Ex-guards, nurse plead not guilty in 14-year-old's boot camp death
Published: Friday, January 19, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 18, 2007 at 11:34 p.m.
PANAMA CITY — Attorneys for seven former juvenile boot camp guards who were videotaped manhandling a teenager and a nurse who watched the altercation entered not guilty pleas Thursday on behalf of their clients to manslaughter charges stemming from his death.
The seven guards and nurse face up to 30 years in prison if convicted of aggravated manslaughter of a child.
Circuit Judge Michael Overstreet also agreed to modify bond conditions for the eight defendants during the brief hearing, allowing them to leave Bay County while the case is pending.
The eight worked at the now-closed Bay County sheriff's boot camp in January 2006, when Martin Lee Anderson, 14, collapsed there while doing exercises. The guards said they were trying to revive him, but Anderson's family and others were outraged at the footage showing the boy being kneed and struck. He died a day later.
Some of the guards' relatives and friends wore hand-painted sweatshirts adorned with yellow ribbons and the slogan, "We support you." They sat in the front row of the courtroom.
Genie Caruthers, a friend of the defendants, said she believes the public has the wrong idea about the guards.
"We are just a group of concerned citizens and we want them to know we care," she said.
The 30-minute security videotape from the Panama City camp showed guards Charles Helms Jr., 50; Henry Dickens, 50; Charles Enfinger, 33; Patrick Garrett, 30; Raymond Hauck, 48; Henry McFadden Jr., 33; and Joseph Walsh II, 35. Nurse Kristin Schmidt is seen on the video watching and doing nothing to stop the encounter.
The local medical examiner found Anderson died of natural complications of sickle cell trait, a usually benign blood disorder. But after cries of a cover-up and the appointment of a special prosecutor, a second autopsy said he was suffocated by the guards' hands over his mouth and the "forced inhalation of ammonia fumes."
Waylon Graham, an attorney for Helms, the senior guard on the exercise yard that day, said he did not expect the case to go to trial for at least a year.
"There will be thousands of pages of discovery," he said.
Also Thursday, Overstreet scheduled Feb. 22 for a pretrial status conference in the case.
The teen's death led to the dismantling of Florida's military-style detention system for young offenders.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement chief Guy Tunnell, who established the boot camp when he was Bay County sheriff, also resigned because of the case.
He was under fire after being scolded by then-Gov. Jeb Bush for exchanging e-mails with current Sheriff Frank McKeithen, criticizing those who questioned the effectiveness of the boot camp concept.
The boy's family sued the sheriff's office and the state Department of Juvenile Justice, which over saw the camp system. On Wednesday, a judge ruled that the $40 million wrongful death lawsuit must wait for the state's criminal case against the guards to conclude.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled that since the lawsuit involves the guards, their right against self-incrimination prevents them from taking the stand in their defense at the civil trial.
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