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Writer's an Internet hero after rebuke of terrorists draws 26,000 e-mails


September 23, 2001

On Sept. 11, Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. intended to write about Andrea Yates, the Houston woman who drowned her five kids. But as ``hot tears'' stung his eyes, he knocked out 700 words on the New York-D.C. devastation -- from the pit of his stomach. That column hit a nerve. Readers deluged him with more than 26,000 e-mails, and posted it on the Internet, chain-letter style.

``The only words that seem to fit, must be addressed to the unknown author of this suffering,'' he wrote. ``You monster. You beast. You unspeakable bastard. What lesson did you hope to teach us by your coward's attack on our World Trade Center, our Pentagon, us? What was it you hoped we would learn? Whatever it was, please know that you failed. Did you want us to respect your cause? You just damned your cause. Did you want to make us fear? You just steeled our resolve. Did you want to tear us apart? You just brought us together.''

Pitts, 43, a father of five who lives in Bowie, Md., is astounded by the response. ``I've heard from Hungary, New Zealand, France, Great Britain and Canada. It's gone crazy. Never seen anything like it -- in my life. You know those Internet urban legends? That's what I feel like.''

Regis Philbin read the column on Live With Regis and Kelly, including Pitts' parting words to the terrorists: ``You don't know what you just started. But you're about to learn.''

FORGET ME NOT

Miami criminal defense lawyer Jay Levine climbed into his SUV and zipped out of the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building parking lot last Monday, forgetting his black leather briefcase.

Levine, 50, soon got an emergency beep from his secretary, Jeanette Del Hierro. ``You know where your briefcase is?'' she asked. ``Of course -- in my car,'' he snapped. Un-uh, she replied. ``The bomb squad just blew it up.''

Sure enough, cops used a cannon-like ``disruptor'' to open it.

Levine replaced it: same kind, Office Depot, $59.99. The old one is on display in his office.

COURT CASE

Miami-Dade assistant state attorney Chris Calkin's ``physical relationship'' with Martina Hingis began two days after Judge Kevin Emas put the tennis star's stalker in prison for two years, Calkin said in a 167-page deposition.

Calkin prosecuted Dubravko Rajcevic. His lawyer, Frank Abrams, wants the conviction tossed out. ``Undisclosed relationship with a material witness,'' he says. Hearing is Monday, 2 p.m.

The depo got so contentious the judge had to preside by phone. Calkin accused Abrams of grandstanding. ``You . . . told me that you are going to be famous and that you are going to be on every news station. . . I'm disgusted with you.''

Retorted Abrams: ``You didn't date Ms. Hingis in order to become famous yourself, did you?''

Calkin, 31, said Abrams tried to satisfy his ``prurient interest'' by asking how many times he and Hingis, 20, have had sex. Calkin wouldn't answer: ``Absolutely distasteful.''

Calkin testified that he accepted Hingis' spur-of-the-moment invitation to visit her at her home near Tampa the day after the sentencing. ``I stayed in the guest bedroom.'' The next day, he says, the relationship became physical. ``It was surprising to both of us how quickly we decided that we liked one another.''

She then visited him in Miami, staying at his place. ``Just because she has the money I don't want to treat her any differently than I would anybody else. . . I insisted upon paying.'' She gave him a tie and a throw pillow for his couch -- and paid for his June flight to Zurich.

Calkin said he sent Hingis flowers and e-mails -- ``motivational in nature.'' Asked Abrams: ``Sort of like the stuff Dubravko sent her?''

Said Calkin to Abrams: ``I simply want to live my life as an ordinary person. . . without being scrutinized by you or the media.''

IT'S OFFICIAL

Engaged: Florida International University prez Modesto ``Mitch'' Maidique, 61, and his steady, Lea Pacheco, 40, associate director for FIU's Master of International Business program. He proposed during a stroll at The Westin Beach Resort in Key Largo, a mile from his oceanfront condo. No wedding date set. They'll eventually live in the presidential quarters of the $2.5 million University Events Center, under construction on the University Park campus.

by Joan Fleischman, Copyright © 2001 Miami Herald


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