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Judge for Allains will likely stay on

(ran North, South editions of Pasco Times)

The Allains don't like Jack Springstead. They've been talking about it for months. And the attorney for Arthur "Tommy" Allain filed a motion last week asking the circuit judge to disqualify himself and for a change of venue for the Hernando County couple's upcoming child abuse trial.

Late Tuesday afternoon, though, a different judge made a decision that probably makes those two things unlikely. Circuit Judge Stephen Rushing denied a motion made by lawyer Elliott Ambrose to subpoena Springstead as a witness in the Allains' failure-to-appear case. The opposite decision would've put into serious question Springstead's status on the rest of the matters concerning the Allains.

So here's the latest:

Springstead is set to hear the two motions March 9.

That's also the date of the Allains' pretrial status check.

The child abuse trial is scheduled to start March 15.

Springstead could still disqualify himself. But he likes to move quickly within his daily docket and hates cases that drag on. Ambrose calls him a "no-nonsense type of judge," and Kristen Staab, 23, one of the Allains' two grown daughters who live in Spring Hill, calls him "the hanging judge." He was also the judge waiting in the courtroom last October when the Allains didn't show and went on the lam.

Lori Allain, 49, and Arthur "Tommy" Allain, 48, were arrested in June 2004 and accused of starving their 10-year-old foster daughter. Their time on the run started in late October and ended in the middle of January in a hotel room on the Jersey Shore.

While on the lam, though, in a series of phone conversations with the Times, they said they thought Springstead was in of cahoots with the Sheriff's Office, the State Attorney's Office and the state Department of Children and Families.

"I want Springstead the f--- off my case," Lori Allain said in December.

She called him "dirty" in an interview in January.

"Just because your family owns half the county, and you're a judge, that doesn't mean you're God," Tommy Allain said in the same phone call.

"You don't get to pick your judge," Chief Assistant State Attorney Ric Ridgway said at the time.

State judicial canons say a judge should disqualify himself in a situation in which "impartiality might reasonably be questioned."

Tommy Allain wrote in the affidavit attached to last week's motion that Springstead has been "biased," "hostile," and "has also engaged in a common hand gesture on more than one occasion in open court where he would rub his hand against his forehead in an attitude of open disgust with me and my wife."

Assistant State Attorney Lisa Herndon told Rushing on Tuesday afternoon that there were people other than Springstead who could be used as witnesses on the failure-to-appear case. "Your ruling on this case at this time," Ambrose told Rushing, "will decide most probably whether Judge Springstead will hear the cases." Rushing's decision sent the Allains back to Springstead's courtroom.

"He likes to see people quiver, kind of squat down and yelp like a little dog," Staab said Tuesday when asked about Springstead. "Some people like power trips I guess."

Michael Kruse can be reached at mkruse@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

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