Unfinished Business

A son denied becomes a festering campaign issue haunting Commissioner Eggelletion as Election Day approaches

"He told me he was busy, that there was a storm of some kind coming to the area, but he would call me back," she says. "He never did."

She left messages on his phone, but he didn't call back. It became obvious to Sanders that he wasn't going to help voluntarily, so she filed a paternity suit in Broward County on November 11, 2004.

A DNA test came back on January 11, 2005, proving that Eggelletion was Omar's father. The commissioner spoke that day with newspaper reporters, telling them he had no idea that Omar was his son until Sanders contacted him. The Miami Herald, which never published Sanders' allegations that the affair began when she was Eggelletion's student, reported that Eggelletion characterized the relationship as a "one-night stand."

The former schoolteacher made an offer for her silence that Angie Sanders could refuse.
C. Stiles
The former schoolteacher made an offer for her silence that Angie Sanders could refuse.
Sanders testified that she was a high school student when the affair began.
Laura Massa
Sanders testified that she was a high school student when the affair began.

"I am shocked to find after 17 years that I fathered a child and did not know," he told the Herald. "I have no intention of ducking my responsibilities. I try to lead by example."

That didn't stop him from trashing his son or his mother. In addition to the "one-night stand" claim, he said that he was a "target for cash" and that Sanders wanted his money to help pay Omar out of trouble for a minor marijuana-possession charge. He said he paid her $1,000 to help with court costs, though Sanders says it was under $600.

Eggelletion eventually extended an offer of $17,000 to settle the case. Sanders refused to accept based in part on the advice of her lawyer, Ellis Rubin, a famous Miami attorney known for theatrical courtroom tactics and imaginative arguments.

It went to court on September 26, 2007, before General Magistrate Barbara Beilly. Rubin had died the previous December, so his partner, Robert Barrar, questioned Sanders under oath. He asked her when she began dating Eggelletion.

"My sexual relationship started from high school up until — "

"Objection! Move to strike!" exclaimed Eggelletion's attorney, Patricia-Gainer Gaddis.

Beilly sustained the objection on the grounds that it was irrelevant. She limited testimony to the time of conception, saving Eggelletion the embarrassment of having to hear her testify about the high school romance.

Eggelletion, for his part, swore under oath that he couldn't even remember when he first met Sanders. When Barrar asked him if she was a student of his, he responded, "I don't believe she was... I can't remember. I can't remember... but she's testified she was some sort of aide."

"Do you deny that?" Barrar asked.

"I can't remember," Eggelletion repeated.

When asked if he recalled the first time he was "intimate" with Sanders, Eggelletion said, "Not really, no."

"Can we all agree when I use the term intimate, I'm talking about having sexual intercourse," Barrar clarified.

"That's all it was," Eggelletion interjected.

Barrar asked how many times he had sex with Sanders.

"I can't remember but... very infrequently... I only remember maybe two or three occasions where we had sex."

Barrar then asked him if he told a reporter that he had sex with Sanders only one time in his life; Eggelletion denied making the statement. The lawyer asked him about the phone call from Sanders asking him for help with Omar.

"I had to take a deep breath," Eggelletion said. "I was blown away."

"Why were you blown away?"

"That after 17 years, somebody would tell me that I fathered a child."

"Well, you had fathered other children out of wedlock, hadn't you?"

"Objection," chimed in Eggelletion's lawyer. "Relevance."

"Sustained," Beilly said.

Here, Barrar was referring to Eggelletion's 12-year-old daughter outside of marriage, now living in Tallahassee with her mother. He was forced to pay child support for the girl only after her mother filed a paternity suit. He only counts two children — his son and daughter with his wife — on the county website and in campaign literature.

At one point, Eggelletion testified that he wanted to do "whatever I'm legally obligated to do" to care for Omar.

"Do you want to do what you're morally obligated to do?" Barrar asked.

During her cross-examination, Gainer-Gaddis asked Eggelletion if he considered Sanders a friend.

"No... it was just a sexual experience," he answered.

Sanders remembers her frustration and anger growing as she listened to Eggelletion's testimony. She sat in the courtroom and stared at him with a look of disbelief on her face.

Eggelletion at one point recounted advice that he gave to Omar.

"I do remember telling him it's OK to err, that we're all human and we sometimes err, but he shouldn't repeat the error," he testified. "To repeat the error becomes a mistake, and when we make mistakes in our lives, we extract a huge toll in our lives, and you do hurt people when you make mistakes, including yourself."

Eggelletion's "mistake" with Sanders didn't cost him much, though. Beilly ruled on November 12 that he didn't have to pay child support since Lockhart had already been named the father in a court document.

When Sanders' father, Elbert Rice, learned of the decision, he became upset and said he couldn't believe Eggelletion got off without paying a dime. He died of a heart attack the next morning. Sanders, whose mother died in the early '90s, believes he succumbed to the stress of the paternity case and his worries for Omar's future.

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