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    Police: Man secretly taped talk with officer

    The Tarpon Springs man was charged after he filed a misconduct complaint against some of the officers.

    By KATHERINE GAZELLA

    © St. Petersburg Times, published December 22, 2000


    TARPON SPRINGS -- A Tarpon Springs man involved in a precedent-setting legal case that limited the power of west central Florida law enforcement agencies to seize property was arrested again Thursday on an unrelated matter.

    Tarpon Springs police charged Robert Wojnar, 40, on Thursday morning with illegally recording a conversation he had with Officer Sheila Fowlie, police Capt. Ron Holt said.

    Fowlie did not know that the audio of a Nov. 27 conversation was being taped by a video camera in another room of Wojnar's house, Holt said. It is illegal under Florida law to tape a conversation without the consent of all parties involved.

    Holt said officers had told Wojnar not to tape the audio part of their conversations.

    Police found out about Wojnar's tape of his conversation with Fowlie when he filed a misconduct complaint against her and other officers on Dec. 14, Holt said. He said the department was looking into the complaints and he could not discuss the details.

    Police were at Wojnar's house to look into his claims that his wife was taking their infant daughter out of the state without his permission, Holt said.

    Wojnar was charged with interception of oral communications, a third-degree felony, and was being held Thursday at the Pinellas County Jail in lieu of $5,000 bail.

    Wojnar pleaded no contest in 1993 to possessing less than an ounce of marijuana and was sentenced to two years of probation. In that case, Tarpon Springs police seized his 1990 Chevrolet Blazer.

    In 1996, the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Lakeland later ruled that property may not be seized when it is worth more than the penalty that would be imposed in criminal court. Forfeitures in Florida are civil actions that law enforcement agencies file in addition to seeking criminal penalties for a crime.

    The appellate court ruled that, compared to Wojnar's criminal sentence of two years probation and court costs, the forfeiture of the $10,000 vehicle was excessive. In light of the ruling, police departments in the 14 counties covered by the 2nd District Court of Appeal had to revisit their forfeiture policies.

    The city of Tarpon Springs appealed, but Florida Supreme Court let the decision stand in 1997, and the city had to pay Wojnar $10,000.

    - Staff writer Katherine Gazella can be reached at (727) 445-4182 or gazella@sptimes.com.

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