Judge Testifies Man Stalked Him

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Mark Shames said he understands some people are going to walk out of a courtroom upset at him or his rulings. Being a judge, Shames said, "is not day-to-day a bed of roses." Still, since becoming a judge, Shames said, he had never encountered anyone like William E. Rau, a litigant who once admitted saying, "If I had a gun, I would love to blow (Shames') f---ing brains out!" On Tuesday, Shames found himself in the unusual role of a witness, testifying in the first day of Rau's stalking trial that Rau had spent more than a year harassing him and his family. "For him to invade my family and the privacy of my family was just beyond the bounds of anything I had ever seen before or contemplated," Shames testified during the first day of Rau's trial. "It scared me and my family extremely." Shames said he found himself the target of Rau's anger beginning in October 1998, after Shames had denied Rau contact with his two young sons during a bitter child-custody case. Rau's ex-wife had accused Rau of sexually abusing the boys, ages 9 and 12. Rau, 49, of Bradenton, who has been jailed six months awaiting trial, is charged with both felony and misdemeanor stalking for what prosecutors call a pattern of threats and harassment against Shames. Rau, a limo driver, also faces three additional charges of aggravated stalking for actions against three others involved in the custody case, including a charge that he painted a swastika on the office door of a St. Petersburg psychologist. Prosecutor Bill Burgess told jurors in his opening statement, "This is a case about our right to be left alone and about one very angry man." Rau's lawyer, Steve Bartlett, said the case is about a man's constitutionally protected right to criticize a judge and seek his removal. He said Rau is a pacificist who tried to vent anger through often harsh words and never harmed anyone. "You're not going to have a stroke if you let it out verbally," Bartlett explained. Rau's day began with a plea negotiation. His attorneys proposed a plea to the charges in exchange for a probation sentence. Rau faces up to 20 years if convicted. But quickly prosecutors rejected the offer. Shames, elected to the circuit bench in 1996, testified that Rau's harassment took many forms, from letters to the judge and his wife to unexpected visits to his courtroom and chambers. Early on, Rau's former attorney had called the judge's office to warn him that Rau was making threats. But Shames said he took no steps to stop Rau, despite often vulgar and unsettling letters sent to his home, office and to others. That changed on Christmas Eve 1999 when the judge was at home with his wife, Barbara. "I was napping," Shames said. "My wife woke me up very alarmed. She said, "There's something on the lawn, on the driveway.' I rushed out and found a half-dozen children's toys, trucks, scooters." Shames said one toy had a note attached, asking Shames to give the items to Rau's children. That led Shames in January 2000 to obtain a permanent injunction from a judge ordering Rau to keep away, and to stop sending letters. Testimony in the case is expected to continue today.

Posted in Uncategorized on Nov 28, 2016