U.S. Dist. Judge William P. Dimitrouleas (S.D. Fla., Clinton) sentenced ousted Broward Teachers Union boss Anthony J. Gentile to 46-month in prison Feb. 8 on child pornography charges. Gentile, once a giant in Florida education and labor relations circles, struggled to compose himself as he apologized to his family, to the union he helped create, and to the court before his sentence was imposed.
Gentile, who began as a teacher in Pennsylvania and rose to command the fifth-largest teachers union in the country, was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine, in addition to the jail time, for indictments in Alabama and Florida. He will not be allowed to work with minors or be involved with youth organizations when he is released.
He was arrested July 26 after he arranged a rendezvous with what he thought was a 14-year-old girl he had befriended on an Internet chat room. The girl turned out to be Ft. Lauderdale Police Detective Richard Love with Law Enforcement Against Child Harm, a task force of federal, county and local investigators. The investigation began on Mar. 30, 2001, when Gentile engaged in an America Online chat with a federal undercover investigator in Alabama masquerading as the teenage girl. Gentile was also indicted in Alabama for sending that agent at least one piece of child pornography. The investigation continued in Florida with investigators using the same screen name.
Gentile could have gotten up to 57 months in prison, but prosecutors did not ask for the maximum. Gentile’s attorney and a psychologist said he appeared truly sorry for his crime and provided more than 20 letters from friends and former colleagues praising the 22-year teachers union president. “The name Tony Gentile was legendary among education and union activists throughout Florida,” wrote Lynne J. Webb, president of the United School Employees of Pasco County.
John Ristow, spokesman for the BTU, called Gentile’s crime an “anomaly” in his life. Although the union has tried to distance itself from Gentile, who resigned in Nov. 2001 in a $140,000 settlement, Ristow said Gentile’s leadership ability had left the organization in good shape.
Gentile is not eligible for the least restrictive prison, but will probably end up in a low-security federal prison in Coleman, northwest of Orlando, which has a treatment program for sexual offenders. Dimitrouleas denied Gentile’s request to voluntarily surrender himself at a later date, and U.S. Marshals removed his belt and necktie and led him away. [Sun-Sent. (Ft. Lauderdale) 2/9/02]