated money/materials or have purchased KODE merchandise from Linda Duty and have yet to receive it."

Johansen said, "There were reports of things like T-shirts never received. We had to disassociate the program from Linda."

Duty was again in the news in August when her son, Justin, a first-grade student at Rio Vista Elementary, boarded the wrong school bus, got off in a strange neighborhood and was found wandering near a busy road by a kind stranger. Duty took the incident to school officials to advocate for closer supervision of children riding school buses.

She brought two of her three children to the hearing at the criminal courts complex Friday afternoon. As Duty was being fingerprinted, Draskovich watched with her 21-month-old daughter, Alexa.

"I have known her since fifth grade. I do not consider her a friend anymore. I feel bad for Linda and really bad for the children," she said. "But hopefully she won't do this to someone else."

_ Staff writer Bill Levesque contributed to this report.

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