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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


  1. 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.
  2. 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....

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


    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:...

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


    "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.
  5. Carlton: A few questions for not-running-for-governor and not-done-yet Mayor Buckhorn


    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]
  6. Carlton: Judge abruptly quits — and is something big to come?


    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.
  7. Carlton: Auctions on courthouse steps to be a quaint memory


    Once upon a time in America, a piece of property evidencing its owner's bad fortune or neglect would literally be auctioned off on the courthouse steps.

    The scene involved both entrepreneurship and gumption — the property owner's bad luck notwithstanding. Sharp-eyed people who had done their research would gather on the concrete steps of the Hillsborough County courthouse as homes and lots with unpaid property taxes were put out to the highest bidder....

    Tampa resident Trader Bell listens to announcements before the start of the second-to-last tax deeds live auction held in the Edgecomb Courthouse’s jury auditorium in downtown Tampa on Thursday. Bell said he thought it was a shame that auctions were moving to an online format. “Now if it’s gonna be online, you don’t know who you’re bidding against,” he said. [ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times]
  8. Carlton: Maybe an 'active' judge isn't a bad thing after all


    These are rough days for justice. For judges, too.

    Look at the headlines: A prosecutor wrongly refuses to prosecute the law she was elected to prosecute, then the governor wrongly overreaches by removing her from a case for her audacity. Politicians holler "judicial activism!" when rulings don't go their way, and the president himself demotes a federal judge to "so-called judge" when the (actual) judge's decision displeases him....

    Former Tampa Police officers Eric Houston and his wife LaJoyce Houston walk into the Sam Gibbons U.S. District Courthouse in Tampa in October 2015.
  9. Carlton: How easy is it to believe a hate crime happened here?

    Human Interest

    No matter how it turns out, this is not a story you want to hear about your town.

    On the night of Jan. 9, four friends — all in their 20s, all medical students at the University of South Florida — left an Irish pub in Tampa after watching Clemson squeak past Alabama in the college football playoff national championship game. The four headed to Hyde Park's SoHo district, a mecca of bars and restaurants on sometimes rowdy S Howard Avenue....

    Mohammad Usman Ahmad
  10. Carlton: A surprising story of the police and the homeless

    Public Safety

    At first, the rumpled lump tucked high under the eaves of a noisy Interstate 275 overpass looks to be no more than a pile of trash — garbage bags, tattered rags, assorted junk. Then it moves.

    The sun has been up a while now and Tampa police Officer Randi Whitney bounds up the angled concrete to wake what turns out to be a disheveled bear of a man who rises to tower over her. She recognizes him. He knows her, too — one of two city cops who are homeless liaisons....

    Tampa police Officer Randi Whitney, one of two homeless liaison officers in the department, patrols behind Seventh Avenue businesses in Ybor City, looking for homeless people to help. She knows the homeless by name, and they know her. Sometimes she helps them find shelter, sometimes she just listens.
  11. Carlton: TV news, courts and death all due for big change


    To certain people-in-the-news who have experienced parking lot encounters with TV reporter Mike Deeson — along with his camera and his pointed questions usually alleging malfeasance — perhaps this was good news:

    At age 68, the dogged Deeson will be hanging up his microphone and retiring from 10News WTSP after 35 years in local news.

    This was breaking stuff, abrupt and unexpected, since Deeson showed no signs of slowing despite being the last of the old-school street reporters, complete with a dozen Emmys on his shelf....

    Mike Deeson, an award-wining investigative reporter at 10News WTSP, is retiring after 35 years in local news.
  12. Carlton: In a decade, Lady Justice has seen it all


    If you are a frequenter of downtown Tampa's courthouses, maybe you already know this:

    Justice is not blind. Not Lady Justice, anyway.

    Ten years ago today, a crowd gathered outside Hills­borough County's bustling George Edgecomb Courthouse. A white sheet was ceremoniously whisked away and there she was in all her towering 2,000-pound glory: a bronze statue of a woman called "Veritas et Justitia," truth and justice, and after that Lady Justice to everyone....

    Audrey Flack’s “Lady Justice” sculpture stands in front of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Court.
  13. Carlton: Horses, kids, politics, and releasing your inner Dudley Do-Right


    One day you're just a rich guy with a really big business-and-beer name.

    The next, people are eyeing you like you're Snidely Whiplash.

    You remember Snidely — that dastardly cartoon villain in the black cape and mustache determined to tie the heroine to the railroad tracks?

    Only we're not talking about Dudley Do-Right's damsel in distress in the real-life version here. We're talking about special needs kids and the horses who help them....

    Volunteer McKenzie Johnson walks Christina Freeman on a horse named Chase this month after winning a second place ribbon. The Bakas Equestrian Center hosts an equestrian skills event for the Special Olympics in Tampa. Since 2001, physically and mentally disabled children have experienced the joy of horse-riding and forged deep connections with the animals at Bakas Equestrian Center. Parents say the time with horses gives their children more confidence and self-esteem and helps them improve their balance and coordination.  [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
  14. Carlton: A rainy day for counting those who don't seem to count (w/video)

    Human Interest

    At first, it looked like the rain might change everything.

    This was Thursday before dawn, when the first shift of more than 300 volunteers in red T-shirts would begin hitting the streets of Hillsborough County to count the people living on them — in alleys and cars, in office doorways under swaths of old cardboard, behind dumpsters and in woods. This was the yearly homeless census, a snapshot in time to help determine the size of the homeless population — and the funding needed to combat it....

    Katie Forest, a Hillsborough Homeless Initiative volunteer, surveys Jason Lowe, 37, who’s been homeless for six months.
  15. Carlton: Ybor City to lose that distinctive, century-old smell of roasting coffee


    The smell is rich, warm, slightly nutty — almost but not quite burned. It's a smell that is as much a part of Ybor City as the roosters that strut with impunity across its historic brick streets, as Ybor as a pressed Cuban and a steamy cup of cafe con leche.

    Some mornings, this particular aroma drifts west into downtown Tampa, warming a city just waking up. If I'm lucky, it wafts over to my neighborhood not far away — the distinctive scent of Naviera coffee beans roasting in the mill as they have in this town for nearly a century....

    Alibey Alvarez works on packaging espresso beans at Naviera Coffee Mills in Ybor City. The operation will soon be leaving its longtime home for a larger plant in an industrial area on E Henry Avenue. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]