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Still no bail for jailed ex-Port Richey mayor Dale Massad, judge rules again

TAILYR IRVINE | TimesDale Massad appears in court for a motion hearing on his bond status March 14, 2019 at West Pasco Judicial Center in New Port Richey. Massad is charged with attempted murder after after authorities said he shot at a Pasco County SWAT team. Additional charges of criminal attempt, solicitation or conspiracy and using a two-way communication device as part of a crime were brought against Massad on Wednesday.
Published Jun. 10

Former Port Richey Mayor Dale Massad isn't going anywhere.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court Judge Mary Handsel on Monday denied another motion to grant Massad bail before trial. The 68-year-old ex-mayor and ex-doctor has been held without bail in the county jail since his Feb. 21 arrest on multiple charges of attempted murder, practicing medicine without a license and conspiring to obstruct justice.

"We understand that these are serious charges," defense attorney Bjorn Brunvand told the court.

When a Pasco County Sheriff's Office SWAT team raided his house, Massad was already the target of a state investigation into the unlicensed practice of law (he lost his medical license in 1992.) But Massad armed himself and fired two gunshots toward deputies, according to the Sheriff's Office, hence the attempted murder charges.

INVESTIGATION: Drugs, guns and politics collided in the small town of Port Richey. Two mayors went to jail.

MORE COVERAGE: What Port Richey's elected leaders really think, and other deleted scenes from our investigation

His troubles have only grown since then. Massad was recorded in a March 3 jail phone call plotting with then-acting mayor Terry Rowe to intimidate an officer who was part of the medical investigation. That resulted in Rowe's arrest on March 14 and a charge of conspiracy being added to Massad's legal troubles.

Massad's attorneys asked the judge to reconsider setting bail because their client no longer faces first-degree attempted murder charges. They were reduced to second-degree attempted murder. So the defense on Monday took another shot at getting Massad free before the scheduled start of one of his trials on June 24 on the conspiracy charge.

The defense said incidents of theft and burglary have been reported at Massad's home since his arrest. They called in his sister, Darla Massad, and son, Rainey Massad, to testify on his behalf. They assured the judge that, were he freed from jail, Dale Massad would follow the conditions of his release. The lawyers also argues that if Massad were allowed to post bail, he could better participate in his own defense.

However, the judge noted that Massad's sister herself testified she can watch over her brother's home. The judge also said Massad already appears to be "very active" in his own defense from jail.
That's because the ex-mayor is still making calls about his case from the Pasco County jail — which records all inmate calls. Assistant Statewide Prosecutor Rita Pavan Peters called on Florida Department of Law Enforcement Agent Corey Davidson to testify. He said during a record jail phone call, Massad urged his on and off again girlfriend to take a witness in his case to his defense attorney's office, to get them to change their testimony.

"There's nothing inappropriate about witnesses wanting to talk to either side," Brunvand said after the hearing.
The state argued that the judge should not set bail, and the judge agreed.

Massad's waterfront home is the scene of his current legal troubles: Witnesses have told investigators that, while he was mayor, Massad regularly used crack cocaine and methamphetamines there and provided medical treatment.

Meanwhile Massad and Rowe's seats on the Port Richey City Council have remained vacant since their arrests. The council hasn't been able to agree on who should be appointed to replace Rowe, while voters will replace Massad in next week's special election on June 18.

Contact Sarah Verschoor at Follow @SarahVerschoor.

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