Investigation reveals detective allegedly had sexual relationship with victim

  • Thu Jan 26th, 2017 4:25pm
  • News

An independent investigation into former San Juan County Detective Stephen Parker alleges that he had sex with a crime victim, showed disrespectful conduct toward her, used aliases to hide communication with her and shared details of other cases.

“This guy will never be a cop again,” said San Juan County Sheriff Ron Krebs. “This is the only time this has happened with Parker here, I am sure. Someone else would have come forward. We went over his past with a fine-tooth comb, and everyone we spoke with had glowing reviews.”

During the application process, Krebs interviewed staff at Pentagon because Parker had previously worked for the military.

“I am just at a loss for words,” said Krebs. “It shocked everyone who worked with him,”

At the time of Parker’s sexual relationship with the victim, she was involved in a trial against her former Orcas Island High School teacher, Gerald Grellet-Tinner. He was convicted of two counts of sexual misconduct in the first degree in June 2016. After the accusations against Parker in July, Judge Donald Eaton granted Grellet-Tinner a new trial. The victim is now 20.

The prosecutor’s office filed an appeal with the state on Eaton’s ruling and a decision is expected in six months. If the order is upheld, a new trial will be launched against Grellet-Tinner; otherwise, his conviction will stand.

The investigation into Parker was conducted by the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office this fall and was finalized in January. Krebs said Parker will likely be decertified as a police officer in the state of Washington by the Criminal Justice Training Center.

San Juan County Prosecutor Randy Gaylord asked Skagit County to consider prosecuting Parker, but the office declined to pursue it. Gaylord excused himself because of his involvement in the Grellet-Tinner case.

“I wish they had chosen to, but we respect the decision they made,” Krebs said.

Russell Brown, deputy prosecutor for the Skagit County Prosecutor’s Office, wrote a letter of explanation for the decision.

“We considered a few different criminal charges,” wrote Brown. “We first considered a sex crime. While there is some evidence that a few portions of the sexual encounters were not completely consensual, we cannot prove any sex crime beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The office also looked at witness tampering but found it would be “difficult to prove.”

“Ultimately when we completed the investigation, we didn’t believe that we had enough evidence to prove a crime beyond a reasonable doubt,” Brown said. “There is nothing in the statute that criminalizes law enforcement having sex with crime victims. A sheriff’s office can take internal action but nothing that extends beyond that in a criminal investigation.”

Gaylord supports the decision of Skagit County.

“The best decisions come from investigators and prosecutors who take a detached an objective view of all of the facts,” he said. “That was done in this case. I have great respect for the work done by the Skagit Smart Team and the Skagit Prosecutor’s Office. I will not interfere with their decisions. The integrity of the outcome requires me to honor their work.”

The full press release submitted by the sheriff’s office is below.

Press Release

An independent investigation into former San Juan County Detective Stephen Parker has concluded that he had sex with a crime victim, showed disrespectful conduct toward her, used aliases to hide communication with her and shared details of other cases.

“This guy will never be a cop again,” said San Juan County Sheriff Ron Krebs. “This is the only time this has happened with Parker here, I am sure. Someone else would have come forward. We went over his past with a fine-tooth comb, and everyone we spoke with had glowing reviews.”

During the application process, Krebs interviewed staff at Pentagon because Parker had previously worked for the military.

“I am just at a loss for words,” said Krebs. “It shocked everyone who worked with him,”

At the time of Parker’s sexual relationship with the victim, she was involved in a trial against her former Orcas Island High School teacher, Gerald Grellet-Tinner. He was convicted of two counts of sexual misconduct in the first degree in June 2016. After the accusations against Parker in July, Judge Donald Eaton granted Grellet-Tinner a new trial. The victim is now 20.

The prosecutor’s office filed an appeal with the state on Eaton’s ruling and a decision is expected in six months. If the order is upheld, a new trial will be launched against Grellet-Tinner; otherwise, his conviction will stand.

The investigation into Parker was conducted by the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office this fall and was finalized in January. Krebs said Parker will likely be decertified as a police officer in the state of Washington by the Criminal Justice Training Center.

San Juan County Prosecutor Randy Gaylord asked Skagit County to consider prosecuting Parker, but the office declined to pursue it. Gaylord excused himself because of his involvement in the Grellet-Tinner case.

“I wish they had chosen to, but we respect the decision they made,” Krebs said.

The full press release submitted by the sheriff’s office is below.

Stephen G. Parker was hired in October 2014 and assigned the duties of a detective in the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office. One year later, in mid-October 2015, Parker was assigned to be lead detective in a case involving allegations of sex between a teacher and a student/victim, then age 19. This investigation led to an arrest and eventually a 10-day jury trial in June 2016. The jury returned verdicts of guilty on two counts of Sexual Misconduct with Minor in the first degree and sentencing was set for early September 2016. In September 2016, the trial court granted a new trial.

In July 2016, a victim advocate in the San Juan County Prosecutor’s Office reported that the victim in the teacher case said she had sex with the lead detective, Parker, between the time the case was investigated and the time of trial. This information was put in writing and provided to San Juan County Sheriff Ron Krebs, who requested that Skagit County Sheriff’s Office investigate.

The investigation began with interviews and a report of Skagit Deputy Lori Sigman. Sigman interviewed the victim and Parker and then concluded that a sexual relationship between the two was denied by each of them therefore it was “not substantiated.” About September 21, the victim agreed to provide a new statement and the investigation was reopened by the Skagit County Smart Team Task Force. Krebs determined that the criminal investigation by the Smart Team Task Force should be concluded before any disciplinary action was taken. In the interim, Parker was placed on paid administrative leave.

The reports of Skagit County and the Smart Team Task Force were reviewed and by letter dated Jan. 3, 2017, the Skagit County Prosecutor’s Office declined to file criminal charges against Parker.

Parker was given the opportunity to provide a statement to Sigman. He was cooperative and attended an in-person interview and also provided a written statement under penalty of perjury in which he wrote that he had no relationship of any kind with the victim. For the reasons stated below, the statement Parker made to the Skagit Deputy Sigman is not credible.

Before the criminal investigation was concluded, Parker resigned from the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, sold his home and moved with his family to Florida. Notwithstanding this resignation, it is necessary that the sheriff report on the misconduct of Parker so that this statement may be provided to the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission and other agencies.

Events of Misconduct

1. Sex with the victim. Within one month after the start of the investigation of the teacher, Parker had sex with the student/victim. During the time between the initial investigation and the trial of the case, Parker and the student/victim had sex five times. The sex occurred on five different days over about two months. During each encounter, Parker was on duty and dressed in his detective clothing. Each time, he drove his police car to the rendezvous, usually giving a ride to the student/victim without notifying dispatchers. He paid for the trips to Orcas and Lopez Island with his county-issued travel card. On the first occasion, the sexual contact occurred at the Orcas substation. On two occasions the sex occurred in Parker’s police car. On another occasion, it occurred in an abandoned building that only the detectives had a key to and would use to observe activity at an adjoining property. Once, he traveled to a neighboring island and paid for a motel room with personal funds but obtained the room ostensibly to “interview a witness.” The victim’s statements of events are corroborated by county travel records, motel receipts, police radio logs and telephone records. Any sex with a crime victim, regardless of age, is misconduct; it is a form of sexual harassment in violation of Section 7.06.06 of the Rules of Conduct of the Sheriff’s Office.

2. Disrespectful conduct toward the victim. The totality of the circumstances leading up to the sex encounters are consistent with the conclusion that the sex was performed without the objection of the victim, although at times the sex is described by the victim in ways that show disrespect and conduct that is uniquely unbecoming of an officer, and was sometimes unexpected, demeaning and embarrassing to the victim. The Skagit County Prosecutor’s Office has declined to file charges of rape, although rape is not the standard of conduct expected of a police officer, and the treatment of the victim with disrespect is not courteous and is misconduct in violation of Section 7.01 of the Rules of Conduct of the Sheriff’s Office.

3. Using county resources for personal purposes. As described above, each time Parker met with the victim for sex he was on duty, using a county vehicle and traveled to and from the place of meeting by charging the travel to the county travel card. Parker used county-issued work phones to communicate with the victim at length making many long phone calls. The phone records show that Parker contacted the victim by phone for approximately 18-20 hours of phone calls over nine months. The phone calls needed to discuss the teacher misconduct case investigation ended in early November 2015. If the phone calls were for work purposes they were not documented in reports and it is misconduct to fail to prepare such reports. If the phone calls personal phone calls, then they were done to arrange for and groom the victim for sexual encounters. The use of county resources in furtherance of a personal relationship while on duty is misconduct in violation of Group II, Section (1) of the County Personnel Rules and/or Section 7.06.03 of the Rules of Conduct of the Sheriff’s Office.

4. Use of aliases to hide communication with the victim. Parker used aliases and alternative means to communicate with the victim for the purpose of hiding his communications including an email under the pseudonym of Jeff Lovell, a Skype account, Facebook, personal email and a personal Tracfone. These types of surreptitious communications with a victim of a crime are misconduct in violation of the duty to perform work at the standard expected of a law enforcement officer in violation Section 7.00.01 of the Rules of Conduct of the Sheriff’s Office.

5. Sharing details of other cases. Parker shared details of some of the high profile, active criminal sex cases with the victim including highly sexually charged notes and messages detailing criminal activities. The victim was asked to translated from Spanish to English some notes of unlawful sexual activity between a stepfather and stepchildren at a time when the case was pending. Parker was well aware that the sheriff’s office has other officers who can perform uncertified translations, and that the sheriff’s office will obtain certified translations as needed. To share evidence in a case with a victim in another case, especially such sexually charged and graphic details of illegal activity is misconduct in violation of the Group II, Section 5 of the Personnel Rules, and gross neglect of duty in violation of Group IV, Section 5 of the Personnel Rules.

6. Communications with the victim not shared with prosecutor or supervisors. Parker talked to the victim by phone during the course of the trial of the teacher. The prosecutor’s office has a victim services unit to provide emotional and logistical support without the need for involvement by the lead detective. The prosecutor said he was not told of these contacts and that he learned of them only when he reviewed the phone records. It is evident that these frequent phone calls were part of the “relationship.” The victim denies that Parker asked her to alter her testimony or say anything other than the truth. Nonetheless, the frequency of the telephone calls before and during the trial of the teacher have the ability to create questions about the content of the conversations that are difficult to answer and for that reason are improper and misconduct. This conduct is incompetence in violation of Rule 7.00.01 of the Rules of Conduct of the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office and gross neglect of duty, in violation of Group IV, Section 5 of the Personnel Rules.

7. Statements to hinder and interfere with the investigation. On Saturday, July 30 at approximately 10:45 a.m., Krebs told Parker that a victim advocate had been told of the sexual relationship between Parker and the victim. Parker was not placed on administrative leave, but he was told verbally that an investigation would need to be done and that he should not contact the victim. In direct defiance of this order from the sheriff, within 15 minutes, Parker called the victim from the county landline phone, and phone records show that he called the victim about 12 times that day. Over the course of the next 48 hours, Parker asked the victim to “fix” the statement to the victim advocate about the sex he had with her. He also told the victim that she and her family could be deported and that if not deported then their life on the island would become difficult. He then talked privately to the victim advocate to discredit the victim and the victim’s statements about having sex with Parker. The Skagit County Prosecuting Attorney determined that this conduct did not amount to the crime of tampering with the witness, but this determination does not mean the conduct was appropriate of a police officer. Of particular concern are the statements made by Parker to the victim advocate that the victim “set up” the teacher and that she was “reluctant” to testify. When asked about these statements, the victim denies that they occurred, and these statements appear to have been fabricated by Parker with the purpose of discrediting the victim. These false statements were made for his personal benefit and they had the secondary effect of creating grounds used by the trial court to grant a new trial to the teacher. The report of Sigman confirms that Parker made statements to discredit the victim and victim advocates and to hinder and interfere with the investigation, and amounts to misconduct was because it was done contrary to lawful order and superior officer and amounts to insubordination in violation of Sections 7.00.01 and 7.02 of the Rules of Conduct of the Sheriff’s Office and is dishonesty in violation of Group IV Sections (3) and (10) of the Personnel Rules.

Other considerations and observations

When Mr. Parker was hired by the former sheriff, he was seen as a person with great promise for the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office and viewed in that light by Krebs when he assumed office on Jan. 1, 2015. He was considered a leader, though sometimes viewed by others as not respecting the chain of authority or explaining what he was doing. The only other incident which led to a verbal notice of corrections was when Parker was viewed as becoming “too close” to child victims by purchasing Christmas presents in December 2015. But his performance in other cases is overshadowed by what happened with the young victim in this case.

The statement of Parker denying any relationship with the victim is not credible. It is contradicted by the statement of the victim and the fact that the victim’s version of events is corroborated by phone records, email, travel records and the recitation by the victim of details of personal and confidential information. Moreover, the events to hinder the investigation are supported by the statements of the victim, the victim advocate, and phone records and were undertaken in defiance of instructions from the sheriff.

Parker has voluntarily resigned before this report was written. The Rules of Conduct of the Sheriff’s Office states in Section 7.06 that misconduct by police officers cannot be tolerated because it weakens the effectiveness of all police officers, erodes public trust and can endanger members of the public or members of the department. Because the nature of the misconduct is so egregious, it is the belief of the undersigned that if Parker had not resigned he would have been terminated for cause, and should never serve as a law enforcement officer in any capacity in the future.