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Pinellas sheriff’s detective in tainted child porn case quits Michigan police job

The resignation is the latest in the unusual saga that resulted in an accused child molester, James Rybicki, going free.
Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. [Times]
Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. [Times]
Published Jan. 16
Updated Jan. 16

A former Pinellas sheriff’s detective at the center of a tainted child porn case has resigned from his job as a police officer in Michigan.

Michael Alvarez resigned from the agency Jan. 10, said Ann Arbor police Lt. Renée Bush in a statement issued Thursday. Alvarez had been on paid administrative leave since November, when the Tampa Bay Times reported on a judge’s ruling that Alvarez and Pinellas-Pasco prosecutors had lied to obtain a search warrant. The case has since been dismissed.

Ann Arbor police opened an internal investigation into the incident. The agency declined to say what will happen to that investigation now that Alvarez is gone. He could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Related: Judge rules Pinellas detective, prosecutors lied in child porn case. Defendant could go free.

The resignation is the latest in an unusual saga that resulted in an accused child molester, James Rybicki, going free. Detectives and prosecutors obtained a warrant in 2016 to search Rybicki’s home to investigate a possible charge of false imprisonment.

But according to a Nov. 1 order issued by Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge William Burgess III, that was an unconstitutional “ruse” to search Rybicki’s home for evidence of other crimes, including lewd and lascivious molestation and possession of child pornography. Authorities found evidence of some of those crimes, but Burgess threw it all out.

Prosecutors dropped all charges against Rybicki a few weeks after Burgess’ ruling. They were: two counts of lewd and lascivious molestation; and one count each of video voyeurism, possession of child pornography and promoting a sexual performance by a child.

Alvarez, who the judge named in his ruling, left the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office in May 2017 and took a job as a patrol officer in Ann Arbor soon after.

Had Alvarez been in Pinellas at the time of the judge’s ruling, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said he would have arrested him on a perjury charge. But because he is out of the Sheriff’s Office’s jurisdiction, the sheriff said he would refer the case to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office to decide whether to prosecute the former detective.

A representative from the office could not be reached Thursday to comment on what prosecutors plan to do in this case.

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