Advertisement
  1. Pasco

Ex-Port Richey mayor Dale Massad convicted of obstruction; more trials to come

Ex-Port Richey mayor Dale Massad appears in court for a bond hearing on March 14 at the West Pasco Judicial Center. He was found gulty of obstruction of justice by a jury on Tuesday, and more trials are to come. [Times 2019]
Ex-Port Richey mayor Dale Massad appears in court for a bond hearing on March 14 at the West Pasco Judicial Center. He was found gulty of obstruction of justice by a jury on Tuesday, and more trials are to come. [Times 2019]
Published Jun. 25

NEW PORT RICHEY — Jurors leaned forward Tuesday and listened to a phone call recorded from inside the Pasco County jail. The muffled ringtones ended when acting Port Richey Mayor Terrence Rowe picked up the phone.

Ex-mayor Dale Massad greeted him in his deep thick Southern accent. They exchanged chuckles and vulgarities as Massad talked about how much he hated being in jail.

Then Massad got down to business: He asked Rowe to look into Port Richey Officer Donald "Kenny" Howard, who helped investigate allegations that Massad was practicing medicine without a license.

"I don't know why," Massad said, "but he is in on everything."

"I'm on it," Rowe replied.

"Anything you can do is good," Massad said.

The call lasted 14 minutes. It took the jury about 50 minutes to convict Massad of obstruction of justice and unlawful use of a two-way communications device. The trial lasted one day and the verdict was read at about 6 p.m.

This is just the start of Massad's legal problems: He still faces trial on charges of attempted murder and practicing medicine without a license.

TAMPA BAY TIMES INVESTIGATION:

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

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

The phone call was recorded on March 3. This trial was held first because Massad's attorneys exercised his right to a speedy trial in the obstruction case. Attorneys waived his right to a speedy trial for the other charges.

The prosecution and defense spent Tuesday's trial analyzing and arguing about the recorded phone call as if it were the prose of a famous author.

"This doesn't go down without someone paying for it," said Assistant Statewide Prosecutor Rita Pavan Peters, quoting Massad from the recorded call.

Someone had to pay, she said, and that person was a law enforcement officer.

Massad's attorneys, Denis M. deVlaming and Bjorn Brunvand, argued that the call couldn't have constituted obstruction of justice because Massad was simply telling Rowe to obtain the officer's personnel files. What, they told the jury, is illegal about acquiring public records?

The defense also argued that Massad's arrest was the result of a conspiracy orchestrated against him in retaliation for his desire to cut the Port Richey Police Department's budget and use that money to fund a dredging project. City officials wanted the mayor out of office, the lawyers said.

The state countered by saying Rowe tried to acquire those records indirectly, without going through the proper protocols. They argued Rowe abused his position as acting mayor, which he assumed after Massad's Feb. 21 arrest. That's when authorities said Massad, who lost his medical license decades ago, fire gunshots toward the Pasco County Sheriff's Office SWAT team raiding his home in the unlicensed practice of medicine investigation.

Howard, the police officer who was the subject of the jailhouse phone call, told the jury that his ears perked up when he heard his name on the recording.

"I thought they would be coming after me any way they could," he said.

Massad's attorneys tried to discredit Howard, arguing he was hired illegally. The officer had a DUI misdemeanor arrest from over a decade ago that should have prevented his hiring, they said.

Port Richey Police Chief Gerard DeCanio testified that Howard was legally hired, saying a misdemeanor arrest does not disqualify applicants.

Massad will continue to be held in jail without bail, pending his next trials. However, Tuesday's conviction could result in prison time. Meanwhile the city of Port Richey is moving forward. The new mayor, Scott Tremblay, was sworn in Monday.

The ex-mayor himself did not testify based upon the advice of his attorneys, he told Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court Judge Mary Handsel. But he said he could have.

"I could testify," Massad said. "I don't understand it all very well, obviously, so I'm just going to take their advice.

"Everything about law is contrary to the way I think."

Contact Paige Fry at pfry@tampabay.com. Follow @paigexfry.

TAMPA BAY TIMES COVERAGE: THE DALE MASSAD CASE

Port Richey mayor 'lucky he's not dead' after shots fired during FDLE arrest

Ex-Port Richey mayor held without bail; says he didn't mean to shoot at deputies

Not a rerun: A second Port Richey mayor is under arrest

Port Richey ex-mayor, acting mayor conspired in jailhouse call, agents say

Ex-Port Richey mayor Dale Massad used crack cocaine and meth, new records show

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Rendering of Encompass Health Corporation's planned 37,000-square-foot facility in Land O' Lakes [Pasco EDC]
    News and notes on local businesses
  2. More than 1,300 summer and fall graduates were eligible to participate in the morning or afternoon commencement ceremonies Dec. 11 at the Pasco-Hernando State College New Port Richey campus. Approximately 345 degrees and certificates were conferred. [MICHELE MILLER  |  Times]
    Two ceremonies were held at the New Port Richey campus.
  3. Rocky, Sally Mae, Marsali and Paisley are available for adoption at area shelters. [Times]
    Shelter pet offerings throughout Tampa Bay
  4. Jonathan Aldea Valdes [Pasco County Sheriff's Office]
    Troopers said Jonathan Aldea Valdes overcorrected into the southbound lanes of U.S. 301, hitting and killing Lauren Simone Lee.
  5. Steven Irizarry Marin, pictured after his arrest in 2018, was convicted by a jury last week of second-degree murder. He will be sentenced next month.
    Steven Marin will be sentenced next month. He faces 25 years to life in prison.
  6. Pinellas County Commission chairwoman Karen Seel said a Tampa economic development group's recent decision to put "Tampa Bay" into its name "does great harm to the progress we have made on regional collaboration."
    But in Tampa, the chief executive officer of the nonprofit, government-supported economic development group is giving no sign of backing off the new name.
  7. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. [Tampa Bay Times]
    A hiker found skeletal remains at Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park Thursday morning, Pasco sheriff’s officials reported.
  8. State Road 52 was closed for an hour and a half Thursday morning after a car hauler overturned. [Florida Highway Patrol]
    The driver lost control of his vehicle as he tried to turn into the Flying J parking lot.
  9. Chris Poole, of Land O' Lakes, is the newest Pasco Planning Commission member. [Chris Poole]
    Geologist Chris Poole of Land O’ Lakes is chosen from among 14 applicants.
  10. The new Maydell Drive Bridge will be a multi-use bridge to cater to cars, bicyclists and pedestrians with travel lanes, 8-foot shoulders, and a barrier-separated 5' sidewalk & 10' trail. [Hillsborough County]
    Hillsborough County closed the bridge in December 2015 after an independent engineering study found it was structurally unsound.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement