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Judge finds Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco did not violate court order in sex offender lawsuit

Published Apr. 15, 2016

DADE CITY — An attorney's attempt to have Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco held in contempt of court was denied by a judge on Thursday.

Lawyer Patrick Leduc is suing Pasco County over its ordinance restricting where sex offenders can live. A Pasco sheriff's deputy visited one of Leduc's clients, a registered sex offender who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit against the county, on April 4. The next day, Leduc filed a motion asking a judge to have Nocco held in contempt.

The April 4 visit, Leduc argued, was in violation of a protective order signed last month by Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Linda Babb that prohibits county personnel, including deputies, from visiting the plaintiffs in the case unofficially, or offering them legal advice. The judge issued that order after two Pasco deputies visited another sex offender and tried to dissuade him from joining the lawsuit.

The Sheriff's Office, though, said the deputy was just doing his job in April, conducting a regular check on a registered sex offender. Babb watched footage from the deputy's body-worn camera, heard testimony from the deputy and the offender, and then denied Leduc's motion.

"I think this is a great example of the incredible value that 'body cam' footage can have in debunking exaggerated allegations of police misconduct," Luke Lirot, the attorney defending the Pasco ordinance, said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times.

Last year the Pasco County Commission passed the ordinance barring newly registered sex offenders whose victims were younger than 16 from living within 2,500 feet of a child care facility, library, playground, park or a school — more than double the state's 1,000-foot rule.

The next hearing on Pasco's sex offender residency law is set for June 1.