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Ex-officer pleads guilty in steroid case

(ran SS edition of METRO & STATE)

A former Clearwater police officer pleaded guilty Wednesday to buying anabolic steroids.

John E. Smith, 38, was supposed to go on trial but instead accepted a plea deal offered by Circuit Judge Tim Peters, who sentenced him to two years of probation. The judge also withheld a formal finding of guilt.

An eight-year veteran of the Clearwater department, Smith was fired in 1995 for lying to Internal Affairs investigators looking into a complaint that he made unwelcome advances to a crime victim. The woman killed herself, and an arbitrator later ruled Smith should be reinstated.

In January, Smith was one of two officers who got into a scuffle with Wieslaw Skowronek outside a building where reports of a vision of the Virgin Mary on the windows had drawn a crowd. As Smith and Officer Philip Biazzo wrestled with Skowronek, Smith drove his knee into the man's abdomen, tearing his pancreas. Skowronek later died.

For five days both officers denied striking Skowronek, but eventually Biazzo said Smith used a "knee spike" to subdue the man. While Skowronek's death was being investigated, Smith was caught in February buying 50 tablets of Pronabel from an informer as undercover detectives watched. Some athletes and bodybuilders use Pronabel to bulk up their muscles. This time Smith's firing went unchallenged.

In March, Biazzo was fired for lying about Skowronek. The state attorney's office declined to charge either officer, ruling that the homicide was excusable.