Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. Archive

Ex-radio operator placed on sex offender probation

A former Pinellas Sheriff's Office radio operator arrested in October on a child sex abuse charge has been sentenced to probation. James Robert Craine, 21, was charged with lewd and lascivious battery based on suspicion he had sexual contact with a 15-year-old boy in late 1999, arrest reports state. He later resigned. Craine pleaded guilty to the charge Monday and was sentenced to four years of sex offender probation. Adjudication was withheld.

Man pleads guilty to extortion, gets probation

PALM HARBOR _ A man accused of making and arranging threats last year has pleaded guilty to an extortion charge. George Cappelli, 55, was arrested in November on charges that he threatened a Palm Harbor businessman who indirectly owed him money. The businessman told detectives that Cappelli threatened to "bring his guys down from New York" to get $30,000 from him. A day later, a man who called himself Tony confronted the victim at his business. Tony told the businessman that "he would not be taking up air anymore" if the debt wasn't paid back. Then he took the businessman's $7,500 watch and left. Arrest reports indicate Cappelli paid Tony $1,000 to make the threat. He also flew him to Florida from New York, reports state. Tony has not been arrested, but detectives say the investigation is continuing. It is not believed Cappelli is associated with the mob, sheriff's officials said. Cappelli initially was charged with extortion and principal to robbery, but prosecutors dropped that second charge. Cappelli pleaded guilty to the extortion charge Monday. Adjudication was withheld and Cappelli was sentenced to two years of probation. He also was ordered not to have any contact with the victim.

No-show in courtroom lands back in jail

CLEARWATER _ A man who police say tried to run over an off-duty officer, then failed to appear at a court hearing, is back in custody. Clearwater police say Carlton Lamar Grooms, 35, tried to run down Officer Tom Stein on Oct. 13 as the officer worked an off-duty security job at Dillard's at Countryside Mall. Stein had confronted Grooms because he believed he was stealing items from the store, arrest reports state. Stein fired his department-issued gun at the car three times, but the suspect drove off. Grooms was arrested a week later in a St. Petersburg hotel. He faces charges of aggravated assault on a police officer, resisting arrest, robbery, grand theft and cocaine possession. Grooms was a no-show at a pretrial hearing March 1. A warrant was issued for his arrest. He was booked back into the Pinellas County Jail on Thursday.