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Pinellas judge’s neighbor another possible victim of St. Petersburg landlord

Three cases in which historic Kress building owner Samuel Boutros is accused of exposing himself to delivery drivers were reassigned to a new judge after the potential conflict came to light.
Samuel Boutros, owner of the historic Kress building in downtown St. Petersburg, has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior by six people.
Samuel Boutros, owner of the historic Kress building in downtown St. Petersburg, has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior by six people. [ DOUGLAS CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Feb. 1, 2022|Updated Feb. 1, 2022

At the start of the year, Pinellas County Judge Brett Szematowicz took over a court division handling scores of misdemeanor cases as part of an annual reshuffling of judges.

Three of those cases were against Samuel Boutros, a St. Petersburg landlord accused of exposing himself to food delivery drivers at his most prominent property, the historic Kress Building at 475 Central Ave.

While on paternity leave that arose the same time Szematowicz was supposed to start the new role, he thought about some conversations he’d had with a neighbor, a court spokesperson said in a statement released to the Tampa Bay Times. She told him about a man she’d delivered food to who “she said would routinely expose himself,” spokesperson Stephen Thompson said.

She believed the man to be Boutros, and she was familiar with the criminal cases against him that Szematowicz now presided over.

Related: St. Pete landlord exposed himself to delivery drivers, complaints say

Szematowicz realized he may need to recuse himself over the possible conflict of interest. It marked the latest wrinkle in a winding trail of court cases accusing Boutros of inappropriate sexual behavior — and the latest potential victim of a well-known St. Petersburg property owner who prosecutors believe exposed himself to at least 11 drivers.

Prosecutors are planning to see if the judge’s neighbor wants to be a witness in the case, said Frank Piazza, county court division director for the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office. While she’s not one of three victims named in the criminal cases against Boutros, the state is trying to use evidence of other alleged exposure incidents to strengthen the case against him.

“That’s definitely someone we’ll want to interview,” Piazza said.

David Little, Boutros’ criminal attorney, declined to comment on the neighbor’s allegations, saying he was told about a conflict involving Szematowicz but no further detail.

“Without knowing the identity of this person or the specific circumstances surrounding these allegations, I will not be commenting on” their credibility, Little wrote in an email.

The criminal cases were ultimately reassigned to County Judge Robert Dittmer. That move delayed a hearing that was scheduled for last month in which prosecutors were expected to present videos of Boutros exposing himself to eight delivery drivers that were obtained during a separate search warrant involving the landlord’s family. It’s now scheduled for March 18.

That hearing had already been delayed several times last year, when the cases were before Judge Theodora Komninos, who was moved to the county traffic division as part of the annual reshuffling.

One of the delays occurred Dec. 9, a couple weeks after the Times published a report outlining the allegations against Boutros. A woman who read the report approached prosecutors, who determined she was one of the drivers in the videos obtained during the search.

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Boutros, 37, is facing three counts of exposure of sexual organs and two counts of committing a lewd act stemming from incidents that occurred between October 2019 and March 2020. A fourth incident occurred and was reported to St. Petersburg police in April 2020, according to records, but prosecutors didn’t pursue it because they couldn’t reach the driver to see if she wanted prosecution.

Each incident followed a similar pattern, according to police reports. The drivers would arrive at the Kress Building with food or drink orders and encounter Boutros nude.

Boutros was also accused of more instances of inappropriate sexual behavior in separate court filings. A tenant of an apartment building he owns at 511 Fourth Ave. S said in a federal lawsuit that in March 2020 he tried to pressure her into sending him nude photos and to perform sex acts after she fell behind on rent.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office also investigated Boutros in July 2019 after his ex-wife found videos of her young daughter — Boutros’ stepdaughter — nude or partially undressed that had been saved to his computer from their home security system. Deputies served a search warrant at the Tierra Verde home to look for evidence of child pornography but didn’t find anything criminal, records show.

Through a lawyer, Boutros said the delivery driver incidents were misunderstandings. He denied pressuring the tenant and denied any inappropriate behavior involving his stepdaughter.