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Court says drug treatment initiative suitable for ballot

Published May 17, 2002|Updated Sep. 3, 2005

The state Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a proposal to let some drug offenders avoid jail by entering treatment programs can go on the ballot, but it won't happen until 2004.

A month ago, the Florida Campaign for New Drug Policies said it was giving up its push to make the November ballot because the high court had not yet ruled on its proposed constitutional amendment. The campaign said it would instead collect signatures to get its proposal before voters in 2004.

Thursday's court ruling said the citizen initiative's ballot language is clear and that it deals with only one subject, as required. The initiative still must collect a total of nearly half a million verified signatures to get on the ballot. The nearly 300,000 collected so far are good for four years, as is the Supreme Court's opinion.

The measure, called "Right to Treatment and Rehabilitation for Non-Violent Drug Offenses," would let people charged with or convicted of possessing or buying small amounts of illegal drugs go into a treatment program instead of trial or jail.

The treatment option would be limited to a first or second offense. People facing felony drug charges or serious drug misdemeanors would not be eligible.

Retired Red Sox employee

pleads guilty in sex case

BARTOW _ A retired Boston Red Sox clubhouse manager who enticed boys with an opportunity to be near the team pleaded guilty Thursday to sex crimes spanning two decades.

Donald James Fitzpatrick, 72, agreed to reduced charges of four counts of attempted sexual battery on a child under 12. He paid the four victims $10,000 each in restitution.

Thirteen people have accused Fitzpatrick of molesting or sexually harassing them while they worked at the team's spring training camp in Winter Haven. They now range in age from their late teens to their 30s.

Fitzpatrick received 15 years of probation and a 10-year suspended prison sentence in Polk Circuit Court.

He will return to Randolph, Mass., where he is being forced to move from an apartment because he is now banned from living near children.

Fitzpatrick said little during the brief hearing but told the judge he was entering the pleas "because I am guilty."

Prosecutors said they agreed to the deal because Fitzpatrick is ill with kidney disease and likely would have waged a lengthy legal fight over extradition to Florida.

A federal civil lawsuit is pending against Fitzpatrick and the Red Sox claiming team officials knew of the abuse and did nothing abut it. The team has denied wrongdoing.

12 students face felony

charges in beehives prank

DeLAND _ A dozen seniors who glued eight beehives to the floors of DeLand High School and sealed about 90 classroom doors with glue will face felony charges, a spokesman for the Volusia County Sheriff's Office said.

The suspects, who have not yet been identified, were named for police by other students interviewed by investigators.

School Board spokesman Nancy Holland said it's possible the seniors will be prohibited from attending graduation next week.

School Board officials have estimated that the senior prank caused as much as $5,000 damage.

The group of seniors broke into the school between 1 and 6 a.m. Monday to carry out the prank with hives stolen from an apiary. Administrators arrived later to find an estimated 80,000 bees swarming the hallways, and classes were delayed for hours while a beekeeper exterminated the bees.

NTSB still investigating

fatal Amtrak crash

CRESCENT CITY _ Investigators are still looking into several possible causes for the Amtrak Auto Train derailment last month that killed four people, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday.

"We are looking into track maintenance, we are looking into braking," said Keith Holloway. "Everything is an issue."

One issue is the track's condition on the curve where the accident occurred, NTSB investigator Russ Quimby said Wednesday.

CSX Transportation had to send crews to the site four times since October to repair erosion beneath the tracks, Quimby said.

The Auto Train engineer said he saw a track misalignment and hit his emergency brakes seconds before the April 18 crash.

The crash killed four passengers and injured about 150 others.

Bahamian officials help

in search for missing girl

MIAMI _ Rilya Wilson's photograph will be handed out to schoolchildren and distributed to newspapers and television stations in the Bahamas in an effort to find the missing 5-year-old Florida girl, embassy officials said Thursday.

Miami-Dade police said they want authorities in the Bahamas to help search for Rilya because one of her caretakers has said she was born there.

Geralyn Graham listed the Bahamas as her birthplace in a 1982 arrest for grand theft and has said she has relatives there.

Graham has said someone claiming to be a Department of Children and Families worker took Rilya away in January 2001, saying it was for an evaluation, and never returned her.

Rilya was supposed to receive monthly state visits, but state workers didn't report the child missing until April 25.

_ Wire reports

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