PANAMA CITY, Florida – Seven former juvenile boot camp guards who were videotaped manhandling a teenager were expected to plead not guilty Thursday to manslaughter charges stemming from his death.
The seven guards and a nurse who watched the encounter face up to 30 years in prison if convicted of aggravated manslaughter of a child. All would plead not guilty at their arraignment, their lawyers said.
The eight worked at the now-closed Bay County sheriff's boot camp in January 2006, when Martin Lee Anderson, 14, collapsed while doing exercises there. The guards said they were trying to revive him, but his family and others were outraged at the footage showing the boy pummeled. He died a day later.
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 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."
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 oversaw 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 because the lawsuit involves the guards, their right against self-incrimination prevents them from taking the stand in their defense at the civil trial.