MICHAEL FECHTER and JOHN W. ALLMAN
The Tampa Tribune
The complaint was filed 13 months ago by Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Gregory P. Holder and is one of a number of documents obtained Wednesday by The Tampa Tribune that shed new light on the case.
Holder is now at the center of a career- threatening investigation into allegations that he plagiarized a paper he wrote as an officer in the Air Force Reserve - allegations that he emphatically denies.
In his complaint, Holder
accuses FBI officials in
In another document
obtained by the Tribune, a much-decorated
The detective goes on to tell a remarkable story of Holder acting for two years as an undercover informant for the FBI, saying investigators came to believe that Holder's role had been discovered and that his life was in danger, and adding that he believes the plagiarism investigation is the result of a plot by targets of the probe to compromise and neutralize Holder.
The Justice Department began its inquiry into Holder's allegations in February, the documents show, then passed the case to the Justice Department's inspector general's office.
The detective, James W. Bartoszak, tells his story in a 2 1/2-page affidavit dated Oct. 27. Bartoszak has worked organized crime and corruption cases with the FBI since 1989.
The affidavit represents the first public acknowledgment of the corruption investigation by a member of the task force, although the Tribune has reported extensively on it in the past. It is enormously complex and includes allegations of case-fixing, bribery, prostitution, loan-sharking and illegal gambling. Some legs of it have hit dead ends during the past year. Others are still active.
Previous Tribune stories have examined the sudden death of an eccentric New Tampa millionaire a few days after he became an informant in the probe, a failed attempt by agents to get a since-retired Hillsborough County sheriff's major to take a payoff, the collapse of an investment scheme that cost a number of Tampa socialites hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the arrest this year of a former postal union official and a private detective on charges that they were involved in a health insurance scam.
FDLE Still Pursuing Case
Bartoszak's affidavit does not name targets or provide any other details of the corruption investigation.
But it says the probe ``was halted and the investigation team was dismantled for reasons that were not made clear to me or any other member of the team'' in 2002.
``I am uncertain whether the federal investigation remains open or closed,'' Bartoszak adds.
Moses Jordan, chief of
investigations for the
``We are ongoing,''
Meanwhile, the FBI, the
``We cannot comment on any pending investigative matters,'' said Sara Oates, spokeswoman for the Tampa FBI field office.
Bartoszak also declined to comment. The Tribune obtained his affidavit from the Judicial Qualifications Commission through a public records request.
Detective Praises Holder's Help
As one of several agents working the corruption case with the FBI in 2001 and 2002, Bartoszak had an insider's view of how important cooperative sources such as Holder were to the case.
Investigators approached Holder for help because they were confident he was clean, Bartoszak says in his affidavit. And he proved to be a good source, Bartoszak writes.
``Judge Holder provided us with tremendous leads in this investigation and was always absolutely truthful. As we followed up on these leads, each was exactly as Judge Holder stated.''
Still, Bartoszak writes, the task force was disbanded. At about that time, Holder wrote his complaint to the Justice Department.
``I am convinced that it is more than an `amazing coincidence' that the [plagiarism] allegations against Judge Holder only surfaced'' afterward, Bartoszak adds.
In his complaint, Holder expressed shock ``that this investigation was halted before leads had been fully explored.''
Holder did not say what reasons he had for believing that the investigation had been shut down, but wrote: ``There can be no legitimate reason to have failed to investigate this `hard' evidence.''
Copy Of Paper In Dispute
The plagiarism accusation centers on a 1998 academic paper Holder submitted for the Air Force Reserve. Holder is a colonel in the Reserve and in that role has often presided over court-martial proceedings as a judge advocate at military installations nationwide.
The paper was considered a prerequisite for promotion.
A purported copy of the paper was delivered anonymously to a federal prosecutor handling corruption cases, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Del Fuoco, in early 2002.
Del Fuoco forwarded the document to the Air Force, which later withdrew Holder's designation as a judge advocate. He is fighting to be restored to that position.
In addition, the Judicial
Qualifications Commission, the agency that polices
``It is my absolute belief,'' Bartoszak writes, ``that the [investigation's] targets used their access to Judge Holder's chambers and the computer system to fabricate a phony paper and manipulate the computer system to `set up' Judge Holder.''
Charles Pillans III, a
Ex-Judge Denies Corruption
Former Chief Judge F. Dennis Alvarez, who left office under pressure from the JQC in 2001, said Wednesday that he had no knowledge of an investigation into judicial corruption under his watch, and he dismissed Bartoszak's claim as ``fantasyland.''
``This thing with Holder is a battle between him, the JQC and the Air Force,'' Alvarez said. ``I don't think that has anything to do with anything locally.''
Holder and Alvarez were bitter rivals and were on different sides on a series of scandals that rocked the courthouse about five years ago.
First, a judge accused of sexually harassing female colleagues resigned in the face of a threatened JQC investigation. The JQC quietly began looking into whether Alvarez had tried to cover up the harassment allegations.
Soon a bailiff found another judge who was a lifelong Alvarez friend inside Holder's chambers after hours one evening while Holder was out of town. Holder demanded an investigation, and eventually a special grand jury was seated. It issued no indictments but wrote a scathing report on the courthouse shenanigans.
Later, this judge, too, stepped down, while another one quit over allegations that he had been having an affair with a bailiff in his chambers, next door to Holder's, and that he also had helped raise campaign contributions for the sheriff.
Then, in an unrelated case, another judge stepped down after being accused of meddling in the court case of an acquaintance and lying about it.
Holder spoke publicly about the mess. Alvarez rebuked him for it. Holder also testified before the special grand jury.
And, according to Bartoszak's affidavit, it wasn't long before Holder was working undercover in the FBI's corruption probe.
Soon Holder was meeting
with agents secretly across
But Holder was in danger, Bartoszak writes.
Holder Carries A Gun
``It became obvious that those persons that we were investigating had knowledge of Judge Holder's participation and cooperation,'' Bartoszak continues. ``We had very grave concerns about his safety and the lengths that the targets would go to either harm Judge Holder or attempt to discredit his testimony.''
At one point, agents feared the investigation had been compromised, Bartoszak says. Investigators came to believe that the judge's cell phone was being tapped. They gave him an FBI cell phone to use in its place.
Holder took the danger seriously.
``I was just concerned about the safety of my family more than myself,'' Holder said Wednesday. ``I was warned about that by FBI agents so I warned my family and carried a weapon.''
He still carries it today, Holder said.
Holder's JQC case is slowly coming to a head. After months of legal motions, it is scheduled to come to trial Jan. 20.
Other affidavits filed on Holder's behalf assert, as Bartoszak's does, that Holder is the victim of a setup and question the authenticity of the allegedly plagiarized Air Force paper.
``I am extremely hopeful that ultimately these charges will be dismissed by the JQC,'' Holder said.
Reporter Michael Fechter can be reached at (813) 259-7621. Reporter
John W. Allman can be reached at (813) 259-7915.
This story can be found at: http://tampatrib.com/nationworldnews/MGAHDTMDSND.html