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Official's lawyers seek accuser's cell records

TAMPA — Attorneys for Hillsborough County and Commissioner Kevin White are seeking the cell phone records of his former aide, who has sued him on claims of sexual discrimination.

Their aim: to question her credibility.

The attorneys told a federal judge Friday that they are looking for records of calls to and from the aide, Alyssa Ogden, and a prominent businessman whom she and White met on a trip to Atlanta.

Ogden, who was 22 at the time, says White paid a late-night visit to her hotel room and asked to sleep in her bed during the April 2007 trip to Atlanta. The trip took place during her first week on the job. It's a central part of her lawsuit.

But White, 43, a Democrat, has testified in depositions that Ogden accompanied him on the trip to Atlanta at the request of businessman C. Blythe Andrews Jr., the lawyers told U.S. District Judge Richard Lazzara. Andrews is the 78-year-old chairman of the Florida Sentinel Bulletin newspaper.

"One of the issues here is indeed whether it's Mr. Andrews who wanted to have a physical relationship with Ms. Ogden," said Claire Saady, an attorney for the county. "And whether it's Mr. Andrews who showed up at her hotel room."

Steve Wenzel, an attorney for White, asked the judge for records of calls between Ogden and Andrews, including during the week before she began working for White. Wenzel told the judge that White had introduced the two on March 26, 2007.

Wenzel said he was looking for a pattern of interaction between Ogden and Andrews, both before and after she took the job with White.

"Mr. White's testimony is that Ogden was asked to come to Atlanta by Mr. Andrews," Wenzel said.

The two attorneys had sought access to all of Ogden's cell phone records from February 2007 until the present. Her attorney, Ronald Fraley, objected, saying the request was overly broad. But he agreed to include records of calls to and from Andrews.

"If that is what their defense is going to be, that Mr. Andrews is the bad guy, I could see how that would be relevant," Fraley said.

An attorney for Andrews, Jeraldine Williams Shaw, told the St. Petersburg Times on Thursday that Andrews did nothing wrong. She suggested that White is trying to divert attention away from his own troubles.

A Times story detailed pre-trial motions that make Andrews a focus of inquiry. The motions highlight Ogden's testimony that Andrews bought her clothes and paid for a meal and her hotel room in Atlanta.

Pretrial filings also point to other potential lines of questioning. They include a list of people who might have some knowledge of how White treated Ogden.

Most of the summaries are vague. But the list includes Ogden's sister, Krystal Ogden.

Information from Ogden's attorney indicates that the sister accompanied her to a series of "mandatory lunches" with White. Her filing says that White looked at Krystal during one luncheon and said, "Wow, come sit next to me."

It goes on to say that White remarked that Krystal's pants were "form-fitting" and asked her to turn around so that he could get a better look. It says that White said he should fire Alyssa and hire the sister.

The filing says that White repeated the remark at another luncheon while staring at the sister's chest. At yet another get-together, for Boss' Day, the filing paraphrases Alyssa Ogden saying, "White told my sister that he wanted me to give her to him as a gift."

Krystal Ogden did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Bill Varian can be reached at varian@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3387.

Official's lawyers seek accuser's cell records 10/03/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 7, 2008 2:02pm]
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