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New Port Richey police officer cleared of assault charge

NEW PORT RICHEY — State investigators have cleared New Port Richey police Officer John Nohejl of wrongdoing after a female prisoner accused him of sexual assault.

In a letter reinstating Nohejl, Chief Martin Rickus called the incident "extremely unfortunate" and said an internal affairs investigation — which normally follows a criminal inquiry — will not be necessary.

The Police Department had asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the 28-year-old woman's allegations. Rickus said the agency concluded that the charges were unfounded and said the woman would not be charged with making a false report because she is mentally unstable.

The Times is withholding her identity because of the nature of the case and her mental state.

In an interview at the county jail recently, the woman said Nohejl was driving her to jail Aug. 4 after she had been accused of stealing money from somebody in a hospital emergency room. He pulled over to pump gas, she said, and then opened the back door of the cruiser where she lay handcuffed. She said he offered to let her go if she would perform a sex act on him.

The woman said she went through with the act and when Nohejl didn't set her free, she reported him to authorities.

The FDLE, Rickus wrote, determined "the allegation to be unfounded."

An FDLE spokeswoman said the agency's investigation is complete but the report of it is not yet available.

Hours after she was jailed in Land O'Lakes, the woman tried to commit suicide by strangulation.

She has been arrested numerous times in Florida on drug charges, including cocaine and prescription drugs. She acknowledged to a reporter that she is a drug addict. She is being held on $58,000 bail. No trial date has been set on the drug and theft charges.

Nohejl, 31, is a 12-year department veteran. He received a second letter from the chief Thursday, this one about a separate allegation of sexual misconduct.

In April a female acquaintance accused Nohejl of rape. He acknowledged there had been a sexual encounter but said it was consensual.

Prosecutors didn't know who to believe and elected not to file charges. Then the Police Department investigated whether Nohejl violated its general order regarding "off-duty conduct unbecoming an officer."

That charge was not sustained, meaning it could not be proved or disproved.

But Rickus still had words of warning for Nohejl: "It is clear that you could have handled yourself in a more appropriate and professional manner," the chief wrote. "I sincerely hope that in the future you will be more careful with whom you associate off-duty."

Nohejl is the former school resource officer at Gulf Middle. He drew some heat in January when his MySpace page — set up to help him connect with students — was linked to sexually oriented Web sites.

The department investigated how the computer problem occurred but did not accuse Nohejl of any wrongdoing. He continued working at the school until the rape complaint in April.

He had been on paid administrative suspension while FDLE investigated this latest incident. He returned to work on road patrol Thursday.

"I won't say there's no concern (about his conduct)," Assistant Chief Darryl Garman said Thursday.

"This guy's been through a very stressful several months. The supervisors in charge of him will be encouraged to monitor his activities."

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

New Port Richey police officer cleared of assault charge 09/11/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 15, 2008 3:29pm]
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