The Tampa Tribune from Tampa, Florida on January 2, 1996 · 66
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The Tampa Tribune from Tampa, Florida · 66

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Tampa, Florida
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Tuesday, January 2, 1996
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66
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m Metro FbiPD(feM(gftra THE TAMPA TRIBUNE Tuesday, January 2, 1996 Steve Otto A new year brings new weirdnesses Some of you may have peeked out the door with a little more than the usual trepidation this morning. Something is not quite right, is it? It's the New Year all right. Has to be. They had all those ball games yesterday, didn't they? It seems like a lifetime since they dropped the ball in Times Square on the tube at midnight and you drank a cup of kindness yet again for auld lang syne with no clue as to what it all meant. I mean, let's be honest. Just who or what is "auld lang syne" anyhow? Is it some sort of weird Scottish ritual chant or what? I think part of the problem is we went to "First Night" in downtown Tampa where it was hard to get a cup of kindness that had any kindness with any zip in it at all. That meant that by the time everyone got around to singing about the "auld lang syne" part I actually listened to the words and realized I had no idea what it was all about. During New Year's parties past, I would have been willing to drink a cup of kindness to anything that breathed. Anyhow, today is Tuesday, and it is time to put on that Christmas tie and show up in the office, isn't it? Isn't it time to start the new diet and try to remember what those resolutions were, and wouldn't it be OK just to postpone a few of them at least until after lunch? Of course there is that game tonight. Yup, they figured out a way to make some more money and keep us all up late one more night for a football game that is likely to be pushing midnight. Is that any way to begin another year when the magic word out there is "downsizing," and the only government people on the job seem to be off on junkets? In the nick of time Fortunately and just in the nick of time, my own copy of "The Old Farmer's Almanac" showed up in the mailbag, and I can now go safely out the door knowing what is in store for all of us this year. This is, after all, not only an election year but a leap year to boot. Things are going to be getting awfully confusing, and we're going to need all the help we can get. To this end, nothing other than this humble column beats the Old Farmer's Almanac, which has been around since 1792. For example, since Americans are particularly fond of centennial celebrations, the Old Farmer's Almanac lists a few of the things that happened exactly 100 years ago this year that we are going to have to note at some point this year. Henry Ford's first car was actually driven 100 years ago. Not surprisingly, the first automobile accident happened in New York a century ago when a Duryea car collided with a bicycle. There is no mention in the almanac when the first lawyer arrived on the scene. Chop suey was first cooked and served in the United States. The almanac reports that it was created by a chef in New York City. When asked what the dish was called, he said "Chop suey, that's what we call hash in China." Tootsie Rolls were invented and sold for a penny in Leo Hirschfield's candy store in New York City. The almanac reports that "Tootsie" was the name of Hirschfield's daughter. This year will also mark the centennial year of the zipper, first known as the "clasp locker." One Whitcomb L. Judson of Chicago obtained Patent No. 557,207 on a device he figured would be used for fastening shoes. Little did he know the problems he was creating for mankind. Really good stuff There's lots of other good stuff, including the news that if you are large-headed, a study shows that you are less likely to have "impaired thinking ability" later in life than those with small heads. The bad news, says the almanac, is what it calls "The Pinocchio Factor." "As you age, your ears will stretch and your nose will grow, not from lying but from subjecting your face to gravity." The almanac claims to have picked up this Information from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. The almanac has also discovered that the "Weirdness Index" is on the decline. It quotes the British Fortean Times (which chronicles strange events such as frog showers, spontaneous human combustion and flying goats) and reports that world ,welrdness was down 2 percent last year. Good news though, especially for columnists, is that new reports of new animal .species, miracles, poltergeists and prophecies are all on the rise; although hoaxes, panics, c'ose encounters sjid alien abductions are all holding stead. Welcome to 1996. Jury p anion debate resurfaces The right to free a person believed to be guilty has been debated since at least 1670. By DAVID SOMMER Tribune Staff Writer TAMPA The defendant stood before the jury and admitted his crime: He did have a felony record and he did possess a gun on the night in question. But his constitutional rights, or at least most of them, had been restored upon his parole, the man explained while acting as his own attorney during closing arguments. Now he owned an auto body shop, and it had been robbed before. The night police came to investigate a burglar alarm, he said he was doing the same thing and carrying a gun for protection. He didn't know his right to bear arms had not been restored. The jury deliberated quickly. The verdict: not guilty. The jurors in the 1989 Pasco County Circuit Court case chose to keep secret their reasoning for acquittal. Their verdict seemed contrary to the letter of the law, but Circuit Judge Brandt Downey had to accept it. The legal term for such a verdict is jury nullification. It is also known as a jury pardon. Juries occasionally disregard the law if they think it's unfair or should not apply in a case. Downey said he hates to see a guilty person "go around thinking they beat the system," but figures "if they are really bad we're gonna see them again." Judges in Florida and throughout the federal court system do not inform juries of their right to nullify charges or pardon defendants. By law, they don't have to. Last month in Tampa, a majority of federal jurors who convicted nine members of the Outlaws motorcycle gang on drug smuggling charges complained to the judge that they would have acquitted had they known about jury pardon. "We do not believe that the jury instructions were complete or that the questions posed to the court were answered completely and made clear," seven of 12 jurors wrote in a letter to U.S. District Judge Susan rnmmmm ) .ill jju. i .J" I : Bucklew. Bucklew had no duty to respond to the unusual request. However, she told three jurors on hand to witness the Outlaws' sen-tencings that there is no precedent in federal law for instructing juries on their power to pardon. The issue of jury pardon has been under debate at least since 1670, when an English jury refused to convict William Penn for seditious preaching of the Quaker religion. See JURY, Page 2 U.S. District Judge Susan Bucklew was criticized by jurors in the Outlaws trial. 'V... -' I '' j LIT li a 3 0 lui T - , A T t - - -.- - 1 .1 . rt VI . V- vnmmjuuit$i),mitir - f ,1k 3.''-" -4 S "f2 i DAVID KADLUBOWSKITribune photo Low clouds clinging to downtown Tampa over the weekend squelched attendance at First Night, organizers say. Grim skies dampen araor for partying By B.C. MANION Tribune Staff Writer TAMPA 1996 came in under a shroud of clouds putting a damper on holiday festivities in Tampa Bay. The streets at First Night, a New Year's celebration in Tampa, were relatively empty. Fewer folks than expected turned out for Celebrate Safe, a New Year's Eve bash at Busch Gardens, an organizer said. And about 50,000 fans who braved the pouring rain on Monday to watch Auburn and Penn State at the Outback Bowl at Tampa Stadium, got soaked to the bones. Linda Saul-Sena, president of First Night Tampa Bay, said her 6-year-old daughter, Aliza, summed up the weekend's weather well. "I got up Sunday morning and I asked my daughter 'What do you think of the weather?' " Saul-Sena said. The 6-year-old responded: "I think it's mean." The numbers aren't in yet, but Saul-Sena said there's no doubt "we had fewer people than we would have had, if it -X: -, ,t ,f . , KxX Associated Press photo Members of the Penn State marching band endure the driving rain at Tampa Stadium Monday. had not rained." The clouds that came on Saturday afternoon never lifted, with rain beginning Saturday night and continuing on and off throughout the holiday weekend. Expect more of that on-again, off-again rain today, said David Rittenberry, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Ruskin. A cold front is expected to move through the area tonight, which should make conditions dry and cooler, he said. Rainfall throughout the Tampa Bay area over the holiday weekend was uneven, with some areas getting an inch and others up to 3 inches, Rittenberry said. Most of Florida experienced similar rain conditions, he said. Rittenberry refused to characterize the rainy days as normal or abnormal for this time of year. "There's no such thing as 'normal weather,' " Rittenberry said. "We're always going to have these different periods throughout the winter. There's always going to be wetter periods, drier periods, warmer periods and cooler periods. These patterns are constantly in flux and constantly changing." On Wednesday, it's expected to be dry but cloudy and cooler, dropping into the 40s at night through Friday. On Wednesday, expect temperatures in the mid-60s. On Thursday and Friday it will probably just reach 60, Rittenberry said. Company offers van pooling Passengers pay $55 a month for a seat and split the gas costs to leave their cars home. By BRIAN EDWARDS Tribune Staff Writer TAMPA Marilyn Brinson looked forward to lower gas bills when she joined a van pool, and she loved the idea of not wearing out her leased Toyota. But she didn't expect to enjoy the company of her fellow commuters so much. "I'm pleasantly surprised," said Brinson. "We all open up to each other. You feel like brothers and sisters without really even knowing why." As traffic congestion continues to strangle area roads, commuters like Brinson are considering the benefits of hanging up their car keys and sharing the ride to work. Brinson traded her car keys for van keys on Nov. I when she volunteered to drive an eight-passenger van from Brandon to Tampa's West Shore business district. It's one of six vans to hit the road since Bay Area Commuter Services began the program this summer with the help of a federal grant. Four vans make the weekday journey from Brandon, and two will start traveling from Pinellas County to Hillsborough County this week, said Sarah Noyle, the program's coordinator. Passengers pay $55 a month for a seat and split the gas costs. Brinson and other drivers ride for free and can use the van for personal business because they have the added responsibility of collecting the monthly fares, keeping the van clean, and taking it in for maintenance. Bay Area Vanpool pays for all the insurance and maintenance costs. Vans come in 8-, 9-, 12- and 15-passenger models, but only the eight-passenger models are being used right now in Tampa. When groups grow, they can move into the larger models. Bay Area Commuter Services hopes to have 25 vans on the road by the end of the year and 75 by the time the grant runs out in 1998, said Jim Law, executive director. If 75 vans are on the road, the program can make enough money to pay for itself, he said. The project is paid for by a $1.15 million state and federal grant in Hillsborough County and See COMPANY, Page S Nuclear jobs sought despite bleak forecast By JIM TUNSTALL Tribune Staff Writer GAINESVILLE What's it like to run a nuclear reactor? Tense, powerful ... nothing to It? Well, two out of three, anyway. A hundred or so undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Florida do more than wonder what it feels like. They work with one and some of them plan to turn It into a career despite this bleak industry forecast: There hasn't been a new nuclear power plant ordered In the United States since 1978, the year prior to Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island incident. If one were ordered, it could pr sea lit g J ti J K"r- r ' It If fr "I ''-ffturSjS JIM TUNSTALLTribune photo Bill Vernetson, director of nuclear facilities at the University of Florida, runs the school's tiny reactor. cost five to seven times more than a coal-fired plant, primarily due to federal government regulations. Even the feds say the power-plant industry's future is dismal. That doesn't discourage Dan Cronin, 33, a UF senior who plans to seek a job at a nuclear plant upon graduation next year. "I was in the Navy's nuclear See NUCLEAR, Page 7 Pair stymied in claim to inmate's inheritance By JEFF ST1DHAM Tribune Staff Writer TAMPA Carlos and Maria Rodriguez lent $20,000 to a man they trusted. Ten years later, the couple is still seeking the money they lost. The man they say conned them, John J. "Jay" Irwin, has surfaced again in a Kentucky jail. And he is trying to get his hands on a $49,000 inheritance left by his grandmother and abandoned in 1990 to the state Department of Banking and Finance. The Rodriguezes are fighting to see that does not happen. As creditors eligible for repayment should Irwin ever have money to pay his debt, they worry the money will disappear if the state releases it to Irwin. So the Rodriguezes have made a claim for it, too. But complicated legal maneuvers and an appeals court ruling have limited their chances, and they are frustrated, say their lawyers, Scott Teach of Naples and Douglas Moody of Tallahassee. "It's a mess, and it should be so simple," Teach said. Part of the problem is that Irwin's inheritance was found by a private investigation firm that makes money from tracking heirs. In the Rodriguez case, the Martin Young Investigative Agency has staked a claim on Irwin's behalf to his inheritance. And the firm doesn't want to lose out on its "heir-finding" fee. Although a hearing officer '' See PAIR, Page S Metro

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