State Attorney Mark Ober announced Tuesday that former Vice President of USF Health Dr. Abdul Rao won’t be prosecuted by the state after completing an intervention program for first-time offenders. Rao will have to pay $195 in fines to cover the cost of the state’s investigation.
On Feb. 9, Rao was caught on a surveillance camera taking a bicycle from the loading dock of the Johnnie B. Byrd Sr. Alzheimer’s Center & Research Institute. Rao said he intended to give it to someone he referred to as his handyman.
Though Rao said he thought it was an unattended bicycle, it belonged to USF student Christine Dillingham, who was borrowing the bike from Tim Boyd, a doctoral student.
After an investigation by the University and police, Rao resigned, signing a $50,000 settlement.
Rao’s crime was a first-time misdemeanor offense, and the state’s decision not to prosecute him was the correct one.
Losing his role as senior associate vice president of USF Health, vice dean of research and director of the School of Basic Biomedical Sciences, a salary of $384,280 and his reputation at USF is enough punishment.
Boyd, however, said Rao should be prosecuted for his actions.
“I would have filed charges on anyone who had stolen my bike,” Boyd said. “If it had been anyone else at the University, they would have been prosecuted.”
Rao served a normal — and fitting — penalty for a misdemeanor offense like stealing a bicycle. He completed 18 hours of community service at the American Cancer Society and paid his fines, said his attorney Stephen Romine.
It’s good that Rao can move on with his life despite his actions. He now works at the Institute of Women’s Health of North America in Orlando as chief executive officer and executive director, Romine said.
Those who believe Rao should be prosecuted further are wrong, considering he has already had to leave Tampa with his family — and move to another city — to find work.
Taking the bicycle was certainly a mistake, but it wasn’t a vicious crime or one that is likely to cause serious or permanent damage. Everyone involved should be content with the decisions the state has made and the penalties Rao has faced for his actions.