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Rift with judge results in charges

A man who blames Circuit Judge Mark Shames for taking away his right to see his children is charged with stalking.

By WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 10, 2000


LARGO -- In a battle against the judge he blames for taking his children out of his life, William E. Rau finally went too far, prosecutors say.

Pinellas prosecutors this month charged the Bradenton man with felony aggravated stalking for sending Circuit Judge Mark Shames messages through the judge's office and wife despite court orders not to do so.

Rau, 49, also was charged with misdemeanor stalking for a pattern of harassment before Shames won injunctions ordering Rau to stay away from Shames and refrain from sending messages.

Rau, who was arrested this week, is being held without bail in Manatee County until he can be transferred to the Pinellas County Jail.

Shames, who currently presides over criminal cases, declined to comment.

Rau openly acknowledges that he despises Shames and admitted he may once have told a Pinellas sheriff's detective, "If I had a gun, I would love to blow his f---ing brains out."

But the limo driver insists he is no threat to the judge.

Rau lost a bitter battle last year to win visitation with his two sons, who live in another state with his ex-wife, whom he divorced in 1995.

Rau's ex-wife accused him of molesting the boys, which he denied. In October 1998, Shames ruled against Rau and forbade him from visiting the children, whose ages are 9 and 12.

Then Rau, Shames said, began stalking him.

Rau would appear in his courtroom and glare at him, Shames said. According to police, Rau would come to Shames' office uninvited or follow the judge to the courthouse cafeteria.

Rau also sent malicious letters to the judge littered with obscenities, police said. On Dec. 24, Rau acknowledged placing toys on Shames' lawn with a note asking the judge to send them to his children.

In late December, however, Shames asked a Hillsborough County judge to issue an injunction ordering Rau to stay away from him. Shames said he and his family feared for their safety.

Shames went to Hillsborough to avoid a conflict of interest with his own colleagues in Pinellas.

While a temporary injunction was granted until a hearing on a permanent injunction could be held on Jan. 11, police said, Rau sent another harassing letter to Shames in violation of the temporary order.

The letter, sent to Shames' home, was addressed to the judge's wife.

Then on Feb. 1, after a permanent injunction had been issued, Shames' received at his office a package with a picture of Rau's children, police said. The picture was accompanied by a note saying the children had been "rendered fatherless" by "ignorance and gender bias," police said.

The letter and package sent after the two injunctions were issued amount to felony aggravated stalking, prosecutors said. If convicted, Rau faces up to five years in prison on the charge.

The stalking before the two injunctions amount to misdemeanor stalking, prosecutors said.

Rau, who called the injunction against him a violation of his right to free speech, is permanently barred from coming within a half mile of Shames, his family, his home or any of Pinellas' three courthouses.

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