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School assignment notices going out

A computer has decided where thousands of Hillsborough public school students will attend school next year, the historic beginning of the district's controlled choice plan.

Most will be happy with their assignments.

Eighty-four percent of the students who participated in the choice plan received their first pick of schools. Fewer than 1 percent got their second and third choices.

But 15 percent, mostly parents of kindergarten students, got none of their choices.

Confirmation postcards will be mailed beginning Monday, slightly behind the school district's original plan to notify parents Friday.

Kindergarten parents will be mailed letters and be asked to call the district, since spaces at their chosen schools may open up closer to the beginning of the school year.

The computer match process was delayed a bit as administrators struggled to determine the number of spaces in the schools open to choice students.

Of the district's 180,000 students, 47,000 were eligible for the inaugural year of the choice plan. Of those, 6,488 applied to attend a school other than their current one, and 3,600 who were bused for desegregation chose to stay put.

The vast majority of eligible students, about 37,128, decided to stay at their neighborhood schools and not participate.

Ex-Outlaw chief gets nearly 17 years

TAMPA _ A federal judge sentenced James Lee Wheeler, former head of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club, to nearly 17 years in prison on Friday.

Wheeler, 61, said nothing as he heard his fate. A jury found him guilty last September of racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering and obstruction of justice.

Wheeler became the 31st Outlaw convicted in Central Florida since federal prosecutors began targeting the club in 1995. Among those convicted have been three regional presidents and the club's last two national leaders, Wheeler and Harry "Taco" Bowman.

Wheeler took over as head of the Outlaws in the late 1990s, overseeing one of the largest motorcycle clubs in the United States. Prosecutors portrayed him as a notorious criminal who ran an organization "rotten to the core."

Wheeler's lawyers described their client as the leader of a legitimate club who should not be held responsible for a violent faction.

Thirteen former Outlaws testified at his trial. They told stories of violence, extortion, drug abuse and gang rivalries. Many of the former Outlaws came to court from prison cells in hope of receiving a reduced sentence for testifying.

Prosecutors asked the court to lessen their sentences for providing information and testifying against other Outlaws.

"Why are we letting murderers out to get drug dealers?" said Wheeler's lead attorney, Timothy Fitzgerald. "I don't understand."

Steve Cole, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa, said the former Outlaws who testified had chosen to admit their guilt and plead guilty. Wheeler, on the other hand, chose to go to trial.