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E-mail assault hits sheriffs

It's no secret that lawyer Michael Trentalange _ the same guy who has his name in ads on every page of the phone book _ is thinking about running for Hillsborough County sheriff.

He hasn't taken out papers to begin fundraising, but said he is seriously considering a run for office.

Trentalange said his wife is pregnant and he is waiting for her to give birth before he announces.

But that hasn't stopped Trentalange from discussing his interest in running for office on an e-mail list to a group of area trial lawyers.

Trentalange's strongly worded e-mail about the Sheriff's Office made its way into the hands of sheriff's Col. Jose Docobo.

Trentalange's e-mail was "pretty derogatory" toward Sheriff Cal Henderson and two former sheriffs , said Docobo, who fired an e-mail back from his home computer.

"I find it appalling that he would make such baseless and disparaging remarks about Sheriff/Senator Malcolm Beard, Sheriff Walter Heinrich and Sheriff Cal Henderson," Docobo wrote. "Three men who collectively have sacrificed over 100 years of their lives in the service of their country and their community."

Trentalange then sent an e-mail to Docobo, saying that the sheriff's race hasn't been seriously contested since 1972, that deputies should have a union and that Henderson is an "absentee sheriff."

"The problems arise because of stagnation," Trentalange wrote. "It's time to change the water in the fish tank before all the fish die."

Docobo said he never received that e-mail.

HOME TO MOTHER: During a slow shift, deputies sometimes try to clear the county's massive backlog of outstanding warrants. Early Wednesday morning, Hillsborough Deputy James Stahlschmidt tried to do just that.

Stahlschmidt rolled up to a home at 4505 W Minnehaha St. to serve an attempted armed robbery warrant on one Eric Welch.

Welch, 23, happened to be driving up at about the same time. Upon seeing the deputy, he climbed out of his car. Stahlschmidt got out of his car. A chase around the house ensued.

Welch started yelling to his mother, who was inside the house. According to the Sheriff's Office, Welch screamed for his mother to open the door and let him in.

She did, and locked the door. More deputies arrived and tried calling the mom. She hung up on them, they said. The ensuing standoff was televised.

When Welch's mom finally agreed to let deputies inside, Welch had taken off. His mother, 47-year-old Sandra Hicks, was charged with obstructing an officer.

Welch was later arrested and faces charges of possession of cocaine, obstructing or opposing an officer without violence and robbery with a firearm.

He remained in jail Wednesday without bail.

DEPUTY VS. DEPUTY: Hillsborough sheriff's Lt. Al Luis was transferred to an administrative assignment after being charged with misdemeanor battery last November.

Luis, 49, reportedly put both of his hands around his girlfriend's neck, grabbed the woman's arm and pushed her to the ground, according to a sworn statement. Luis also grabbed the woman out of the car and threw her to the ground.

The girlfriend is a 25-year-old sheriff's deputy. She wrote the sworn request for prosecution, and the State Attorney's Office recently decided to file charges.

Luis, who started with the department in 1975, will be arraigned next month.

A PERSONNEL MATTER: A 12-year veteran of the Hillsborough sheriff's internal affairs unit received a letter of counseling for not following his own agency's policies.

Sgt. Robert Unger Sr. was accused of using the agency's communications facilities. According to an internal affairs report dated Dec. 9, 2002, Unger said he called the District IV Sheriff's Office and requested a registration query on the license plate of a friend of his daughter-in-law's.

"Sheriff Unger stated he was aware that making a query of this type strictly for personal use was a violation," wrote Lt. Louis Hollinshead of the professional standards section.

According to the investigation, Unger also called his daughter-in-law and left a message on her answering machine. "He wanted her to return the keys to his wife's office and to their home . . . because he would hate for her and her boyfriend to be suspects in a robbery," the report stated.

The daughter-in-law said she was "genuinely scared of what they were going to do next." However, she did not file a formal complaint against the sergeant.

On Wednesday, Unger said the issue was a "personal matter" and pointed out that it is his first internal affairs case in his 28-year career.

_ Got a tip? For courts, contact Chris Goffard at 813-226-3337 or For crime or law enforcement, contact Tamara Lush at 813-226-3373 or