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September 7th, 2016

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

ICYMI: BREAKING State Attorney Mark Ober Criticized a 15-Year-Old Rape Victim

http://www.cltampa.com/news-views/politics/article/20832680/did-hillsborough-state-attorney-mark-ober-blame-an-underage-statutory-rape-victim

Tampa (September 6, 2016)– State Attorney Mark Ober made controversial comments about a fifteen-year-old rape victim according to a report released Monday by Tampa Bay Creative Loafing that questions whether he blamed the victim for her years of sexual assault at the hands of an older man.

During the debate last Friday at Tampa’s Tiger Bay Club, Ober said of the minor victim, “She was with him voluntarily.  She flew to see him.”

Andrew Warren, who faces Ober in the upcoming election for State Attorney took strong exception, saying, “It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. Their child is lured by an online predator, turned into a sex slave, and repeatedly raped, and not only did the State Attorney mishandle the case, but then criticized the victim.  It’s hard to believe.”

Background:

The underlying story initially came to light this past February by WTSP-10 News Reporter Mike Deeson.  At that time, Deeson interviewed the 15-year-old girl’s mother and reported how the 15-year-old “became infatuated with a YouTube musician [named Alex Pelzer] and started to exchange texts with him that led to sexually explicit photos, videos and a relationship.”[1]  Deeson reported that the victim’s mother says Pelzer “treated her like his slave.”[2]  When the victim’s mother discovered what was happening, her daughter told her, “My master will punish me or be mad if I don’t respond.  And then in the same second she looked up at me and said, 'Mommy, help.' and I just hugged her.”[3]

In January, the State Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute the case despite the fact that the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Report contained substantial evidence detailing the crimes.[4]  After WTSP-10 ran multiple stories about the case including interviews with the victim’s mother, the State Attorney’s Office decided to re-open the investigation and eventually filed charges.

At Friday’s forum, Warren took Ober to task for his handling of the investigation, saying “justice was delayed for that victim and that family … while a sexual predator was allowed to potentially commit more violations” and questioning whether Ober would have ever prosecuted but for the news coverage shaming him into doing so.[5]  In response, Ober tried to downplay the egregiousness of the crime by implying that the victim shared responsibility because she acted “voluntarily.”


[1] WTSP-10 News, Feb. 9, 2016 (available to view here).

[2] WTSP-10 News, Feb. 9, 2016  

[3] WTSP-10 News, Feb. 9, 2016

[4] Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, General Occurrence Report, Jan. 19, 2016 (GO # HS-2015-705389)(available for download here).

[5] Tiger Bay Club video (available to view here)


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