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Judge grants bail to Clearwater man accused of sex abuse

LARGO — A judge granted bail Thursday to Clearwater contractor Henry Cavaliere, who was arrested last week for failing to complete sex-offender treatment required by his conviction two years ago on charges of possessing obscene materials.

But for Cavaliere, who has been arrested six times on charges stemming from alleged sex offenses involving children over the past two decades, release will bring only a short respite from the criminal justice system. In March, the 49-year-old is scheduled to go before a jury for a felony charge of lewd and lascivious molestation.

Authorities say he molested a then 7-year-old girl from Palm Harbor several years ago while she was staying overnight at his house. If convicted, he could receive a life sentence. Despite recurring sex abuse allegations, Cavaliere has never been sent to prison or required to register as a sex offender.

Cavaliere's bail hearing Thursday was the result of an unexpected subplot in the current molestation case. Last week, the Florida Department of Corrections issued an arrest warrant for Cavaliere, stating that he had violated the conditions of his probation for the earlier offense.

Cavaliere has been on probation since 2011 for the obscene-materials charges, which arose after sexual images of children were discovered on his computer. His probation is scheduled to last until 2017. But authorities said he stopped attending sex-offender therapy in June and failed to pay $520 in costs associated with his own supervision by probation officials.

Cavaliere, who just two weeks ago attended a pretrial hearing in his pending molestation case in coat and tie, stood before the judge in blue prisoner's garb Thursday morning.

Probation violators are often kept in jail without the option of posting bail. However, Andrew Crawford, Cavaliere's defense lawyer, told the judge he had only two therapy sessions remaining in his course of treatment. He also noted that Cavaliere, a lifelong resident of Pinellas County, had surrendered his passport to authorities and had voluntarily attended hearings connected to his pending molestation case.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Michael Andrews initially signaled he might not look favorably on Cavaliere's bail request, saying he understood prosecutors' argument that Cavaliere had essentially ignored the only hardship imposed by his previous sentence.

Andrews noted the eight months that had passed since Cavaliere stopped attending sex-offender therapy. "That tells me something," the judge said. "If that's true, that tells me that he's willfully not participating in his own counseling."

However, after attorneys consulted with Cavaliere's therapist by phone, Andrews decided that Cavaliere could be released as he awaits trial in his pending case.

The judge ordered Cavaliere to attend an additional six months of therapy once his current course of sex-offender counseling is complete. Cavaliere must also pay $100 for court costs related to his probation violation, Andrews ruled.

Also on Wednesday, Andrews rejected Cavaliere's request for a change of venue because of publicity surrounding his case. The judge said he believed an impartial jury could be empaneled in Pinellas County, but that a venue change could always be ordered later if jury selection showed otherwise.

Peter Jamison can be reached at pjamison@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4157.

Judge grants bail to Clearwater man accused of sex abuse 02/28/13 [Last modified: Thursday, February 28, 2013 10:28pm]
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