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Sue Carlton, Times Columnist

Sue Carlton

Sue Carlton is a native Floridian from a longtime Southern family that her father always said consisted of thieves and cattle rustlers run out of Georgia. She grew up in Miami and joined the Tampa Bay Times in 1988. Over the years she has covered community news, politics, cops, government, and her all-time favorite, criminal courts. For nearly nine years she wrote about the kind of strange cases that only seem to happen here, about intriguing legal issues and courthouse politics. On that beat, she authored a lengthy narrative series on a trooper who killed his wife and co-authored a series on a suburban mother murdered by her teenage daughter and her friends. Sue was the deputy editor of the features section and was the Tampa city editor before she became a columnist in 2005. Three times a week, she writes about politics, outrages, observations, court cases of the day and whatever else comes up. She lives in Tampa with her husband and their very good dog.

Phone: (813) 226-3376 or toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 3376

Email: carlton@tampabay.com

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  1. Carlton: A little less swagger, Mr. Mayor?

    Politics

    In the dispute-gone-national over a bad joke uttered by Tampa's mayor, it is instructive to recall the nickname bestowed upon him by the local military.

    "Swagger" was the fighter pilot call sign given Bob Buckhorn by folks at MacDill Air Force Base, on a patch for his flight suit, even — and yes, he had a flight suit. Clearly, it is a name he enjoys.

    In fact, swagger has been front and center in his years as mayor. "Tampa's got its swagger back," Buckhorn declared early on, and swagger remains evident as he pushes his city forward in the final years of his second term....

    Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn fires a .50 caliber machine gun from a rigid hull inflatable boat during the International Special Operations Capabilities Demonstration at the Tampa Convention Center Wednesday, June 25, 2016. JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times

  2. Carlton: Guess what happened to the guy who tried to walk instead of drive around here?

    Transportation

    Six months ago, Kyle Simon ditched his car and pretty much walked where he needed to go. And he did this here, in one of the most dangerous places in America to be a pedestrian.

    Can you see where this story is going?

    First, some background. Simon, 33, has lived in cities where you can get along fine without wheels, places with better public transportation and bike-friendly streets. But when he resettled in his native Tampa, he figured he'd need a vehicle....

  3. Carlton: Tallahassee bullies gave USF a big wedgie

    College

    We have an expression in the South to describe someone who can never quite pass muster with the powerful: It's like being the red-headed stepchild at the family reunion, elbowed from the table for having the impertinence to even try.

    At the moment, in the legislative scheme of things, that would pretty much fit the University of South Florida.

    USF — in the interest of full disclosure, my alma mater — just got the Tallahassee Treatment akin to a couple of rich-kid bullies administering a particularly humiliating wedgie. And the swift and sure arrogance with which this was executed was nothing short of breathtaking, even for that bunch up in Tallahassee....

  4. Carlton: Never too late to make it right with USF coach, judge

    Courts

    It's an old saw but a true one: Sometimes it's not what you do — it's what you do after.

    Okay, so when a person has shown some seriously bad judgment, sometime's it is what you did. What Hillsborough Judge Margaret Taylor did last week was publicly lambaste a University of South Florida football player charged with sexual battery and then turn on his coach for further hauling over the coals....

    Judge Margaret Taylor is off Jackson’s case.
  5. Judge and USF football coach she chastised have 'positive' meeting at Tampa courthouse

    Local Government

    TAMPA — A Hillsborough judge made news last week when she publicly blasted University of South Florida football coach Charlie Strong after one of his players was charged with sexual battery.

    But this week, relations were decidedly better between Judge Margaret Taylor and Coach Strong when the two had a cordial meeting at the courthouse Tuesday.

    "It was a very positive conversation," reported Chief Judge Ron Ficarrotta, who met Strong for coffee and asked if he would be willing to meet with the judge who gave him the dressing-down. Strong agreed, and the two spoke for about ten minutes in the chief judge's chambers....

    University of South Florida football head coach Charlie Strong smiles during a press conference held at the Marshall Student Center at USF. ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times
  6. Carlton: USF football and the judge who judged (w/video)

    Criminal

    Hillsborough County Judge Margaret Taylor, I feel your pain. I do.

    Like you, I am a proud alum of the University of South Florida (Go Bulls!) Like you, I graduated pre-football. I spent years trudging to friends' games in Tallahassee, Gainesville and Miami, jealous of their traditions and their fun. (Though I never did get that whole painting one's face orange and blue thing.)

    Maybe like me, judge, you were happy when we finally got a football team of our own. And all that comes with it, as it turns out....

    Hillsborough County Judge Margaret R. Taylor lambasted USF head football coach Charlie Strong and his player, LaDarrius Jackson. Jackson was before her on charges of sexual battery and false imprisonment. [13th Judicial Circuit photo]
  7. After scolding goes viral, Hillsborough judge removes herself from case involving USF Bulls player

    Criminal

    TAMPA — The judge who ripped into a University of South Florida Bulls football player and then his coach in court this week has voluntarily taken herself off the case after video of the dressing-down went viral.

    Hillsborough County Judge Margaret Taylor, who hears first appearance cases, told USF defensive end LaDarrius Jackson that if the allegations of sexual battery and false imprisonment against a fellow student are true, Jackson's behavior was "nothing short of outrageous." ...

    USF football player LaDarrius Jackson faces charges of sexual battery and false imprisonment after his arrest in Tampa on May 1, 2017. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  8. Carlton: Is Hillsborough's new top prosecutor anti-death penalty? The answer might surprise you

    Criminal

    The death penalty, and how we use it, is changing. Hey, it can happen, even in Florida.

    Until recently, it was perfectly okay if only most people on a jury agreed that a killer should die. We have since come around to the idea that well, yes, perhaps unanimous is wiser given we're talking about taking a human life.

    Meanwhile, a dramatic legal face-off is playing out between new Orlando-area state attorney Aramis Ayala — who refused to seek death for an accused cop killer, or anyone else for that matter — and Gov. Rick Scott, who promptly grabbed 23 death penalty cases away from her....

    Warren
  9. Carlton: A ferry between our cities? Making a small option into something bigger

    Transportation

    The Tampa Bay area's biggest failure of the moment has to be our utter inability to get traction for a meaningful and necessary transportation plan to take us into the future.

    Reasonable referendums to pay for roads and transit fail, and fail again. Elected officials fear political kneecapping if they dare even speak the word "rail" — heck, even if they talk up "transportation improvements" beyond patching the latest pothole....

    Passengers board the Cross-Bay Ferry near the Tampa Convention Center.  JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times
  10. Carlton: While Tampa parties where it's hot, city must hold the line

    Human Interest

    Tampa's bar and restaurant mecca along South Howard Avenue — SoHo if you're in the know — is something of a paradox.

    And maybe at a crossroads, too.

    South Howard stretches from the waterfront high-rises and mansions of Bayshore Boulevard to busy Kennedy Boulevard — Kennedy being the street certain genteel citizens still say there is little reason to cross for whatever lies north, the theory being that monied South Tampa holds all one could want....

    Patrons walk the streets and travel among the bars and restaurants on a late weekend night along Howard Avenue in the SoHo area of Tampa.
  11. Carlton: Racism, a cupcake, and a conversation about tolerance

    Human Interest

    Even in these unpredictable times, there are things you think you can take for granted in the world around you. Drivers will stop at red lights. People will hold the elevator. And strangers will treat each other with, if not actual kindness, at least a minimum amount of decency.

    Kimberly Webb is a theater actress who has appeared in Steel Magnolias and played Mother Teresa, among her roles. She's a friendly sort, prone to chatting up strangers. Her Facebook page is filled with cheerful posts....

    Webb
  12. Carlton: Isn't there a more Christian way to handle school on Good Friday?

    Education

    Just for the record, Kurt Browning did not kill the Easter Bunny.

    And on a slightly more respectful note, nor did the Pasco County school superintendent attempt to undermine Christianity by imperiously keeping schools open on Good Friday.

    Not that you'd know this by the response of certain decidedly unhappy parents who peppered Browning with emailed lessons in religion, choice insults and a few well-placed how-dare-yous:...

    Superin-
tendent Kurt Browning angered some in Pasco.
  13. Carlton: Really, United? This is how we fly?

    Airlines

    "If I get re-accommodated do I have to pay extra for the head injury?"

    Tweet about a passenger who was dragged from his seat Sunday in what United Airlines called an attempt to "re-accommodate" passengers being kicked off a sold-out flight.

    We, the paying public, have grown used to being treated like bullied middle schoolers when it comes to air travel.

    We are delayed, herded like cattle and jammed into ever-shrinking seats. We are nickeled and dimed for a dry sandwich, a mustard packet, a pillow, for luggage we have the audacity to bring along, for every extra inch of legroom that was, once upon a time, free. If airlines could charge for in-flight oxygen — well, let's not give them ideas....

    David Dao is the doctor who was yanked Sunday from a United Airlines flight.
  14. Carlton: A few questions for not-running-for-governor and not-done-yet Mayor Buckhorn

    Politics

    Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn knows precisely how much time he has left.

    He knows how many more March mornings he gets to dye the Hillsborough River green and how many moments are left to trumpet new development in his town. In fact, a digital countdown clock in his office reminds him in red numbers how much time remains before Buckhorn must face the cruel reality that is term limits — 720 days, as of this writing....

    Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn recently announced he wasn’t running for governor. He now has about two years until he leaves office. [SKIP O’ROURKE  |  Times]
  15. Carlton: Judge abruptly quits — and is something big to come?

    Courts

    Like barbershops and beauty parlors, local courthouses are known hotbeds of gossip. Some of it even turns out to be true.

    So when Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ashley Moody — elected at age 31 in 2006 as the youngest judge in Florida — up and quit the bench the other day for no reason anyone could figure out, speculation started.

    There was no whiff of scandal. And who in their right mind would give up the pretty-much-job-for-life of presiding over a courtroom? A gig that gets you respect, a robe, a lot of interesting cases and a great parking space?...

    Hillsborough Circuit Judge 
Ashley Moody steps down on April 28.