Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Convicted sex offender remains free, but with new restrictions

TAMPA — A Hillsborough judge imposed tougher restrictions Tuesday on convicted sex offender Richard Chotiner but refused to put him behind bars while his appeal is pending.

Circuit Judge Wayne Timmerman's decision represents middle ground in the hot-button case, helping to appease the mother of the mentally disabled man Chotiner molested without overriding a prior ruling by the judge's senior colleague.

Timmerman warned Chotiner, 48, not to violate the newly narrowed terms of his freedom.

"You will be in jail so fast you won't know what happened," the judge said.

Chotiner was convicted earlier this year of sexually abusing a man he met at the Adventure Island water theme park in Tampa in April 2007. The victim, then 23, functioned at the mental level of a 10-year-old.

In March, Circuit Judge J. Rogers Padgett sentenced Chotiner to 15 years in prison. Instead of sending him there immediately, the judge agreed to release Chotiner on $50,000 bail while his attorneys readied an appeal.

Unusual but legal, the decision outraged the victim, his family and Fox television commentator Bill O'Reilly, who sent a producer to confront Padgett at a convenience store.

On Tuesday, a prosecutor asked Timmerman to reverse Padgett's ruling. Timmerman took over the sex crimes division after Padgett's retirement.

Assistant State Attorney Kimberly Hindman argued that Chotiner was a flight risk and a danger to the community. She recounted how the former nurse, then on probation for driving under the influence, had tricked the mentally disabled man into coming to his home and performed sexual acts on him.

The victim told the judge about his recent panic attacks. His mother, Linda Petruzzi, said her family lives in fear.

Padgett did not require Chotiner to wear an electronic monitoring device.

"We are scared because Mr. Chotiner lives two miles from our home," she said. "We are the ones in prison now. We have to stay locked up in the house."

Timmerman said if the case had been his to decide first, he probably would have kept Chotiner jailed.

But the judge said the state was essentially asking him to find that Padgett, who served 34 years as a judge, failed to exercise sound judicial discretion. He refused to do so, saying he had no doubt that his colleague understood the laws that permitted Chotiner's appeals bond.

"To say that he didn't would be like saying a first-grade teacher doesn't know the ABCs to teach her class," Timmerman said. "Judge Padgett knows and knew the law."

Acknowledging the victim's concerns, Timmerman ordered Chotiner, who is living with his elderly parents, to be placed on an electronic monitoring device and to follow a curfew. He is not to have any contact with the victim, minors or mentally disabled individuals.

After the hearing, Petruzzi sounded tired and resigned.

"It's not exactly what we had hoped for," she said, but "it's better than nothing."

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at cjenkins@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3337.

Convicted sex offender remains free, but with new restrictions 04/28/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 29, 2009 12:10am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Irma roughs up endangered snail kites, birds that help us gauge the Everglades' health

    Wildlife

    Hurricane Irma was as rough on some wildlife as it was on the humans. Audubon of Florida reported Thursday that the storm destroyed all 44 nests around Lake Okeechobee built by the endangered Everglades snail kite, a bird considered crucial to the River of Grass ecosystem.

    Hurricane Irma destroyed 44 snail kite nests, capping off a poor mating season for the endangered species, which is seen as an important barometer of the health of the Florida Everglades. Their off-center beaks allow them to probe inside the spiral shells of the native apple snails. But the snails' population has dropped as the Everglades has changed. [MAC STONE | Audubon of Florida]
  2. New center opens in Tampa to help those with missing, damaged limbs

    Veterans

    TAMPA — Justin Lansford, his service dog Gabe by his side, smiled broadly Thursday as he imagined the future of a sprawling, resource center for people who need artificial limbs and those interested in helping them.

    Justin Lansford, 27, lost his left leg above the knee in Afghanistan. He was one of dozens of people attending the opening of the Veterans International Institute of Orthotics & Prosthetics in Tampa on Thursday. [HOWARD ALTMAN   |   Staff]
  3. Still worried about family, Tampa Bay Puerto Ricans ramp up relief effort

    Hurricanes

    TAMPA — Brenda Irizarry is worried.

    Brenda Irizarry of Tampa, while agonizing over the status of family in storm-ravaged Puerto Rico, is helping lead an effort to collect and send supplies to the island. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times
]
  4. Was it a crime? 10 patients at nursing home died after Irma

    News

    HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) — A 10th elderly patient has died after being kept inside a nursing home that turned into a sweatbox when Hurricane Irma knocked out its air conditioning for three days, even though just across the street was a fully functioning and cooled hospital.

    The Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills, 1200 N. 35th Ave. [EMILHY MICHOT | Miami Herald]
  5. Oh, Florida! Irma's gone, but she left behind plenty of lessons for us

    Columns

    I don't want to make light of the misery and death that Hurricane Irma inflicted on Florida this month. A lot of it was ugly, and some of it was downright criminal. We saw greed and pettiness on display, and it brought illness and death.

    Tampa Bay Times staff writer Craig Pittman.