View Full Version : Boot camp ex-guards, nurse charged in boy's death

Nov 28th, 2006, 04:26 PM
PENSACOLA, Florida (AP) -- Seven former guards and a nurse at a military-style boot camp for juvenile offenders were charged with aggravated manslaughter in the death of a teenage boy whose rough handling by the guards was videotaped, a special prosecutor said Tuesday.

The announcement by Hillsborough County State Attorney Mark Ober comes almost 11 months after Martin Lee Anderson, 14, collapsed in the exercise yard at the Bay County sheriff's camp in Panama City.

Guards said he was uncooperative and refused to continue participating in exercises. He died early January 6 in Pensacola.

Benjamin Crump, the attorney for Anderson's parents, was in Panama City with the family Tuesday and did not immediately return a call for comment.

The boy's death sparked protests that led to the elimination of the military-style boot camp system and the resignation of the state's top law enforcement officer. His family had also demanded that the guards be charged in the boy's death.

If convicted, the former guards and the nurse who watched the altercation could face up to 30 years in prison.

Bob Pell, an attorney who represents former guard Joseph Walsh II, said he learned of the decision to charge his client from The Associated Press.

"I didn't anticipate it. I was hoping cooler heads would prevail, but we will deal with this as it comes down. We understood the political pressure that was brought to bear," he said.

An initial autopsy by medical examiner Dr. Charles Siebert found Anderson died of complications of sickle cell trait, a usually benign blood disorder.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush appointed Ober in February to investigate the death after the state attorney for Bay County asked to be removed from the case citing close ties with local law enforcement.

Ober ordered a second autopsy by Dr. Vernard Adams, the medical examiner for Hillsborough County. Adams determined Anderson's death was caused by suffocation due to the actions of the guards.

He said the guards' hands blocked the boy's mouth, and the "forced inhalation of ammonia fumes" caused his vocal cords to spasm, blocking his upper airway.

The guards had said in an incident report that they used ammonia capsules five times on Anderson to gain his cooperation.

Siebert has consistently stood by his findings.

"We'll obviously follow the developments of this case closely and hope at the end of the day that justice will be served," Bush said Tuesday. "We also hope that once the process is completed that Martin Lee Anderson's family will have the answers to the questions that they legitimately have."

Anderson's family has sued the state Department of Juvenile Justice, which oversaw the boot camp system, and the Bay County Sheriff's Office, which ran the camp, seeking more than $40 million in damages.