TAMPA — A Hillsborough judge revoked bail Tuesday for Diemante J. Roberts, one of four Walker Middle School students charged with sexually assaulting a flag football teammate.
Roberts, 15, is being housed in the Hillsborough County Jail. He was arrested Friday on a charge of stealing a gasoline can from a stranger's home.
Authorities said Roberts and an unidentified 14-year-old youth stole the 5-gallon can from behind a home on E 148th Avenue in Lutz, about 6 miles from Roberts' home.
Told of the theft by a neighbor, the man who lives there said he went looking for the youths and spotted them with the can.
Prosecutors learned about the arrest and asked Hillsborough Circuit Judge Wayne Timmerman to review his bond order, which required that Roberts commit no crimes while on pretrial release.
On Tuesday, Timmerman reminded Roberts that when he released him and the three other suspects on $15,000 bail in June, the judge said that if they violated the terms of their release, "You'll be in jail so fast you won't know what happened to you."
"Revoke his bond and take him into custody," Timmerman said. "I meant what I said."
Roberts, who had been in custody since his arrest on a charge of petty larceny, turned away in tears as bailiffs led him out of court.
Defense attorneys Lanell Williams and Monica Strickland had asked Timmerman to instead consider tightening Roberts' bond restrictions. They wanted the judge to confine Roberts to his home. They suggested the judge not even allow him to attend church services.
As part of his release, Roberts had a 7 p.m. curfew and electronic monitoring.
"In our system of jurisprudence, all people that are charged with crimes are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty," Strickland said after court.
She said she expected Roberts to be vindicated in the sexual assault case.
"All we can ask for at this time is for the media to give our client an opportunity to remain innocent until the state does otherwise," Strickland said.
During the court hearing, Assistant State Attorney Kimberly Hindman said Roberts and the 14-year-old youth, who was on probation for theft, claimed to have knocked on the victim's door to ask whether he wanted them to mow his lawn.
William Utley, 38, said he was working at home when he saw the silhouette of a person go by his window.
Utley said he went outside to see what was happening and a neighbor told him a youth had knocked on the door of his mobile home. When Utley didn't answer, the teen stepped behind the home, took a red plastic gas can from his yard and left, the neighbor told Utley.
Utley, who works as a musician, sound designer and engineer in the interactive entertainment industry, said he didn't hear the knock because he was listening to music.
After talking to his neighbor, Utley said he got on a bicycle and began looking for the person who took his gas can.
"I've had so many gas cans disappear," he said.
On 18th Street, he saw two youths pushing a lawn mower with his gas can propped up on the back of the mower. He said he called authorities as the youths turned onto 151st Avenue.
Utley said he doesn't follow local news and hadn't heard of the Walker Middle School rape case, and he didn't know anything about the Walker suspects until authorities investigating the theft of his gas can told him.
"I feel bad for kids making bad decisions, but obviously this was somebody who needed to be off the street," Utley said. He described being "floored" by news of the case and hoped all involved "get some healing."
"I'm still really disturbed," he said. "God be with these people."
Hindman, the prosecutor, said Roberts and the other youth had told the neighbor who spotted them that they knew Utley and were owed the gas. The youths later told deputies that they planned to replace the gas they had used, Hindman said.
"The state has a grave concern about him being able to keep the terms and conditions of his bond," she told Timmerman.
On June 3, Timmerman granted bail for Roberts and the three other Walker Middle suspects — Lee Louis Myers, Raymond A. Price-Murray and Randall John Moye III, all 14.
The teens each face adult charges of four counts of sexual battery after allegations that they sexually assaulted a teammate with a hockey stick and broom handle multiple times between March 15 and May 5 in the school locker room. Students witnessed the attacks, but none spoke up to authorities.
Strickland said nothing in two medical exams performed on the victim showed signs that a sexual assault had occurred — a point previously raised by Myers' attorney.
The state waited a month after the middle school victim first spoke with authorities on May 6 to have him physically examined. Prosecutors have declined to discuss the medical reports or the lapse in time.
Kevin Graham can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3433.