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Ex-Tampa officer loses fight to have charges dropped

By GRAHAM BRINK

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 29, 2000


TAMPA -- A former Tampa police officer accused of falsifying a police report lost a legal battle Friday to have the charges thrown out on the grounds that the prosecutor failed to introduce the written report as evidence.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ralph Steinberg told Melodie Delgado and her attorney David Dee that the report itself was not essential to the prosecution's case, although he added that he would have preferred to see the report introduced. Steinberg said the wording of the report is not in dispute; it's whether the contents are true that matters.

Delgado is accused of falsifying the report after the police cruiser she was driving July 1 collided with a suspect's car. She claimed the suspect had backed into her cruiser. Several Tampa police officers, including Delgado's partner, claimed Delgado had slid the cruiser into the suspect's car.

No one was seriously hurt, but the fender-bender triggered a controversy that derailed Delgado's 10-year police career and helped undermine an unrelated first-degree murder trial.

Because of a pending internal affairs investigation surrounding the crash, Delgado claimed her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination last year and refused to testify during the murder trial. The decision caused a mistrial. The suspect ended up pleading to a manslaughter charge and received an 18-month sentence.

Delgado went to trial last month on a public corruption charge. A jury deadlocked 4-2 in favor of finding her guilty, and the judge declared a mistrial.

Friday's decision left Delgado with two options: appeal or take her chances at another trial, scheduled for next month.

An appeal, Dee said, could take six months or more, delaying any chance Delgado has of getting her job back with the Police Department. On the other hand, if the case goes to trial again, the prosecutor will surely introduce the report, which might be enough for the jury to find her guilty.

"We'll go back and research it," Dee said. "It's not an easy decision."

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