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Ex-deputy's cocaine trial set to begin

(ran PC, PS editions)

Former Pasco County Sheriff's Office Civil Deputy Gloria Mays is expected to go to trial today, more than two years after she was arrested in Miami-Dade County on cocaine trafficking charges.

Miami-Dade prosecutor Murad Agi said Mays' case, after repeated delays, is ripe for trial this week. Mays' case is on the list of cases available for trial in Miami on today, and Agi said the State Attorney's Office and the judge have expressed frustration with the delays leading up to the trial.

Mays, 57, a 16-year employee of the Sheriff's Office, was suspended without pay Jan. 22, 2001, two days after she was accused of paying two undercover detectives $19,000 for a kilogram _ about 2.2 pounds _ of powder cocaine at a McDonald's restaurant in Miami.

Prosecutors have said she faces a minimum of 15 years in prison if convicted.

Mays pleaded not guilty and has been free on $50,000 bail since shortly after her arrest. Her Miami attorney, Scott Saul, has repeatedly declined to comment. He again declined to comment last week.

Mays was a civil deputy responsible for serving summonses, subpoenas and other notices. She is charged with trafficking cocaine and cocaine possession.

Mays, who was hired in Pasco County in 1985 as a school crossing guard, has been placed on administrative leave without pay until a sheriff's investigation is complete. She was paid about $35,500 a year.

Mays did not carry a badge or gun for the county and did not have access to sensitive information, officials said. She resigned in March 2001.

Child left in car as father drinks beer

A Hernando County man was charged with aggravated child abuse over the weekend after police said he left his 5-year-old daughter in a hot car for two hours while he drank beer at Calendar Girls.

Christopher Lee Blanton, 26, of 8207 Ridge Dale Ave. west of Brooksville, also faced a charge of possession of cocaine, according to reports with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.

Blanton entered the adult club on U.S. 19 in Hudson around noon Saturday, police say. Witnesses saw him leave the bar four to five times for about two to three minutes each, but they didn't know about the girl in the car.

At about 2 p.m., as Blanton downed a fourth beer, a witness walked by the car and heard a child crying, according to police reports. Inside, the girl was sweating profusely, police say. She was restrained in a car seat and seat belt, unable to get out.

The dark, four-door car sat on the blacktop parking lot in full exposure to the sun. The temperature at the time was 82 degrees, the police reports say. All the windows were up except for the driver's window, rolled down about 6 inches.

The witness took the girl out of the car, gave her water and called the Sheriff's Office. Police arrested Blanton and found cocaine on him.

He admitted the cocaine was his and that he'd left his daughter in the car, the report says.

"I screwed up," he told police. Blanton was being held Sunday at the Pasco County jail in Land O'Lakes in lieu of $15,000 bail.