TAMPA — For the second time in as many weeks, the Democratic challenger to Republican Mark Ober is accusing the incumbent state attorney of showing insensitivity to victims of sex crimes.
This time, Andrew Warren, a former federal prosecutor, brought up a rape case that Ober's office handled a dozen years ago. In a Monday news release, Warren said Ober's past comments on the case demonstrated a "concerning pattern."
The case involved three Plant High School athletes and another former student who were accused in 2003 of raping a 14-year-old girl. The four young men later took plea deals on reduced charges of felony battery.
Warren said the deals were "against the wishes of the victim."
Ober said that's not true.
"My opponent is using a young lady, a victim in a case from 2003, which resulted in felony charges against four defendants, in an attempt to generate publicity for his campaign," Ober said in a statement. "The outcome in her case was a plea agreement that was strongly supported by the victim's family."
In a separate statement, the State Attorney's Office reiterated that the case was handled to the satisfaction of the victim's family.
"There were many factors involved, including issues with the victim's credibility which would have been emphasized at trial," the statement read. "The terms of the plea were reached after extensive consultation with the victim's family. The case was resolved primarily for the victim's well-being."
Last week, Warren called attention to comments Ober made regarding the case of Alexander Pelzer, who is accused of crimes relating to a sexual relationship with a teenaged girl. Warren accused Ober of criticizing the victim in that case when he said in a campaign forum that she was with Pelzer "voluntarily."
Ober later issued a lengthy response, in which he detailed the steps prosecutors went through to charge Pelzer.In his Monday statement, Ober told Warren to quit making such cases a campaign issue.
"I call on my opponent to stop bringing more harm to victims and their families by politicizing their cases, their tragedy and their suffering, in order to further his own agenda," he said.
Contact Dan Sullivan at [email protected] or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.