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Dan Sullivan, Times Staff Writer

Dan Sullivan

Dan Sullivan writes about crime, law enforcement and public safety for the Tampa Bay Times. Since joining the Times in 2010, he has covered unsolved crimes, most-wanted fugitives, gun control, and Florida's death row, among other topics. A native of Salt Lake City, Utah, he is a 2006 graduate of the University of Tampa, where he earned a degree in writing with a focus in journalism.

Phone: (813) 226-3386

Email: dsullivan@tampabay.com

Twitter: @TimesDan

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  1. Tampa man charged with faking credentials, testifying for the accused in child sex cases

    Crime

    WINTER HAVEN — A Tampa man who held himself to be an expert in computer forensics, and who testified in five recent Central Florida legal proceedings, has no such expertise, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Thursday.

    In fact, Judd said, the resume of Chester Kwitowski, 57, is full of fictions, from his educational background and professional certifications to military service and time spent working on sensitive government projects....

    Chester Kwitowski, 57, is led by Polk County Sheriff's deputies to a waiting patrol vehicle Thursday in Winter Haven. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd  said Kwitowski falsely presented himself as a computer forensic expert and testified for the defense in five sex cases. Kwitowski might also have testified in as many as 50 other cases, Judd said. "He damaged the validity of the criminal justice system with his lies," Judd said, referring to Kwitowski as "Chester, the defender of molesters." [CHRIS URSO  |   Times]

  2. Hillsborough sheriff's report details prior gun incident at home of Levonia Riggins

    Public Safety

    CLAIR-MEL — Late one night the year before he died, Levonia Riggins stormed into his family's Clair-Mel home in a panic.

    He told his parents and two other people to turn off all the lights and lie on the floor.

    "They coming to shoot up the house," he said.

    The family lay in the dark for 15 minutes before Riggins' adoptive mother, Jessie Williams, phoned authorities. Minutes later, as a Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy pulled up to the quiet residential street, Riggins stepped out and hustled around the north side of the house. It was there, and in the back yard, that the deputy later found a pair of handguns....

    Authorities say Levonia Riggins, 22, ignored numerous commands to come out of the house as a SWAT team descended on the home. [Photo courtesy of Briana Copeland] 
  3. Hillsborough state attorney race sees respected incumbent pitted against aggressive challenger

    Courts

    TAMPA — Ousting an incumbent politician is never easy. They have the name recognition, and usually the money, to overwhelm most opponents.

    That's certainly been the case for Hillsborough state attorney Mark Ober, who has sailed to re-election three times with little or no opposition.

    But this is no ordinary election year. And Andrew Warren, a former federal prosecutor, is putting up a considerable fight in his bid to replace Ober as Hillsborough's top law enforcement official....

    Mark Ober was elected Hillsborough state attorney in 2000.
  4. Hillsborough state attorney recuses himself from Riggins shooting case, citing relationship with deputy's family

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober recused himself Tuesday from reviewing the case of a Hillsborough sheriff's deputy who shot an unarmed black man this month, citing longtime social connections to the deputy's family.

    In a letter to Gov. Rick Scott, Ober requested that another state attorney be appointed to review the Aug. 30 death of Levonia Riggins, who was shot by Deputy Caleb Johnson....

    In a letter, Hillsborough County State Attorney Mark Ober cited ties to the family of the deputy.
  5. Former Riverview middle school teacher accused of encouraging girl to take sexually explicit photos

    Crime

    RIVERVIEW — A teacher at Rodgers Middle School last year was arrested on Monday, accused of telling a teenage girl to take sexually explicit photos of herself and giving her cake baked with marijuana.

    Michael Respress Geist, 31, worked at the school as a science teacher in April and May of the 2015-2016 school year, Hillsborough County School District officials said. That was enough time for Geist to amass a string of complaints from parents, students and other teachers....

    Michael Geist is accused of giving a girl a cellphone to take photos.
  6. Warren issues new criticisms of Ober in state attorney race

    Elections

    TAMPA — For the second time in as many weeks, the Democratic challenger to Republican Mark Ober is accusing the incumbent state attorney of showing insensitivity to victims of sex crimes.

    This time, Andrew Warren, a former federal prosecutor, brought up a rape case that Ober's office handled a dozen years ago. In a Monday news release, Warren said Ober's past comments on the case demonstrated a "concerning pattern."...

    Warren
  7. Ober seeks to clarify comments in flap over sex case in Hillsborough state attorney race

    Courts

    TAMPA — Dogged by accusations from his reelection opponent that he criticized the victim in a sex case, Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober released a lengthy statement Friday defending his office and seeking to correct what he said was inaccurate information.

    "I am committed to protecting each and every victim," Ober said, "including the young woman tragically impacted by the criminal acts perpetrated by the defendant in this case."...

  8. Federal indictment says men burned cross in black neighbor's yard

    Criminal

    UPDATE: An incorrect photo of William A. Dennis appeared on a previous version of this story.

    On Halloween night 2012, a group of neighbors in Port Richey gathered pieces of wood and hammered together a cross. They doused it in flammable liquids, then carried it down the street to the front yard of another neighbor, who was black. They leaned the cross against his mailbox, then set it ablaze....

  9. Mother of victim in sex case criticizes Ober amid contentious state attorney race

    Criminal

    TAMPA — The mother of a sex crime victim issued a statement Thursday critical of Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober, days after her teenage daughter's case became the subject of political sparring in the race for Ober's office.

    Andrew Warren, the former federal prosecutor challenging Ober, brought up the case against Alexander Pelzer at a luncheon last week. He said that Ober's office initially declined to charge Pelzer and only brought sex charges after a TV news report brought to light allegations that Pelzer had sexually abused the 17-year-old girl....

    Mark Ober says Warren is exaggerating the facts for political gain.
  10. In Hillsborough state attorney race, Warren criticizes Ober over comments on sex case

    Elections

    TAMPA — Andrew Warren, the former federal prosecutor running against Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober, is on the attack yet again, this time over comments Ober made last week about a sex crime case.

    "State Attorney Mark Ober criticized a 15-year-old rape victim," read the headline on a news release issued by Warren's campaign Tuesday. The release references a discussion that happened Friday when Warren and Ober appeared at a Tiger Bay Club of Tampa luncheon....

    Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober says his opponent doesn’t know all the facts regarding a sex crime case. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times] 
  11. A taste of Chicago comes to Brandon

    Human Interest

    What I ate: On this visit, the wife and I opted for Portillo's signature Chicago-style hot dogs along with an order of cheese fries and two strawberry shakes. The menu also features cheeseburgers — which I enjoyed in a previous visit — Italian sandwiches, salads, onion rings, tamales, chicken tenders and other assorted sandwiches and sides. The dogs are served according to Chicago tradition: a steamed frankfurter on a poppy seed bun with relish, onions, a tomato slice, a pickle spear and red peppers. The location also serves beer....

    Portillo’s features sandwiches and burgers from $4.89 to $8.69. The restaurant also serves a signature Chicago-style hot dog, cheese fries, salads and creamy shakes.
  12. Hillsborough sheriff's official says Clair-Mel man reached toward waistband before deputy fired

    Crime

    CLAIR-MEL — Levonia Riggins wouldn't show his hands.

    As a sheriff's SWAT deputy smashed through his bedroom window and yelled for him to show his hands, the 22-year-old stayed in bed, wriggling under the covers. The deputy repeated his commands. Riggins slipped between the bed and the wall.

    "The deputy could not see what Mr. Riggins was doing," Hillsborough sheriff's Cpl. Donna Lusczynski said Friday. "But (he) saw him moving around and was fearful he may be getting a weapon."...

    Hillsborough deputies and a passer-by stand near a vehicle that crashed at a Dollar General during a demonstration Friday in 
Clair-Mel.
  13. Tensions rise in wake of Hillsborough deputy's shooting of unarmed black man

    Public Safety

    TAMPA

    Hillsborough County sheriff's officials conferred with NAACP officials and church pastors Thursday night in an effort to tamp down rising tensions over the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man earlier this week.

    During the private phone conference, sheriff's officials assured community leaders they weren't taking sides and would thoroughly investigate Tuesday's shooting death of Levonia Riggins, 22....

    Several dozen people gathered at S 78th Street and Rideout Road on Thursday night to protest the death of Levonia Riggins, a 22-year-old who was killed Tuesday morning during a SWAT raid at a home a few blocks away from the intersection. [LUIS SANTANA  |   Times]

  14. Two are likely winners in Hillsborough judicial races, while third contest looks like runoff

    Elections

    TAMPA — Carl Hinson and Miriam Valkenburg were poised to win Hillsborough County judicial seats Tuesday night while a third race appeared headed to a November runoff between Melissa Polo and Gary Dolgin.

    With more than half of the votes counted, Hinson was handily defeating Robin Fernandez Fuson in the race to replace retiring Circuit Judge Manuel Lopez. Hinson claimed 64 percent of the vote to Fuson's 35 percent....

    Miriam Valkenburg
  15. Hillsborough deputy fatally shoots unarmed man while serving warrant at Clair-Mel home

    Crime

    TAMPA — A Hillsborough sheriff's deputy fatally shot an unarmed man Tuesday morning as a SWAT team raided a Clair -Mel area home looking for illegal narcotics, the Sheriff's Office reported.

    The raid yielded a small amount of marijuana, the agency said.

    Levonia Riggins, 22, had been the subject of a monthlong drug investigation, sheriff's Maj. Chad Chronister said at a news conference. ...

    A sheriff’s spokes?woman says it appears that Levonia Riggins, 
22, was unarmed.