Sunday, February 25, 2018
Public safety

Prosecutors declined to pursue 2002 rape allegation against ex-Tarpon cop

TARPON SPRINGS — When the detective displayed a photo of former Tarpon Springs police officer Larry Kobielnik, the rape victim covered her face and cried.

On Nov. 11, 2002, a woman Kobielnik had met while he worked as a patrol officer accused him of picking her up, stopping his car in the back of an office building and raping her.

He was never charged.

More than a decade later, Kobielnik stands accused of raping two other women at his Dunedin home after picking them up on Clearwater streets and telling them he was an officer. He was arrested July 27.

Documents released to the Tampa Bay Times reveal more details about Kobielnik's past and prosecutors' decision to decline charges against him in 2002.

• • •

From 1995 to 1999, Kobielnik was a Marine corporal. After an honorable discharge, he worked as a Winn-Dixie meat cutter in Largo, his Tarpon Springs police personnel file shows.

"Eager to learn," wrote a Tarpon Springs police sergeant who met Kobielnik during a ride-along. "He was well-mannered and polite. I observed no negative attributes."

The department hired Kobielnik in April 2000. The following year, while he was still in his probationary period, internal affairs investigated several allegations against him, including being involved in a traffic crash and falsifying information in the crash report.

Before he could be disciplined, he resigned in May 2001. He was later hired by a security company and eventually by the Transportation Security Administration.

On Nov. 11, 2002, a detective knocked on his front door. A woman had accused Kobielnik of rape.

With a lawyer present, Kobielnik told this story to detectives:

He was driving south on Pinellas Avenue in Tarpon Springs after making a security check at a marina about 2 a.m. when he spotted a woman crying near the road.

They had met while Kobielnik worked as a police officer. He offered to give her a ride home. Once inside his car, they chatted about his departure from the Police Department. He stopped at a Bank of America and withdrew $10 to buy dip and sodas in the morning.

Kobielnik said he dropped the woman off, made another security check and headed home.

• • •

The woman gave police a different account:

She was sitting on the front porch of her home about 2:20 a.m. when Kobielnik drove up. A drug addict who often had contact with police, she approached the car, thinking he was still an officer.

Once she was inside the car, Kobielnik told her he had resigned from the department but worked for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. He quickly showed her a badge, then put it away.

The conversation turned dark when he questioned her about having drugs. Kobielnik parked behind a Tarpon Avenue office building where his wife worked. He ordered the woman out of the car, searched her for drugs and then raped her, the woman later told detectives.

Back inside the car, the woman, who is not identified in documents, began to cry. "What are you crying about?" she said Kobielnik asked her. "I can get you some drugs."

He drove to Bank of America, withdrew $10, and offered her the money. She didn't take it.

Kobielnik drove her home. After he left, she headed downtown on a bike and flagged down an officer.

• • •

Investigators submitted evidence from that night, including Kobielnik's clothes, to a lab for analysis. They swept the scene for fingerprints. No trace of Kobielnik's DNA or fingerprints was found.

But an official conducting a polygraph test on Kobielnik detected "deception" when he responded to questions about having sexual contact with the woman, documents show.

Detectives told Kobielnik he had failed the exam. "He did not act surprised," records state.

Police told prosecutors that Kobielnik should be charged. The State Attorney's Office declined.

"Based on the totality of the facts and circumstances," one document reads, "successful prosecution is unlikely."

• • •

Kobielnik, 37, has been in the Pinellas County jail for nearly 30 days.

On July 26, he picked up a woman near Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard and Highland Avenue in Clearwater, showed her a badge and firearm, handcuffed her and sexually assaulted her, the Sheriff's Office said.

Days after his arrest, a second woman identified him as the person who attacked her on May 13. In that case, Kobielnik picked her up in the area of S Hillcrest Avenue in Clearwater, told her he was an officer, and then handcuffed and raped her, the Sheriff's Office said.

His bail is set at more than $1 million.

Contact Laura C. Morel at [email protected] or (727)445-4157.

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