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“White House Boys” Plaintiffs Now Eye Compensation Bill
02/25/10 - 04:34 PM

Jackson County Floridan

Marianna, Fla:

Officials are saying the decision to dismiss the class-action lawsuit filed by the “White House Boys” — a group of
men who say they were abused at what is now Dozier School for Boys — was based on legal findings, not the
allegations made.

Attorneys say the ruling made by Second Circuit Court Judge James O. Shelfer was based on the legality of the
case, with issues relating to the statute of limitations and sovereign immunity.  

The plaintiffs in the case are four men who claim they were beaten with a leather strap while detained at the
reform school in the 1950s and 1960s.

One plaintiff, Robert Straley, told the Floridan the abuse was as serious as death in some cases, and he wishes
to see justice served.  

The group filed a lawsuit against multiple state agencies and former guard Troy Tidwell in January 2009. The
case was dismissed Tuesday, during a hearing in Tallahassee.

Judge Shelfer ruled Tuesday that due to a November 2009 ruling of the First District Court of Appeals in another
case against the state, claimants cannot receive recovery damages for constitutional rights violations due to the
sovereign immunity doctrine.

Sovereign immunity means a government cannot be sued in its own court system without its consent.

This finding lead to the dismissal of the suit against the state agencies.

As for the suit against Tidwell, officials say the statute of limitations was a battle even the plaintiffs knew they
were facing.

One of the men’s attorneys, Greg Hoag was quoted in a St. Petersburg Times article published Wednesday
saying, “We’ve said all along that it was an uphill battle because of the statute of limitations.”

Judge Shelfer’s order had not yet been filed as of Thursday morning, but when it is, the White House Boys will
have 30 days to appeal.

Straley said in a phone interview Thursday he was waiting to hear back from their attorneys on a decision
whether to appeal, but he knows for certain that the focus will now be on a bill for compensation expected to be
presented in the Florida Legislature.

According to Straley, Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, is the supporter of the claims bill, which had been on hold
for the duration of the judicial proceedings.

Straley says the men involved in the suit are disappointed, but he still hopes to see justice served.

“Tidwell claimed in his deposition that he only gave 10 gentle licks, never raising the whip above his head,”
Straley said, alleging “I have been beaten to a bloody pulp by this guy.”

“He won’t get away with his ‘10 gentle licks,’” Straley said. “I hope he makes right with God.”