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Teen involved in controversial sex case blasts Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober

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Less than a week after the mother of a sex crime victim issued a statement bashing Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober, the victim in that case has come forward with her own critical statement, and it’s equally as vitriolic towards the GOP incumbent, now in a spirited race for his political life.

“The fact is Mr. Ober, that as a result of my time with you and your administration I have felt judged, ridiculed, blamed, dismissed, and uncared for time and time again,” the unidentified victim said in a statement sent to SaintPetersBlog Wednesday.

The teenage girl was 17 at the time of the alleged incidents between herself and Maryland resident Alexander Pelzer, who was 26. Ober’s office said they first learned the girl maintained an online relationship with Pelzer, before ultimately traveling to meet him outside of Florida.

In a timeline presented by the state attorney’s office last week, the office determined in January no criminal charges could be filed on child pornography “or any of the other crimes previously discussed.” However, the office continued to research the case, and ultimately charged Pelzer in late April. He was apprehended in May.

Ober has maintained agents decided to reopen the case before WTSP’s Mike Deeson reported it appeared his office had decided to drop the case.

At a Tampa Tiger Bay forum 12 days ago, Ober’s Democratic opponent, Andrew Warren, accused Ober of negligence in the case, saying it took that media report to get him to investigate the allegations. Ober disputed that charge, but since then has had to play defense. Warren has kept the story in the news — as has the victim’s mother, and now the victim herself, with their respective statements criticizing his office.

The teenage girl and her mother first brought the case to the attention of radio personality Todd Clem (better known as Bubba the Love Sponge), who ultimately tipped off Deeson about the story (In her statement, which you can read below, the victim identifies the radio personality as “BTLS Radio”).

Here is her statement:

September 12, 2016

Dear Mr. Ober,

It is often considered a baffling thought as to why women so often do not report crimes of a sexual nature. The idea being that reporting will bring protection to the victim, that it will bring closure, and that justice will be served. Prior to my time with you and your administration, I would have thought the same things, and assumed these women would unanimously be better off for reporting. Unfortunately, now more than ever, I understand.

The fact is Mr. Ober, that as a result of my time with you and your administration I have felt judged, ridiculed, blamed, dismissed, and uncared for time and time again. I have had people look at me and say that I gave consent in a scenario where consent could not be given. I have been asked more times if I “enjoyed it” than the amount of times I was asked of how it hurt. I have spent months living in fear of my case again being swept under the rug, and that the trauma of reporting though this system would have all been a waste. Because despite you saying you “know the facts” and that you now acknowledge a crime was committed, you closed my case. You closed my case and said there were no charges to be pressed, and that there was nothing that could be done for me. After months of being thrown from detective to detective, fighting just to get updates and a call back, I was told no wrong was committed and that I would have been too easy to blame. I was pushed away, and I was not worth your time. It is only thanks to BTLS Radio, and WTSP Channel 10 that you even took a second look. Making it truly frightening to think of all the other victims you’ve surely turned away, that did not have the resources I did to continue to push their case forward.

Late this afternoon, state attorney spokesman Mark Cox issued a statement in which he said that while Ober himself has never met the victim or her mother, the assistant state attorney met with them “multiple times,” all of which were “positive and productive.” The office then provided copies of emails exchanged between the victim’s mother and officials with the State Attorney’s Office (with sometimes severe redactions), which show a very cordial exchange of emails between the mother and Assistant State Attorney Rita Peters, chief of the Sex Offenders/Child Abuse Division at the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office.
In an email dated May 16, the mother of the victim writes, “Anyone that knows me knows I don’t give a s**t about political crap. But I understand things can be politically used especially during campaign times. I’ve never bs’ed you and I don’t feel you have ever bs’ed us.”
Another email dated July 6 has the mother writing to Peters, “I trust you and the SAO completely.”
In their statement issued out this afternoon, the State Attorney’s Office says, “It is unfortunate that the victim continues to be exploited as a political tool. That is not in her best interests, or in the interests of justice.”

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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