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Allains' case reaches the court once again

A videoconference from jail marks the couple's first appearance before a judge in months. Their trial will be scheduled soon.


BROOKSVILLE - The Allains got back to Hernando County on Sunday afternoon and made a first appearance on Monday morning in County Judge Don Scaglione's courtroom via videophone from the Hernando County Jail.

Lori Allain, 49, and Arthur "Tommy" Allain, 47, were arrested initially in June 2004 and charged with child abuse and neglect after allegedly starving their 10-year-old foster daughter to 29 pounds. They skipped the start of their late October trial and went on the run. Their time on the lam ended almost two weeks ago in Toms River, N.J., when authorities found them in a room at a Quality Inn.

Monday morning was quick and straightforward. They wore matching orange jumpsuits. Both of them were in handcuffs and looked pale on the courtroom's washed-out video monitor. Lori Allain, typically quite talkative, had trouble speaking into the microphone, and Scaglione twice had to tell her to readjust so he could hear her.

All the appearance did was make it official: After 21/2 months on the lam and after talking to the St. Petersburg Times about why they ran and what it would take for them to turn themselves in, the Allains are back on the county's courts calendar.

The charge was failure to appear, obviously, and Lori Allain had an outstanding warrant for writing a bad check, too.

Next up, for both of them, are Feb. 21 pretrial hearings.

Late Monday morning, speaking through Cathie Sullivan, the spokeswoman for the Hernando jail, Lori Allain said she wanted to talk to her attorney before making any more public comments.

But both Allains told the Times a lot in their last few weeks on the run.

They said they thought the coverage of the case had been one-sided, and that they couldn't get a fair trial in Hernando.

That they thought Sheriff Richard Nugent, Circuit Judge Jack Springstead, the State Attorney's Office and the state Department of Children and Families were all involved in a wide-ranging conspiracy against them.

And that they'd never get caught.

On Jan. 11, though, five detectives from two agencies knocked on the door of Room 150 at the Toms River Quality Inn.

Two days later, the Allains waived their right to fight extradition in front of an Ocean County, N.J., judge.

On Friday, they left the Ocean County Jail at 11:09 a.m., according to jail officials. State Extraditions Inc., an Orlando private contractor, brought them back to Hernando. Company officials wouldn't say where the Allains spent Friday and Saturday nights.

What's certain is that they arrived here on Sunday. Lori Allain was booked at 4:15 p.m. Tommy Allain was booked at 4:20.

"We're done," sheriff's spokeswoman Deputy Donna Black said Monday morning. "It's a nonissue to us at this point. Our mission is complete."

But the next phase of this ongoing story has just begun.

They are in custody at the Hernando jail, and that's where they will stay, too, considering Springstead set no opportunity for bond back on Oct. 25 when he issued the warrants for their arrest. Given their no-bond status, they are both "appropriately housed" in a higher-security portion of the jail, said Sullivan, the spokeswoman.

"As far as the state is concerned," Assistant State Attorney Sherry Byerly said last week at the courthouse, "the case goes on the trial docket."

The next trial week starts Feb. 13. But that's already been set. After that, the next trial docket the Allains could be put on is March 13, Byerly said, but that would be awfully quick and seems unlikely.

On Monday, at the first appearance, Scaglione told Tommy Allain there was a warrant for his arrest for failure to appear at the scheduled start of the trial.

"Do you understand that?" the judge asked.

"Not quite," Tommy Allain said. "My court date was the 24th when (Hurricane) Wilma hit. Judge Springstead put the order out on the 25th."

Scaglione told him that was between the Allains and Springstead.

He then asked Lori Allain if she understood the warrant for failure to appear.

"Yes, I understand," she said.

And for the bad check?

"Yes, I understand," she said.

"Thank you, Ms. Allain."

"Thank you, " she said.

--Michael Kruse can be reached at mkruse@sptimes.com or 352 848-1434.

2006 Jan 24