Local News

Anderson family settles with Bay County Sheriff's Office

Posted: 03/28/07 at 6:27 am EDT

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Bay County authorities have agreed to pay a $2.425 million settlement to the family of a Panama City teenager who died last year after being roughed up in a state-supervised boot camp, an attorney for the family said Tuesday.

This is in addition to a $5 million claims measure that Senate President Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, has fast-tracked in response to a call by Gov. Charlie Crist to settle the matter with the family of Martin Lee Anderson.

"The family has some comfort knowing that the civil suit will be resolved during this legislative session," attorney Ben Crump said. "The parents did not want to go through two lengthy trials and reliving the traumatic events that surrounded the death of their son."

The total settlement comes to $7.425 million, Crump said. Anderson's family had initially sued for $40 million.

Sheriff Frank McKeithen told The News Herald of Panama City that the settlement was not an admission of guilt.

"I'm not trying to make light of what happened, but people will just have to wait for the truth to come out," McKeithen told the newspaper. "I think this case is going to have an evolution where maybe the truth can be told."

The Legislature dismantled the military-style youth boot camps last year after the 14-year-old's death.

Earlier this month, prosecutors released a NASA-enhanced video of the Jan. 5, 2006 events at the now-closed sheriff's boot camp in Panama City, along with more than 20,000 pages of evidence, including an expert's report that said seven guards engaged in "abusive and inhumane" behavior when they struck Anderson with fists and knees, knocked him to the ground and held ammonia capsules under his nose.

The guards and a nurse who watched have been charged with manslaughter. All pleaded not guilty last month. They face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

The statutory limit on claims is $200,000 and any amount over must be approved by the Legislature and Crist.

Wilton Dedge received $2 million in December 2005 from the Legislature as compensation for 22 years he spent in prison for a rape he did not commit.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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