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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Andrew Kobak, 34, went free on $15,150 bail early Wednesday.
Long before the whips and chains came to light, the felony charges were filed, or the sex slave emerged from his Port Richey house, Andrew Kobak was part of the privileged class.
His father was a stockbroker, his brother an investment banker. He lived in a stone mansion on Philadelphia's Main Line. When he fell under suspicion in a salacious murder case in 1996, his family hired one of the city's finest lawyers.
Kobak was ultimately cleared by DNA evidence, and another man was convicted. By then he had left Pennsylvania to elude the media spotlight.
At the time, his mother, Carol Kobak, told the Philadelphia Inquirer he had moved to another part of the country to start a new life.
She wouldn't say where he went -- though Florida seems to lead the nation in new lives started -- but she did say he was working a good job and receiving high praise.
"We've all been very proud of what he's achieved," she said.
He found work at a company that outfits police cars, and a car dealership, among other places. And he became an entrepreneur.
A pornographer, that is, and, authorities charge, a pimp for a bipolar sex slave who signed a contract giving him dominion over her body.
He would soon need another high-powered lawyer.
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This is how the Philadelphia Daily News summed up Kobak's life in 1996:
He was a loner, teased in school, laughed at as a weirdo, who sought escape in fantasies about police work and firefighting.
His friends were limited to a skimpy cast of fellow pariahs. He was unpopular with girls. He lived in a world of crackling police and fire scanners, and rock and reggae music, which he played loudly and late from his home, annoying neighbors on a posh section of the Main Line.
He talked about joining police forces and fire companies, but apparently was not accepted, if he applied at all.
He harbored grudges against people he imagined had done him harm and retaliated by phoning in false fire alarms at their houses.
Kobak's propensity for impersonating public servants was part of what linked him to the murder of Aimee Willard, 22, an All-America athlete who was raped and beaten to death in June 1996. Local papers reported he attached red and blue flashing lights and sirens to the roof of his van and sometimes pulled over fellow motorists. The Inquirer reported investigators guessed the killer may have gotten Willard to pull her car over by pretending to be a police officer.
But the Kobak family hired Dennis Cogan, whose Web site says he's been listed as one of the best lawyers in America, and Kobak was exonerated. DNA evidence pointed to another man.
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In 2003, Largo police say, an officer pulled Kobak over while he was driving a Ford Crown Victoria resembling a police car. The car had a spotlight and working air horn. Yellow and white lights were mounted on the dash and in the back window. Police also found a plastic imitation badge in his wallet.
Police didn't charge Kobak with impersonating an officer, but did arrest him on charges of driving with a suspended license.
Later that year, Largo police arrested Kobak on charges of sexual battery, aggravated battery and lewd and lascivious acts on a disabled person. They accused him of luring a mentally disabled 19-year-old from Illinois for a sexual encounter, pretending to be a police officer and keeping her in his home for 60 hours, injured by sexual abuse.
But Kobak retained Denis de Vlaming, widely known as one of the best lawyers in Pinellas County, and the state dropped the charges and expunged the records. According to de Vlaming, it was all consensual: In a profile on a sex site, he said, the woman stated sexual preferences that would "make a sailor blush."
However, the woman begged to differ. In a petition for an order of protection filed in an Illinois court in November 2003 and obtained Thursday by the St. Petersburg Times, she said Kobak forced her to have sex and refused to stop touching her. A judge ordered Kobak to stay at least 2,000 feet away from her.
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In January, Kobak was ticketed by a Pinellas County sheriff's deputy for the prohibited use of flashing lights. A witness said he was weaving through traffic, flashing strobe lights to give other drivers the impression he was in an emergency vehicle.
He was arrested again Tuesday, this time in Port Richey, this time accused of accepting payment from other men for the services of a 19-year-old woman who had signed on as his sex slave. She told investigators she had performed sex acts on eight other men within four days for $60 each.
Kobak, 34, went free on $15,150 bail early Wednesday. Later that morning he declined to speak with a reporter.
On Thursday, de Vlaming confirmed he was representing Kobak once again.
Times staff writer Chris Tisch contributed to this report. Thomas Lake can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6245.