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Ex-Port Richey council member Dale Massad facing sexual accusation

PORT RICHEY — On April 4, City Council member Dale Massad had a get-together at his home.

A few days later, he would:

1. Lose his bid for a third term on the council.

2. Be accused of a sexual offense by a woman he says is his ex-girlfriend.

Five months later, memories of the election have faded. But the Florida Department of Law Enforcement says it is still looking into the woman's complaint.

"For months, FDLE has been investigating me for a sexual offense," Massad said on Thursday, banging his fists on the bar in his kitchen, "and they have never called me."

Massad said he did not assault the woman or have any sexual contact with her that night.

Trena Reddick, a spokeswoman for the FDLE, said she couldn't release details about the case because it's an active investigation. She didn't know when the investigation would be completed.

According to a report from the Port Richey Police Department, the incident occurred the night of April 4.

Authorities are withholding the name of the woman who filed the complaint because of the nature of the allegations.

Sometime after the incident, the woman went to a friend's house in Tarpon Springs, and on April 6, that friend called the Tarpon Springs Police Department, said spokeswoman Lt. Barb Templeton. A Tarpon Springs officer took the woman's statement and asked her to go to a hospital, Templeton said.

The Tarpon Springs officer alerted Port Richey police when he found out the incident had occurred there, Templeton said.

Because of Massad's status as a council member at the time, Port Richey police turned the investigation over to the FDLE.

None of the four witnesses listed in the report taken by Port Richey police would comment on the case.

But Massad, 57, disputes the police reports.

He said Thursday that the woman is an ex-girlfriend he broke up with on April 4. He told her not to come to his get-together that night.

About midnight, after most of the guests left, she drove to his house. Massad said she was drunk and fell down the stairs at his home, bruising herself. She eventually fell asleep in Massad's bedroom. He said he slept in a different bedroom that night.

Massad said the woman drove herself home to Tarpon Springs the next day.

Massad said he spoke to her days later, and that she "drank a lot, was an emotional wreck, and doesn't remember anything."

Reports from the Port Richey Police Department show that officers have investigated several complaints about Massad in the past few years.

In 2004, police investigated a complaint of domestic battery after an incident at his home involving his then-fiancee, Tamila Onishchenko of the Ukraine.

Onishchenko stopped by the Port Richey Police Department on June 18, 2004, to complain that two days earlier Massad had grabbed her by the throat, swung her around and banged her head into the bed after she declined to have sex with him, according to the police report.

The report said Onishchenko didn't have any visible injuries.

On Thursday, Massad said he never hurt Onishchenko.

"How can I grab you by the neck and beat you against the bed and there's no marks on you?" he said.

The case was classified as a domestic battery and referred to the State Attorney's Office, but no charges were filed.

"We tried to get the victim to come in on numerous occasions," said Mike Halkitis, Pinellas-Pasco Assistant State Attorney, "but she had moved back to the Ukraine."

In a 2001 police report, a woman named Caj Joseph, who was renting a spare bedroom at Massad's home, told police that Massad "grabbed her in the past and has thrown her down."

In that report, Joseph also called Massad "very abusive."

Again, Massad said he never touched her, noting that Joseph "drinks a lot."

Joseph chose not to press charges against Massad.

For the past five months, Massad said one thing has pervaded his thoughts: an outcome on the FDLE case.

"I've called them I don't know how many times," he said. "I just want for this to be closed."

Camille C. Spencer can be reached at cspencer@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6229.

Ex-Port Richey council member Dale Massad facing sexual accusation 09/11/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 15, 2008 8:54pm]
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