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Ex-Fla. Senate President Convicted

June 29, 2002

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PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) _ A former president of the Florida Senate was convicted on one of four counts of breaking the state’s open-government ``sunshine″ law by discussing public business privately with other Escambia County commissioners.

The jury acquitted W.D. Childers on two counts and could not reach a decision on the final count after more than nine hours of deliberations. Okaloosa County Judge T. Patterson Maney declared a mistrial on the fourth count.

Childers, 68, is one of four Escambia commissioners suspended by Gov. Jeb Bush after they were indicted on misdemeanor open government violations in April. Childers faces up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

In his closing argument Friday, defense lawyer Fred Levin said evidence against Childers was so flimsy that the statue of Justice was shedding ``tears of shame.″

But Assistant State Attorney Bobby Elmore told the six-member jury that Childers had violated ``the public’s right to know.″

The prosecutor said Childers, who spent 30 years in the Senate before term limits forced him out in 2000, was familiar with the law and knew he was guilty.

Levin had urged jurors to disregard bribery and money laundering charges against Childers related to the purchase of a former soccer complex for $3.9 million.

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