Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bail set at $100,000 for prominent Pinellas lawyer jailed on molestation charges

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Thane Covert set bail at $100,000 Friday for Robert Tankel after a lengthy court hearing that provided more details about the lewd and lascivious molestation charge lodged against the prominent Pinellas attorney.

And late Friday, after three days in the Pinellas County Jail, Tankel was released in a case that defense attorney Todd Foster had labeled "more than a huge mistake."

But court testimony also made it clear that police and prosecutors have not backed down from the case. They said a 9-year-old boy reported Tankel had touched him inappropriately on two separate outings.

According to court testimony, Tankel acknowledged some "horseplay" to Big Brothers Big Sisters staff — including pinching the boy's rear end — but insisted it was not sexually oriented.

Assistant State Attorney Kate Alexander referred to Tankel's comments as "admissions," but defense attorneys sharply disagreed.

The courtroom was filled with 26 Tankel supporters, including his wife and sons, his sister, two rabbis, numerous friends and business associates. Half a dozen spoke on his behalf.

Alexander called to the witness stand two Clearwater police officers who outlined the case against Tankel. Officer Justin Murray said he interviewed the 9-year-old boy, who said Tankel had touched him twice.

Once was at a June 17 Clearwater Threshers baseball game at Bright House Field; the other was at a Tampa Bay Rays game in St. Petersburg about two weeks earlier, the officer said.

Tankel was in Big Brothers Big Sisters. He attended both games with another adult and two boys who were assigned as their "little brothers." The boy in question was the "little brother" assigned to the other adult, attorneys said.

At both games, Murray said Tankel rubbed the boy in his genital area over his clothes.

At the Rays game, Tankel is accused of touching the boy as they left Tropicana Field. The other adult and child were walking in front of them and couldn't see what was going on, Murray said. The boy also said Tankel pinched his rear end.

Detective Darla Collamore said before Tankel was arrested, he called Big Brothers Big Sisters to explain that some things had happened on outings involving the boy. A staff member of Big Brothers Big Sisters wrote a letter recounting this conversation, and portions were read in court.

Alexander referred to one portion in which Tankel acknowledged pinching the boy.

"While they were walking out he pinched his butt and it felt like electricity," Alexander said. "That is not a statement by somebody who is doing something innocently."

Defense attorney Bobbi Madonna countered: "Yes, in the letter it says that he pinched (the boy's) butt and it felt like electricity." But she said it was important to note Tankel also stressed it was in a "not sexual way but in a way that he knew was a mistake when he did it."

"This is not an admission of lewd and lascivious molestation," Madonna said, and stressed that the others who went to the games did not see anything improper.

Judge Covert said that if and when Tankel bails out of jail he must not have any contact with children. Tankel, 57, a Dunedin attorney who works with homeowners associations, also must surrender his passport.

Contact Curtis Krueger at or (727) 893-8232. Follow @ckruegertimes

Bail set at $100,000 for prominent Pinellas lawyer jailed on molestation charges 06/27/14 [Last modified: Friday, June 27, 2014 10:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally


    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Kushner to testify before two intelligence committees


    WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to make a second appearance on Capitol Hill — he will speak with the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, one day after he is scheduled to speak with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators behind closed doors.

    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. [Associated Press]
  3. Rays blow lead in ninth, lose in 10 to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash liked the way Alex Cobb was competing Friday night. He liked the way the hard contact made by the Rangers batters went away after the second or third inning. So as the game headed toward the ninth, there was no doubt in Cash's mind that sending Cobb back to the mound was …

    Rays starter Alex Cobb can hardly believe what just happened as he leaves the game in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double then a tying two-run homer to the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo.
  4. Exhumation of Dalí's remains finds his mustache still intact


    FIGUERES, Spain — Forensic experts in Spain have removed hair, nails and two long bones from Salvador Dalí's embalmed remains to aid a court-ordered paternity test that may enable a woman who says she is the surrealist artist's daughter to claim part of Dalí's vast estate.

    Salvador Dal? died in 1989 leaving vast estate.
  5. Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show


    WASHINGTON — Russia's ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, current and former U.S. …

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation after meetings with an ambassador were revealed.