South Florida Boss Pleads Guilty

Longtime Broward (Fla.) Teachers Union president Tony Gentile admitted Nov. 30 that he arranged for a sexual tryst with an Internet pal he thought was a 14-year-old girl. Gentile, who resigned last month after 22 years as head of the BTU, faces a likely prison term after pleading guilty to federal charges of attempting to entice a minor into a sex act and sending child pornography over the Internet. Gentile was arrested July 26 in a sting that started four months earlier in Ala. and ended at a Circle K store in Ft. Lauderdale, where Gentile discovered that the girl he had been corresponding with was actually an undercover cop. He was indicted by federal grand juries in Florida and Alabama.

Gentile, 54, who once regarded as a powerful political force in Broward County, took deep breaths as he stood before U.S. Dist. Judge William P. Dimitrouleas (S.D. Fla., Clinton).  According to the plea agreement, the ex-union boss would face between 46 and 57 months in prison. However, Dimitrouleas is not bound by that agreement and could sentence Gentile to as many as 20 years at his sentencing in Feb. 2002. Gentile, joined by his wife, declined to comment after the proceedings. He has 2 grown children and one child in high school. Gentile, who led a “politically active” union in the nation’s fifth-largest school district, has served on the boards of the NAACP, Nat’l Conference of Christians & Jews, and the United Way.

John Ristow, spokesman for BTU, said the union has made a strong effort to get past the incident, including asking for Gentile’s resignation. BTU agreed to give Gentile $140,000 as part of a severance settlement. Ristow said the settlement was only what BTU’s attorneys thought was owed to Gentile and what Gentile could potentially recover in court. Ristow said reaction to the payoff has been mixed. “People have come to me and said he should have gotten double the amount of money because he has worked for the union for three decades,” Ristow said. “Others say he should get nothing because of what he did.” [Sun-Sentinel (Ft. Lauderdale) 12/01/01]