Thursday, December 14, 2017
Public safety

Clearwater police officer won't face computer crimes charge

CLEARWATER — Prosecutors have decided not to pursue criminal charges against a Clearwater police commander accused of wrongfully using a law enforcement database to disclose a South Pasadena woman's personal information.

Lt. Richard Crean, 46, was facing a felony computer crimes charge for searching Florida's Driver and Vehicle Information Database, commonly called DAVID, for a license plate number sent to him by Laura McLynas of Palm Harbor. The plate was from a car parked in front of the house of her estranged husband, Clearwater resident James McLynas.

Crean ran the license plate on his computer and sent information about the car's owner, South Pasadena resident Kim Harwell — a friend of James McLynas — to Laura McLynas.

After Harwell filed a complaint with the Clearwater Police Department, the agency referred a computer crimes charge against Crean to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office.

Prosecutors have now determined that Crean will not be criminally charged, according to Assistant State Attorney Kendall Davidson. He said a review of the case showed Crean was pursuing a potential criminal investigation when he used the database, though he erred in disclosing Harwell's information to Laura McLynas.

The matter has been referred back to Clearwater police internal affairs investigators, Davidson said.

"We felt that was more appropriately handled through administrative sanctions, or agency disciplinary actions. I understand Clearwater is going to follow up on this," he said. "If you went in for a nonbusiness, nonlaw-enforcement purpose, we would be much more inclined to look upon it as a crime."

Davidson said that while Crean had not committed a criminal offense, he had violated the rules for police agencies subscribing to DAVID, and that Crean and the Clearwater Police Department could be punished accordingly by the state administrators who run the database.

Clearwater public safety spokeswoman Elizabeth Watts confirmed that police would now proceed with their internal investigation of Crean's actions, which was on hold as the state attorney's office decided whether the police commander would be charged with a felony. She said Crean returned from leave Tuesday to an "administrative assignment" in the department after prosecutors' decision.

"Our internal affairs investigation will pick back up, and we can't comment on an internal affairs investigation until it's over," Watts said.

Crean could not be reached for comment.

The decision by prosecutors is the latest turn in a strange saga driven by the intense marital discord of James and Laura McLynas.

Davidson said Crean's access of the database was legitimate because Laura McLynas suspected Harwell had helped James McLynas pick up the couple's child from school at the wrong time, in an alleged violation of a family law judge's custody order.

But Harwell was never charged with such an offense. She was charged with violating a restraining order Laura McLynas filed against her, Davidson said, but prosecutors dropped that charge after reviewing the evidence. Harwell had no prior criminal record in Florida.

"There was no legal basis for Crean to look up my records, much less provide them to Laura McLynas," Harwell wrote in an e-mail to the Tampa Bay Times in response to the state attorney's decision. "I am looking forward to reading the state attorney's file tomorrow to see why they made this decision."

James McLynas has asserted that Crean gave Harwell's information to his estranged wife because the police officer was romantically involved with Laura McLynas. Davidson said Crean told investigators under oath that "there was no relationship."

Peter Jamison can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4157.

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