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Case dropped against former vice detective

Prosecutors say the deputy was at a strip club when he identified an undercover agent.

The State Attorney's Office dropped charges Monday against a former vice detective accused of obstructing an investigation the day jury selection was set to begin for the trial.

Pasco prosecutor Heather Smith told the Times she dropped the single misdemeanor count against Matthew Iozzi, who was accused of loudly identifying an undercover agent conducting a raid last July at the Lollipops strip club, because witnesses didn't show up.

"It's possible the case could be re-filed," Smith said, declining to comment further.

But Iozzi's attorney, John Trevena, told the Times that Smith had expressed general misgivings about the strength of the case to him, saying her supervisors had instructed her to proceed with the case anyway.

"It wasn't a witness issue," Trevena said. "The case had been around forever. If they were going to drop it, why was it dropped now?"

Iozzi, a former deputy with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, was at the strip club with his girlfriend when he stood up and shouted that he recognized an agent with the state Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco as a "f------ cop," according to a Sheriff's Office report.

Iozzi denied saying it. Even if he had said it, said Trevena, he didn't commit a crime. According to Trevena, Iozzi did not impede an investigation, because the agents were there to execute warrants from a previous investigation.

"I've been screaming at them to drop it from Day One," Trevena said, and applauded Smith for doing "the right thing" in dropping charges.

Mike Halkitis, Smith's supervisor, denied there was a difference of opinion in the State Attorney's Office on how to proceed in the case. The only misgivings Smith expressed to him, he said, concerned an inability to locate the main witness, a bouncer who heard Iozzi making the incriminating statement.

"No one heard him say it except this bouncer," Halkitis said. "We need that bouncer." Halkitis added: "We would like to go forward, but we can't go forward."