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Sunday, Aug 31, 2003County: Hillsborough
Defendant/Suspect: Jose Nerixander Vázquez
Democratic state House candidate Jose Nerixander Vázquez hopes voters see beyond his jail time and convictions for criminal mischief, reckless driving and carrying a concealed firearm.
Vázquez, a 32-year-old father of four who works in security and advertising, said he is making his first run for office to show that "no matter what happens to you, you can go far."
His campaign slogan: "Everyone makes mistakes, I'm a person like you!"
He wants to replace term-limited Rep. Bob Henriquez, a Democrat whose District 58 seat includes West Tampa, parts of Seminole Heights, the West Shore business district and Town 'N Country.
Vázquez, a Puerto Rico native who lives in north Tampa, blames his criminal record on a flawed legal system that he didn't understand. He blames a probation officer and technical mistakes for a probation violation that sent him to jail for about eight months.
If elected, he said, he wants to educate people about guns, state law and the dangers of sexual predators.
"He's a good guy, he's a good father, and he's my best friend," said campaign manager Luis Santiago.
Vázquez's arrests in Hillsborough County began three months after he arrived in Florida from Puerto Rico.
In February 2000, he was charged with reckless driving and criminal mischief after he spun out a 1990 Honda and nearly crashed into pedestrians and cars in Ybor City, an arrest report shows. He kicked the doors and bit the seats of a police car, causing about $800 in damage.
He was sentenced to six months of probation.
Vázquez on Monday blamed the incident on another motorist driving recklessly. He said he doesn't recall damaging the cruiser, but if he did so it was because a police officer sprayed him in the face with Mace.
Vázquez said he requested, and was granted, jail time instead of probation because he couldn't complete community service or pay restitution.
In September 2001, Vázquez was charged with carrying a concealed firearm and improper exhibition of a dangerous weapon or firearm, records show. He said he took out his handgun to prevent a carjacking in Ybor City and didn't know he needed a concealed weapons permit.
He was sentenced to probation, records show.
In February 2003, he pleaded no contest to trespass and larceny with relation to utility. He was accused of stealing electricity from Tampa Electric Co. by using a stolen meter at his home, an arrest report shows.
He was sentenced to six months of probation and ordered to pay restitution, records show, but an adjudication of guilt was withheld.
In September 2003, he was cited with animal cruelty. He was accused of transporting three dogs in a closed car trunk, causing them to overheat. He was found in violation and fined $870.
Vázquez said the trunk was open for the 15 to 20 minutes the dogs were inside and that they did not overheat.
He was arrested again in November, accused of punching his fiancee during an argument, an arrest report shows. When his fiancee tried to leave, Vázquez allegedly caught her in the front yard and used handcuffs from his security job to restrain her.
Vázquez said he called police because his fiancee was out of control and handcuffed her wrists to calm her.
The charges were dropped in May.
Vázquez is one of four District 58 candidates so far, joining Democrats Michael Scionti and Daniel Suarez and Republican Alfred Ruiz.
As of his most recent financial disclosure, his lone campaign contribution was a $532 personal loan.
"I don't need money to get my message to the people," he said.
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