TAMPA — John Robert Ring Jr., the Tampa political player known as Giovanni Fucarino, whose sex offender past and ties to high-level city officials including Mayor Jane Castor touched off a scandal this spring, pleaded guilty Thursday to a single criminal charge and received a probation sentence.
In a deal with state prosecutors, Ring admitted that he did not properly register his email address and social media page as required by state sex offender laws. Prosecutors dropped two additional charges that had also accused Ring of failing to meet reporting requirements. He was ordered to serve 36 months of probation.
The case stemmed from an investigation that sprouted amid whispers in Tampa’s law enforcement and political community that Ring, a fixture at local political and community events whom many knew as “Gio Fucarino,” wasn’t who he claimed to be.
As Fucarino, he was photographed multiple times at events with Castor and city council members. He had an office at the Italian Club, where Tampa police often dropped by to chat or use the restroom.
He was arrested March 16. The ensuing scandal resulted in one officer’s resignation after an internal Tampa police probe concluded that he knew Ring’s real identity long before his arrest. Further controversy erupted as a court document surfaced stating that investigators found “potential evidence suggesting public corruption” when they searched Ring’s property. Exactly what that referred to, though, has not been publicly disclosed.
Ring’s attorney, Anthony Rickman, said Thursday that Ring never tried to hide his identity. Fucarino is a family name, Rickman said. Ring is proud of his Italian heritage. Giovanni means “John” in Italian.
“He used that name well before any of his legal issues occurred in his life,” Rickman said.
He served prison time related to a 2010 conviction for attempted unlawful sexual activity with a minor.
Since his release in 2014, Ring has strived to improve his life and help the community, Rickman said. He has organized charity events and helped clean up Ybor City. Local leaders were drawn to him because of the good things he did, Rickman said.
“At the end of day, regardless of what name he may have used, he’s still the same person,” Rickman said. “People deserve a second chance. He’s made the best of his second chance.”
Ring, 52, stood beside his attorney during a brief court hearing Thursday morning. He answered a series of standard questions from Hillsborough Circuit Judge Michael Williams meant to ensure he understood his guilty plea.
Ring did not comment as he left the courtroom.