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Lawsuit is filed in Amalie Arena attack blamed on man who served 46 years for rape

Leonard Edwards, 63, was released last summer after 46 years in prison for a rape that occurred when he was 16. In March, he was arrested for beating a female co-worker on the cleanup crew at Amalie Arena, police said. [Tampa Police Department]
Published Apr. 16

TAMPA — A woman severely beaten last month at Amalie Arena has filed a lawsuit against the company that manages the venue and the cleaning it service it hired, alleging they were negligent in employing a man released from prison after serving 46 years for rape.

The suit, filed last week in Hillsborough Circuit Court, names Leonard Edwards along with five other defendants, including Inspired Staffing Solutions and the Lightning Hockey company.

The plaintiff is Aimee Morris, who suffered severe head injuries when, according to police, Edwards attacked her.

Morris told the Tampa Bay Times last month that she was working with Edwards on a cleaning crew at the arena. She said she noticed trash in an area Edwards was assigned to clean and told him to do a better job. She said Edwards became upset and accused her of picking on him.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Tampa man, freed after 46 years of a life sentence, jailed in Amalie Arena attack

Edwards then attacked her, according to police, kicking and stomping her head. Morris told the Times she suffered a brain bleed and received staples in her head.

Edwards, 63, was later arrested at home in Tampa. He remains jailed without bail on a felony battery charge and on a probation violation order.

The lawsuit was brought by Tampa attorney Joseph Alvarez. The complaint describes Edwards as having a history and propensity for "brutally attacking women and raping them."

Despite this, the complaint states, he was hired by the staffing company and permitted to work at the arena. The suit alleges that the companies should have known Edwards was "incompetent, violent, dangerous, and unfit to perform" his duties and that he posed a risk of harm to other people.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: New sentence allows defendant in 1972 Tampa rape to go free

Edwards was released from prison in July, having served 46 years of a life sentence for a 1972 rape. He was convicted as a teenager of sneaking into a woman's Hyde Park apartment, hitting her with a hammer as she slept, then sexually assaulting her.

He was one of the longest continuously incarcerated Florida prisoners to be released as a result of a series of U.S. and Florida Supreme Court decisions that found it unconstitutional for juvenile offenders to receive lengthy sentences without a chance of release.

Lightning Hockey, manager of Amalie Arena, had no comment on the lawsuit, said Bill Wickett, executive vice president for communications. The downtown arena is home to the NHL team.

Wickett also had no comment on whether Lightning Hockey still employs Inspired Staffing Solutions as its cleaning service.

Someone who answered the phone at Inspired Staffing Solutions in Clearwater said the company would have no comment on the lawsuit.

Staff writer Paul Guzzo contributed to this report. Contact Dan Sullivan at dsullivan@tampabay.com. Follow @TimesDan.

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