Submitted by the San Juan County Prosecuting Attorney
On Friday, April 21, Judge Donald Eaton dismissed the charges against Gerald Grellet-Tinner for two counts of sexual misconduct with a minor. The charges stemmed from a report in 2015 that Grellet-Tinner allegedly had sex with a student when he was a teacher at the Orcas Island High School.
The court said the case presents a classic example of a “miscarriage of justice” and that it was the responsibility of one person – former Detective Stephen Parker.
At a trial in June 2016, a jury convicted Grellet-Tinner. While awaiting sentencing, County Prosecutor Randall Gaylord learned of a report that the student/victim had a relationship with the lead detective Stephen Parker. Upon further investigation, the relationship was denied by Det. Parker and the victim/student.
A report was prepared by a Skagit Deputy Lori Sigman, which was shared with Judge Eaton and defense lawyer Mr. Robert Butler. Mr. Butler made a motion to dismiss or for a new trial. Judge Eaton ruled that the verdict would be set aside and a new trial ordered. The second trial was scheduled to begin on May 30.
Judge Eaton remarked on the depth that county prosecutor and sheriff went to uncover the details of what actually happened between Det. Parker and the victim. The materials provided to the judge explained that after the court’s ruling for a new trial, that victim/student had a lengthy interview with Mr. Gaylord, another deputy prosecutor and then investigators from Skagit County Smart Team and she revealed details of her relationship that included sexual encounters and many communications by telephone, email, Skype, and Facebook. These details were corroborated with phone and travel records.
Det. Parker left the department voluntarily in December 2016, and after that, the sheriff issued a broad statement disavowing the conduct of Det. Parker as contrary to many county policies and procedures.
Mr. Butler renewed the motion this time arguing that the misconduct by Det. Parker could not be corrected in a new trial. Prosecutor Gaylord acknowledged egregious misconduct by Det. Parker on this case that was hidden by Det. Parker and the student/victim. The court ruled the misconduct was prejudicial because the victim and Det. Parker could each be questioned and impeached with their relationship.
The court said while a fair trial was possible based upon the information known in early September, the additional information that came to light in the fall of 2016 “materially affects the defendant’s right to a fair trial.” Accordingly, the court dismissed the case with prejudice, which means these charges cannot be refiled.