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Accused child molester could walk free if Pinellas County judge throws out evidence

Posted at 5:08 PM, Nov 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-27 15:16:29-05

SEMINOLE, Fla. — A Pinellas County man facing life in prison for child porn charges could walk away free. Judge William Burgess is considering dropping the charges saying a deputy lied to get evidence.

James Rybicki, 63, has been out on bail wearing an ankle monitor since 2016. Judge Burgess says detectives did not have enough reason to search his home for evidence.

On Friday, Judge Burgess decided to push back a decision until December 6th, allowing the state attorney's office to work on the case for an additional two weeks. The State Attorney's Office said Friday they do not plan to appeal the judge's decision to suppress evidence.

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Spelled out over 23 pages, Judge Burgess' order says “false statements” made in “bad faith” by Deputy Michael Alverez could allow an accused child molester to walk.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri says flat out, his former deputy lied to get inside Rybicki’s Seminole home back in 2016 using a different charge to get a judge to sign a search warrant.

“To me it’s very clear. He lied. He committed perjury,” Gualtieri said. “It’s wrong. If he was here in Pinellas County today, I would arrest him and put him in jail but he’s not. He doesn’t work here anymore and hasn’t since 2017.”

Evidence, photos and videos showing Rybicki allegedly molesting a young girl and a 10-year-old modeling a swimsuit in his home will be tossed out. Rybicki’s attorney says the search was a clear violation of his client’s rights.

“You can’t on a ruse figure out a way to get into someone’s house on a hunch you think there’s something in there. That’s just not right,” said Lucas Fleming, Rybicki's attorney.

Judge Burgess says while Rybicki’s alleged actions are “morally unworthy of a windfall exoneration,” he has no choice but to recommend dropping the charges.

Sheriff Gualtieri agrees, yet worries, about the long-ranging potential impacts.

“I hope he gets the help he needs and he doesn’t do these bad acts and exploit these children. It would really really be sad,” Gualtieri said.

Friday morning state prosecutors asked for a status check or a pre-trial to circle back in mid December while they check in with the victim's family. They say they want to give the case every consideration they can.

The judge says they will come back at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 6.

Rybicki was originally charged with child porn, video voyeurism and lewd and lascivious molestation.

Fleming told ABC Action News after the hearing that he is disappointed that the matter couldn't be resolved Friday, but is still confident his client will walk out of court as a free man in two weeks.