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Wednesday April 16th 2014

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Buzz: Who lied?


The Investigation Report by the School District’s John Dobbs is very different from the earlier reports of the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office.

Last week, the senior staff of the ECSO spent over an hour briefing the PNJ on what happened at Tate High School when the school was informed on March 1 by a concerned parent of a student who said he witnessed an older classmate force a 14-year-old girl perform oral sex in a classroom.

PNJ reporter Thyrie Bland wrote (PNJ, “Tate assault, silence probed,” March 18) that School Resource Officer Bobby Small had told Sheriff Morgan that Tate Dean Venittozzi had only made a passing comment about a possible sexual incident. Bland reported that the school did not call the Sheriff’s Office or provide more information to the resource officer. I was given similar details by the ECSO.

Dobbs report has Small meeting with Venittozzi and Principal Shackle and discussing the incident in depth on March 2.

The PNJ reported Capt. Dale Tharp, who supervises Small, ordered on March 4 the SRO to prepare a report and launch an investigation, after Tharp talked with the witness’s mother. This, too, matches what I was told.

Dobbs reports that school officials gave Small what he needed to complete the report as soon as he showed up to the school for work. He says the SRO didn’t properly report the incident.

Somebody is lying: SRO Smalls, Capt. Tharp, Principal Shackle or Dean Venittozzi. Was the ECSO fully informed about the alleged assault on March 2 or not?

What isn’t answered, or asked, is once the school told the SRO why didn’t the Tate officials insist that the ECSO investigate? Didn’t they run the risk of contaminating the evidence? Shouldn’t the victim of a possible sexual assault be given more careful attention than just being called into the dean’s office?

Another hazy section of the report concerns March 7 when Special Victims Unit investigator Carmona tried to interview the school administrators and, according to the ECSO, was told “downtown” instructed them not to talk about the alleged assault. Dobbs writes that the District didn’t want them writing about something they didn’t see—-but is that really the district’s call to decide what they will or won’t tell a specially-trained sexual assault investigator? Dobbs switches from SRO and SVU several times in this part of the report.

Again – what really happened?

—What is missing from Dobbs’s report is when was the victim suspended? I have been told it was March 2 –which would have been before the SRO or the ECSO had time to investigate it. Dobbs doesn’t explain why the ECSO arrested the suspect, but the school had only suspended him? Dobbs didn’t mention that Judge Goodman refused to give the suspect bail—which is an indication the judge had some reason to not let him back on the streets.

The public has a right to know the truth. We need a grand jury on this—let everybody testify under oath before a truly independent panel. This is too important of an issue—school safety—to be swept under the rug.

I would like every parent to ask: does the Dobbs report make you feel better or worse about your child’s safety in the classroom? If your child is sexually assaulted on campus, is this how you would want your child treated? If your child witnessed such a sexual assault in a reading class, is this how you would want your child treated?

If you would like a grand jury investigation into how this incident was handled, you need to let State Attorney Bill Eddins know:

Office of State Attorney
190 Governmental Center
Pensacola, FL 32501

Phone: 850-595-4200
Fax: 850-595-4212
Email for his Executive Secretary: kisha_murphy@sa01.org