Officer absolved in MySpace porn case

The site was meant to be a safe haven for kids.

By Jeffrey S. Solochek, Times Staff Writer
Published February 22, 2008

NEW PORT RICHEY - Gulf Middle School resource officer John Nohejl has been cleared of any wrongdoing after a pornographic Web site turned up on his student-oriented MySpace page.

The Attorney General's cyber crimes unit looked into the situation and "said our officer didn't do anything wrong," New Port Richey police Chief Martin Rickus said Thursday.

That put an end to the case that began a month ago when an anonymous caller complained to the St. Petersburg Times that her son had accessed X-rated Web sites through Nohejl's MySpace page, a page that both school and police officials had approved to reach out to students.

Nohejl, contacted at Gulf Middle on Thursday, said he didn't want to talk about the case that put him into the media spotlight.

"There's nothing really to say," Nohejl said. "I didn't do anything."

That was the message that quickly emerged from his defenders a month ago, even as Nohejl remained silent.

Bonnie Lang, president of Kids Come First Florida chapter, said at the time that Nohejl was working hard to protect children and give them a place to contact if they needed help. She added that it's impossible to control what appears on a MySpace friend's page, and unless you check daily, you could end up with something completely different than what you approved.

But officers like Nohejl need to be on MySpace, Lang insisted.

"Wherever the predators are, that's where law enforcement needs to be," she said. "Because if we go away, predators have complete reign over anything they want to do."

That was Rickus' message Thursday, too, as he talked about the end of the investigation into Nohejl's page.

Being on MySpace matters, the chief said, and the use of the social networking site and others like it have become staples in school resource officers' tool boxes to stay current with the teens around them. He expected Nohejl to maintain his presence there unless or until it becomes more hassle than it's worth.

"We just want him to use caution in the future," Rickus said.

The situation with Nohejl's MySpace page led to an offshoot story when one of his Web defenders rooted around the Pasco school district Web site to see whether it was clean, and found a link from Gulf Middle's resources page to a gay porn site. Superintendent Heather Fiorentino immediately ordered the site closed down, and had her staff review every link from the district site to see where they went.

It turned out that the link from Gulf Middle's page was the only one discovered to go to a porn site. It appeared to have happened because the domain name for the site, which once was educational, expired and was snapped up by a internet pornography operator.

Fiorentino said Thursday she was pleased to learn Nohejl had been cleared. She added that she also was glad that the investigations into his MySpace page and the school's Web site took place, as they reinforced to everyone the need to follow existing procedures and to improve them.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or 813 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.