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Oscar Olea’s bid to be released on bond took a bizarre turn Tuesday, when prosecutors acknowledged altering copies of victims’ recorded police statements that should have been disclosed to the gymnastics coach’s defense lawyers. 

Olea, 38, faces up to life in prison on sexual battery charges against the teens, who allege they were abused more than a decade ago. 

Assistant State Attorney Natalie Snyder told the court that the voices were disguised to protect the accusers’ identities.

Circuit Court Judge Alberto Milian was irate, but had little choice but to schedule a fifth hearing Wednesday to decide if Olea can be released. 

“I am befuddled that we are going the extra lengths to create problems in evidence that is supposedly going to be presented in court,” Milian said.

The altered evidence was handed over Monday to Olea’s defense attorney, who contacted the judge Tuesday night. 

“I have no doubt that the defendant in this case knows who the alleged victims are,” Milian said. “It’s getting ridiculous here.” Milian said that both he and defense lawyers need to hear the unaltered voices to properly evaluate their statements to police. 

The court weighs evidence in deciding whether Olea needs to remain in jail – or can be fitted with an ankle bracelet or other security measures – standard practice when defendants require extra monitoring.

Natalie Snyder, assistant state attorney, said video statements were altered on the advice of Lorna Salomon, the attorney who handles public records for the news media at the State Attorney’s Office.

“I will say these are the concerns because of the media attention on this case,” she said.

The State Attorney’s Office expressed concern after Milian turned over alleged text messages between Olea and one of the alleged victims to reporters. 

Milian told Snyder the courtroom is a public forum and that the media are entitled to be there. “We don’t have a star chamber thing. We’re not in Cuba. We’re not in Nicaragua. We’re not in Russia,” he said.

Snyder told the judge, “We want the media to have everything that they’re entitled to.” 

Milian asked Snyder if she had ever seen voices altered except in Congressional intelligence hearings or cases involving organized crime. “I have never seen anybody alter evidence,” Milian said.

The unaltered video statements were handed over to Olea’s defense attorney, Beatriz Llorente,  Tuesday – but only one hour before the hearing. 

Llorente said that she could review the statements – totaling four hours long – with her client and be ready for an afternoon hearing. When Milian said that a corrections officer had to be present during the review, Llorente said she had concerns about sacrificing attorney-client privilege.

Milian then reset the hearing.

Olea had posted a $50,000 bond after his arrest Wednesday, but under a new state law, prosecutors asked for a hearing to keep Olea detained, saying the gymnastic teacher posed a threat to the community. 

Llorente has said she plans to show inconsistencies in the alleged victims’ statements and has suggested the case against her client is tainted by the women’s  interactions with a Miami Herald reporter. Llorente asked Milian to exclude journalists from his chambers Monday to raise her allegations, but Milian denied her request.

After a Herald published a story on Olea, the women filed formal complaints with Key Biscayne police, alleging that in 2011 and 2012 the gymnastic coach had underage sex with them when they were his teen students. One of the women kept lurid text exchanges sent to her by Olea.

He was also a subject of a separate police investigation last fall after parents reported inappropriate behavior with two other students, ages 4 and 7. The State Attorney’s Office decided not to file charges against him in those cases.

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John Pacenti

JOHN PACENTI is a correspondent of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.

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JOHN PACENTI is a correspondent of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.