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Former Florida Department of Children and Families employee Al Zimmerman to plead guilty to lying to FBI

TAMPA — A former spokesman for the Florida Department of Children and Families once boasted about a physical relationship with actor Keanu Reeves, according to documents filed Wednesday in federal court.

Al Zimmerman, who faces at least 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to producing child pornography, also talked about partying with boys from Plant High School at his Tampa home, court records say.

Prosecutors included these details in a plea agreement for Michael Hernandez, a former DCF employee who has agreed to plead guilty to lying to authorities last year when they questioned him about Zimmerman.

Hernandez could face as much as five years in prison. He was as shocked as anyone to learn of the child porn allegations against Zimmerman, said Ethan Way, Hernandez's attorney.

"Every time he just thinks about it, it turns his stomach," Way said.

In Hernandez's plea, he admits lying to FBI investigators about tampering with Zimmerman's work laptop and home computer. Hernandez worked as a computer technician for the DCF, and Zimmerman, 41, cultivated an out-of-office relationship with him, prosecutors said.

Zimmerman asked Hernandez to destroy files on his computers when he became concerned about a background check after applying for a job with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, according to court records.

Hernandez obliged, then tossed Zimmerman's home computer in a Tallahassee trash bin. The two had had a sexual relationship, Hernandez told authorities, and Hernandez said he had a key to Zimmerman's house. When the two first met, Zimmerman was 39 and Hernandez was 23, a college student working for the DCF.

"Zimmerman claimed he was well connected, knew important people, and even told Hernandez that he had had a previous physical relationship with Keanu Reeves," according to Hernandez's plea agreement. "He made it a point to try to minimize sex between two males, telling him that 'it was no big deal,' and that sex between males was not unnatural."

A publicist for Reeves did not respond Wednesday to an e-mail seeking comment.

Zimmerman also said that while living in Tampa, he partied with boys from Plant High and was known as the "Plant Menace," court records said.

Authorities said Zimmerman became friendly with underage males in Hillsborough and Orange counties and enticed them into producing sexually explicit images. Investigators have identified six or seven victims.

Kevin Graham can be reached at kgraham@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

Former Florida Department of Children and Families employee Al Zimmerman to plead guilty to lying to FBI 02/11/09 [Last modified: Friday, February 13, 2009 2:13pm]
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