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Thousands Mourn Miami Commissioner

August 1, 2005

MIAMI (AP) _ A block-long line of mourners waited outside a funeral home Sunday to pay final respects to a former commissioner who shot himself to death in the lobby of The Miami Herald building.

About 2,000 people attended the public viewing for Arthur Teele Jr., 59, who shot himself in the newspaper’s lobby Wednesday, the same day another newspaper published lurid accusations against him. He had recently been convicted of threatening a police officer and indicted on federal corruption charges.

``We will never let his name die ... And the good deeds that he has done,″ friend Resshelle Burnes-Davis said.

Teele, often described as one of the first influential black Republicans in Miami, was widely regarded as a talented, though sometimes abrasive, politician. He once punched a lobbyist in the face to prove his political loyalties.

Many mourners blamed the media for Teele’s suicide.

``He was convicted without a trial. The media was the judge and jury. He was tried in the media, but sentenced himself,″ mourner Nerissa Cannon said.

Hours after Teele’s death, the Herald fired columnist Jim DeFede for secretly taping a phone conversation with him. The secret taping was a possible violation of state law and the newspaper’s ethical standards.

The day Teele killed himself, the Miami New Times published a report online titled ``Tales of Teele: Sleaze Stories.″ The weekly newspaper’s story was largely based on police reports and detailed Teele’s alleged contacts with drug dealers, reputed homosexual affairs and the corruption charges.

Across the street from the funeral home, about a dozen protesters gathered behind two large wooden signs that urged people to not buy either of the newspapers.

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