Congressman Calls for Federal Investigation of Florida Boot Camp Death

The chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee wants federal investigators to conduct their own investigation of eight former boot camp workers who were found not guilty of manslaughter in the death of a Florida teen.

"The U.S. Justice Department is reviewing the case to see whether charges of federal criminal civil rights violations are possible," Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, said in a statement issued after the acquittals.

The teenager, Martin Lee Anderson, 14, died in January 2006 after he was videotaped being punched and kicked by employees at the Sheriff's Office Boot Camp Facility in Florida. The guards maintained they were following the camp's procedures to restrain Anderson because they thought he was being uncooperative.


Anderson had been sent to the camp after violating the terms of his probation. He collapsed while running and was subsequently kicked, punched and forced  to inhale ammonia. The guards said the ammonia was meant to revive him.   

An initial autopsy determined Anderson died from an undiagnosed sickle cell trait, but a second autopsy concluded Anderson suffocated to death after guards repeatedly used ammonia tablets and covered his mouth. Attorneys for the Anderson family said he died from the blood disorder; the prosecutors said he died from rough treatment.

While Rep. Miller hailed the camp's closing and Florida's revision of policies, he said, "Anderson's family deserves every opportunity to see that those involved are held criminally responsible for their actions."

Today's acquittals come on the heels of a congressional hearing chaired by Rep. Miller that focused on incidents of abuse and negligence at residential programs for troubled teens, as reported on the Blotter on

"In some cases, the [camp's] medical officer was also running the kitchen, and when you looked behind the medical officer, they had no medical training, they weren't a licensed anything," Government Accountability Office investigator Greg Kutz told the House panel.

The GAO study of boot camps and wilderness programs for troubled children found evidence of hundreds, if not thousands, of allegations of death and physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

Today in his statement, Miller renewed his promise to lead Congress to stop such abuses.

"In cases involving privately-run facilities, which often lack regulations of any kind, we will act to strengthen existing standards to keep children safe," Miller said. "In cases involving county- or state-run facilities, we will act to strengthen existing standards."

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