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Charges against sisters dropped after arrest ruling

Prosecutors have agreed to drop charges against two sisters arrested outside a lounge two years ago. Prosecutors made the decision after a Pinellas deputy repeatedly contradicted himself in court. In a document mailed to defense attorneys, Pinellas prosecutor Richard Sheinis said he dropped the charges because of a recent ruling that Pinellas deputy Michael Bailey had arrested one of the women illegally. In his ruling, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Horace A. Andrews said Bailey sometimes "contradicted his own testimony."

"Basically, on every key point on which he was cross-examined, he couldn't give a logical explanation for the discrepancy in his testimony," said Jeff Albinson, a St. Petersburg defense lawyer who represented one of the women. "When you make something up, it's illogical because you can't do it perfectly."

Pinellas County Sheriff Everett Rice shifted Bailey from patrol to administrative duty last week.

"The sheriff felt that both the judge and the state had a problem with (Bailey's) credibility," said sheriff's spokesman Greg Tita. "The sheriff felt that the county is best served having Bailey at the front desk. . . . Now the sheriff is in the process of reviewing that situation."

Bailey arrested Denise Ann Giallourakis, 38, and Diane Baratta, 42, on Dec. 16, 1989, outside September's Lounge on U.S. 19. Bailey said he saw them leaning against each other and talking loudly in the parking lot.

Bailey said in court records that the women appeared to be drunk. After an increasingly hostile confrontation, Bailey arrested Giallourakis, he said in a deposition. When Baratta tried to stop him, he arrested her as well, he said.

Both women, screaming and crying, handcuffed and shackled, were taken to the Pinellas County Jail, according to court records.

Authorities found a pipe in one of the women's purse. Testing showed that the pipe contained a microscopic amount of cocaine.

Giallourakis, of Tarpon Springs, was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest without violence, possession of paraphernalia and possession of cocaine.

Baratta, of Palm Harbor, was charged with disorderly conduct, obstruction, resisting arrest without violence and possession of paraphernalia.

Defense attorneys said Bailey had no reason to confront the women. They said the sisters merely were comforting each other outside the bar because Giallourakis' husband was recovering from open-heart surgery.

Defense attorneys also argued that Bailey and other authorities contradicted themselves. It was never clear, for example, whether the pipe was taken from one of the purses at the scene or whether it was retrieved at the jail, they said.

Although Giallourakis first was charged with possessing the pipe, Baratta later provided a sworn statement saying it was hers. Both women maintained they never used the pipe for cocaine.

Albinson contended that a trace amount of cocaine was found on the pipe because Bailey placed it on his dashboard and on an evidence table where other paraphernalia had been placed in the past.

Regardless of where the pipe was found, Judge Andrews said in a ruling last week that the search of the purses was illegal. In a ruling only on the Giallourakis case, the judge said the search was improper because Bailey had no probable cause to arrest Giallourakis.

Prosecutors said they dropped the charges against Baratta because the charges "arose out of the same series of events."

Andrews' ruling came after Giallourakis' attorney, Robert Merkle, presented several witnesses who said Bailey had harassed them during arrests. The witnesses, all women, said Bailey was rough and abusive.