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Ex-Sheriff Sex Offender Retains Pension

In the July 1995 issue of PLN we reported "51 Months for Sex With Prisoners," about Gulf County (FL) sheriff Al Harrison, then 52, who was convicted of seven misdemeanor counts of violating the civil rights of five female prisoners over a period of several years. The jury found that Harrison forced the women to have sex with him in his office, often offering them furloughs or other favors in exchange.

In late 1996, circuit court judge Phil Padovana ruled that Harrison is due retirement benefits because he was convicted in federal court on misdemeanor charges and Florida state law denies pensions only for felony convictions. As a result of this ruling, Harrison will receive a $38,532 annual state pension.

The state argued that Harrison violated the state's ethics law and that his crimes would be a felony under Florida's sexual battery statute. But in 1995, state prosecutors declined to file criminal charges against him, opting instead to allow federal prosecutors to charge him with misdemeanors.

It seems disingenuous, then, that deputy state attorney general Peter Antonacci characterizes Padavano's decision as "an outrage," and vows to appeal the decision.

Harrison is serving a sentence of four years and three months on the federal convictions. It is unclear whether he is collecting the pension while in prison.

Associated Press

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