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Hillsborough County Sheriff Sued In Alleged Political Smear Conspiracy

A third lawsuit that has surfaced against Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister, filed by former primary challenger, Charles Brian Boswell, alleges a conspiracy.

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. – A third lawsuit that has surfaced against Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister, filed by the former primary challenger, Charles Brian Boswell, alleges a smear conspiracy.

Two attorneys, Kennan George Dandar, Founder of Dandar and Dandar, Tampa, and Marie A. Mattox of Marie A. Mattox, P.A., in Tallahassee, are representing Boswell in this case.

In 2020, Boswell mounted a primary challenge against fellow Republican and incumbent Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister. Boswell told a reporter that Chronister had “been proven uncredible and untrustworthy” and was insufficiently aligned with the values of then-President Donald Trump. Chronister went on to win the primary by a margin of 62.4% to 37.6%.

This latest lawsuit, filed July 12, 2022, complains against several Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office officers both individually and in their professional capacities, including Sheriff Chad Chronister, Colonel Donna Lusczynski, and Major Edward Raburn.

The lawsuit also lists Florida Politics as a defendant and individually complains against Janelle Taylor, a journalist with Florida Politics.

Anthony Pedicini and Thomas Piccolo are also named as defendants in the case. Pedicini served as Chronister’s campaign manager, and Piccolo works at Strategic Image Management, a political strategy, media, and leadership firm founded by Pedicini, according to its website.

The alleged conspiracy includes a political smear campaign against Boswell during the time he was running against Sheriff Chad Chronister in 2020.

Boswell is a retired Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office master detective whose troubles began in 2014 when he was demoted, suspended, and docked in pay when re-assigned to the Juvenile Division from the Homicide Division.

The suit states that in 2020, during the primary race, Lusczysnki, through a Political Action Committee (Friends of Chad Chronister) funded a “mass online commercial falsely and maliciously” claiming “Boswell can’t testify in court because his testimony can’t be trusted.” Lucszynski is also alleged to have used co-defendant Strategic Image Management to produce and disseminate “malicious flyers.”

Attorney Dandar said, “When I saw the documents and see what the truth is in all this matter with Boswell, I cannot believe that the Sheriff’s office would act like this. They’re supposed to uphold the law.”

“We have enough to paint a picture that these folks all acted in tandem and were conspiring against Boswell. You ask if we have enough documents – that would be up to a jury to determine, but at this point, we believe that we have enough to weave together a pattern of actions by these folks that the actions they took were seriously in tandem,” said Attorney Mattox.

The lawsuit states alleged employment discrimination and retaliation, starting in 2014 “when co-defendant Donna Lusczynski orchestrated false accusations against him when he refused to lie under oath to support a fellow officer’s false testimony.

As a result, (in 2017), Boswell was forced into a premature retirement to avoid termination because of his refusal to engage in wrongful and sometimes criminal activity including lying, falsifying documents, falsifying suspect and witness interview results, and because he reported the wrongful, illegal and sometimes criminal activities and retaliation in writing and in sworn testimony.”

Attorney Dandar said that contrary to some co-defendants’ public claims, Boswell was not fired by HCSO. “He was forced out due to medical reasons caused by the Sheriff’s Office and the individual superiors,” he said. Dandar added that Boswell left strictly based on his doctor’s advice. “He couldn’t take the pressure they put upon him,” he said.

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The co-defendants Anthony Pedicini and Thomas Piccolo are accused of creating and disseminating the malicious flyers. Pedicini, as Sheriff Chad Chronister’s campaign manager, also allegedly rendered false information to The Tampa Bay Times in an interview, claiming Boswell was fired.

According to the complaint, Pedicini, and Piccolo depended on a published report by co-defendant Florida Politics to create their “malicious” flyers against Boswell. They allegedly also used a Florida Politics image of purportedly false information found in Boswell’s Internal Affairs reports.

The alleged false information against Boswell was listed in an imaged Brady Disclosure, which reports disciplinary actions against various law enforcement personnel.

In the report, HCSO Major Robert Ura filed complaints against Boswell. Ura oversaw Boswell’s performance in his 2014 demoted capacity in the Juvenile Division. Another complaint in the Brady Disclosure involves former Assistant State Attorney, Rita Peters, who filed an unprofessionalism complaint for what she ultimately described as Boswell’s “tenor” when he requested a warrant in a “shaken-baby syndrome” case.

Dandar said, “As I can recall, Major Ura testified that he gave an order to Boswell to have another deputy present and record interviews with suspects, only to later testify that it was a suggestion for best practices, and there is nothing anywhere in the Sheriff’s Office that says you need to do that – but Boswell always did it anyway because he felt it necessary.” Dandar emphasized that Ura changed his testimony in separate criminal case hearings, which eventually led to Boswell’s alleged exoneration.

A news report, written by Janelle Taylor and published by Florida Politics, was described in the lawsuit as having “cited the false defamatory information contained in the HCSO Internal Affairs investigation” which included the Brady Disclosure. The news report further stated that:

“Boswell was named in a Brady disclosure, “which deems law enforcement officers discreditable for purposes of court testimony;” and “suspects were able to walk free because of his [Boswell’s] inability to provide credible testimony.”

The lawsuit says, “This malicious defamatory article would go on to be cited as a source of information for a multitude of defamatory attacks to be launched against Boswell by Defendants.”

According to the court documents, Taylor contacted Boswell, indicating she had accessed his Internal Affairs report. The lawsuit states, “Boswell directed Taylor to court proceedings where she could find documentation proving his assertions (that the Internal Affairs report was false). A second telephone call was then scheduled for May 11, 2020, to allow Taylor time to research the information that Boswell provided to her.”

The lawsuit continues, “On May 11, 2020, Boswell and his attorney spoke with Taylor on a conference call. Taylor explained that she didn’t know how to research court records, therefore, she did not research the information that she had been provided by Boswell. Boswell’s counsel explained to Taylor that the HCSO disciplinary record on Boswell was false and once again Taylor was directed to courtroom documentation that proved Boswell’s assertions. Boswell’s counsel advised Taylor that if she published any false defamatory information about Boswell then legal action would be pursued. Taylor responded that ‘it’s not a good idea to threaten a reporter.’ On May 12, 2020, Florida Politics published a malicious defamatory article on Boswell authored by Taylor which was titled ‘Disgruntled former Sheriff’s detective sets up potential nasty race against Chad Chronister.’ “

According to court documents, “This article cited the false defamatory information contained in the HCSO Internal Affairs investigation,” while making other false statements previously described.

The case alleges that this same article was repetitively cited and used by the lawsuit’s defendants and that Florida Politics and reporter Taylor were unremorseful:

“On May 18, 2020, Boswell’s counsel authored a letter to Defendants, Taylor and Florida Politics, demanding an apology and a retraction. Neither an apology nor a retraction was authored.”

Through co-defendants, HCSO Colonel Lusczynski, Anthony Pedicini, Thomas Piccolo, and Sheriff Chad Chronister, May through August 2020 saw a flurry of alleged defamation against Boswell, according to the lawsuit.

In the lawsuit, Defendant Sheriff Chad Chronister is accused of supporting the smear campaign against Boswell by falsely claiming in a recorded Tampa Young Republicans Club interview that Boswell “fabricated confessions, attempted to get others to ‘fabricate confessions,’ was on the Brady list and not even able to testify, and deemed as “uncredible.”

Dandar told The Free Press that Boswell can, in fact, testify in court.

Chronister also stated in a news interview with Tampa Bay Times that “Boswell is everything that is wrong with politics today and voters deserve to know his record.” He was responding to a question about what he knew about defamatory flyers in circulation.

Attorney Mattox stated, “It is preposterous that he can’t know that his campaign is making false statements or allowing false statements to be made…he would know that…He has an obligation to make sure that the campaign is not in fact defaming him…He signed off on it – ‘I approved this message’ – that is the part of the campaign where you approve it.”

According to the lawsuit, another complaint against Boswell occurred on August 7, 2020.

The lawsuit states that as a private citizen, HCSO then-Captain Edward Raburn, who was later promoted by Chronister…authored a fraudulent defamatory complaint on Boswell to The Florida Elections Commission.

In his letter, Raburn allegedly falsely claimed that Boswell had threatened his employment with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and had committed multiple voter intimidation and corruption-influence voting violations.

The lawsuit continues, “On August 12, 2020, The Florida Elections Commission received the false complaint authored by Raburn. Pursuant to Section 106.25, Florida Statutes, this complaint was deemed as confidential, however; Raburn’s letter was immediately leaked to Florida Politics.”

While Florida Politics ran a story about Raburn’s accusations of Boswell, the court documents say that Sheriff Chad Chronister’s campaign began a defamatory radio advertisement containing previous, allegedly false claims.

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But on January 26, 2021, the Florida Elections Commission deemed Raburn’s complaints “legally insufficient.” The suit continues that, “Raburn was offered an opportunity to provide additional information to correct the ground(s) of insufficiency. Raburn did not respond.”

Regarding the lawsuit, Dandar said, “I think they (the defendants) will see this in a different light as to what they did to Boswell.”

Anthony Pedicini, Chronister’s 2020 campaign manager rendered a statement about the case. He said, “Like his lawsuit, disgruntled former deputy Charles Boswell is a joke. When the truth is on your side, like it is with ours, we have nothing to hide.”

In this case, Boswell seeks compensation for “damage to his reputation, pain and suffering and other consequential damages.”

The second of two previously filed lawsuits, in this case, is still active. Boswell’s original lawsuit filed in federal court was dismissed due to administrative remedies the federal judge felt would be found in the state courts.

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