If you didn't see it, Rick Baker came out with a 30-second doozie of an ad Tuesday detailing the 2001 arrest of Kevin King, Mayor Rick Kriseman's chief of staff. You'll find it reproduced on this page.
Seems King, a substitute teacher at the time, sent emails and Internet messages to 14- and 15-year-old girls, asking them to skip school and drink beer with him. Worse, police said he asked the 14-year-old to perform a sex act on him. The story was reported in the St. Petersburg Times Feb. 2, 2001.
The Pinellas County School District fired King virtually on the spot. Plus, King was charged with one count of computer solicitation to commit a lewd and lascivious act and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He bailed out of Pinellas County Jail after posting $5,500 bail.
Strangely, the 22-year-old was never convicted and the judge in the case sealed the records.
Why? Wasn't that a sex offense? We don't know a whole lot more except what King now tells us. No doubt it's all in those sealed records.
Here's the rub: King somehow emerged from this scurrilous event smelling like a rose. Not only did he win the friendship and trust of rising politician Kriseman years before the Mayor's Office came along, Kriseman actually put King in charge of education for the City of St. Petersburg when he became mayor in 2013.
So, a man once fired from the school system for trying to pick up and proposition underage students -- and maybe worse -- is now in charge of St. Petersburg's education policy, giving orders to Leah McRae, the city's director of education and community engagement.
The Times quoted Baker campaign spokeswoman Brigitta Shouppe saying the unidentified woman narrating in the ad "is a former teacher and mother, but is not related to either girl."
Jacob Smith, Kriseman's campaign manager, issued a statement expressing outrage. "... (Baker has) dug up a 17-year old story about a case that didn’t go anywhere and had zero to do with Rick Kriseman. We're confident the people of St. Pete will reject Rick Baker's Donald Trump style lies, attacks, and polices. ..."
Twice in a Feb. 27, 2017 story headlined "I really don't know Kevin King," Peter Schorsch refers to King's "disputed criminal history." He compares himself to King -- two guys who got in trouble with the law, lucked out and rebuilt their lives later.
A "case that didn't go anywhere" and King's "disputed criminal history."
I beg to differ with Jacob Smith, Mayor Kriseman and Peter Schorsch. While I'm a firm believer that everybody who wants it deserves a chance at redemption, I don't think trust is necessarily automatic for the taxpayers of St. Petersburg when a fairly heinous sex charge involves one of their highest ranking public servants.
The Baker ad really is asking about Mayor Kriseman's judgment. And it's a fair question. To repeat, Kriseman first hired King 11 years ago, five years after a mother found the first email from King on her daughter's computer. He knew about the King incident when he made him his legislative aide in 2006 during his time in the Florida House, he knew about it when he made King his chief of staff in 2013.
Instead of sitting back, tsk-tsking Baker's ad, why not demand King to come clean.
If his case really "didn't go anywhere," then show, don't tell. Prove it.
King can unseal the records. He and his lawyers will have copies of the court documents and probably a whole lot more not in the court file.
Lawyers tell me there's nothing stopping Kevin King from releasing everything from that 2001 case.
Certainly if I were a voting resident of St. Petersburg, I would want questions answered. King isn't some desk jockey shut away in the city records room. He's a major player in city government. He's the mayor's man. Show the community everything you've got on this case before Nov. 7, Mr. King.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith