tampabay.com

Victim misses start of trial; man freed

Prosecutors drop the case against a man accused of rape.

By JOSE CARDENAS
Published August 25, 2006


LARGO - Prosecutors have decided not to pursue sexual battery and kidnapping charges against a man accused of raping a woman in a vacant lot in Largo last year because the victim has not shown up in court.

Benjamin Patrick O'Donnell, 22, spent a year in the Pinellas County Jail waiting for trial. He was released Tuesday after the victim did not show up for the start of O'Donnell's trial in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court.

Police said that the woman, who is in her 40s, was walking to a 7-Eleven store on Clearwater-Largo Road one night in July 2005 when O'Donnell grabbed her at the corner of Fourth Avenue NW and Ridge Road. O'Donnell, who could not be reached for comment Thursday, maintained that he paid the woman for sex.

Assistant State Attorney Nick Dorsten said the state had brought in experts to try to find the woman but they could not.

"The victim took off on us," he said. "... Ethically, I just had to drop the case."