Pinellas Cops Trespass, Destroy the Video, and Don’t Get Charged

Published On March 26, 2013 | By Kate | Articles

The following article was written by Stephen Nohlgren and posted at TampaBay.com on February 18, 2013. As you can probably determine, the comments outside of the highlighted sections were written by me. -Kate

 

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office will not seek criminal charges against four former narcotics deputies forced out of their jobs last year amid allegations of trespassing, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Monday.

In a letter to State Attorney Bernie McCabe, Gualtieri said his office was right to get rid of the deputies, but did not have enough evidence to charge them with a crime.

Among other things, he said, officers were compelled to give statements as part of an employment disciplinary action and Florida law does not allow those statements to then be used to build a criminal case.

“While the evidence in the administrative case amply met the burden of proof to establish wrongdoing,” Gualtieri said, “I have concluded that there is insufficient evidence to meet the burden of proof in a criminal case.”

 

If the trespassers in question were not government employees, it is almost a guarantee that Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and his colleagues would gather enough evidence to charge the offenders with a crime.

 

Gualtieri sent thousands of pages of investigative documents to McCabe’s office in case prosecutors want to pursue the matter further, the letter said. Armed trespassing is a felony.

 

Unfortunately, it is likely that the prosecutor, like Sheriff Gualtieri, has the misconception that badges grant extra rights.

 

The narcotics unit came under scrutiny in late 2011 after they raided the home of Seminole resident Allen Underwood and seized indoor pot plants. Underwood had an outdoor surveillance system and said his cameras had caught Sgt. Chris Taylor and Deputy Paul Giovannoni trespassing several nights before the raid. Taylor jumped his fence, he said.

 

First and foremost, how can possessing a plant justify anybody breaking into a person’s home, stealing their property, or kidnapping them? Also, isn’t video footage sufficient evidence to prove that a crime was committed?
Unless…

 

Narcotics officers seized the DVD images during the raid and Taylor ordered them to be destroyed.

 

I think it’s pretty clear what the incentive for doing that was.

 

The Tampa Bay Times also reported that Giovannoni had dressed in a Progress Energy uniform to gain access to another suspect’s property.

Defense lawyers said detectives had secured search warrants by claiming they could smell marijuana from the street or adjoining property — but were trespassing to get close enough to the houses to peak inside, listen for fans or otherwise make sure indoor pot farms were indeed inside.

 

Well, of course they did. It’s not like they have to worry about being held accountable.

 

During a deposition, one lawyer asked deputy Kyle Alston under oath if he had ever seen his colleagues “jump fences,” and Alston refused to answer.

After the Times reported this refusal, Alston admitted that he and deputy Michael Sciarrino had once broken down a fence to enter property illegally, Gualtieri said.

The sheriff put all four deputies on administrative leave in March, while his investigators looked into the allegations.

Taylor, Giovannoni and Sciarrino resigned in June. Alston was fired.

None of the deputies could be reached for comment.

 

Taylor, Giovannoni, Sciarrino, and Alston were trespassing on Allen Underwood’s property with the intent to do harm to both his person and his property, yet they will not face ‘criminal charges’. An overwhelming majority of the people who are held in cages funded by taxes theft have committed “crimes” that do not have a victim. Is it just me or is there something seriously wrong here?

 

Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office
10750 Ulmerton Road
Largo, FL 33778
(727) 582-6200

 

 

 

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  • t.

    Garrity doesn’t allow for statements made during internals to be used in criminal matters. Sounds like the sherrif did a reply good job

  • BJ

    There goes t. again. Only seeing what he wants to see. The article states, “Florida law does not allow those statements to then be used to build a criminal case”.

    Garrity doesn’t allow?

    No genius Florida Law doesn’t allow.

  • BJ

    Sheriff Bob Gualtieri does deserve a pat on the back though. For firing corrupt officers we should all say, GOOD JOB!!!

  • Shawn

    @T

    This is another case of cops with special protections the rest of us aren’t allowed. If you were serious about the trash in your profession, the criminals would be in jail.
    You keep telling us about how hard it is to be a cop, the high level of discipline, then we get this. This shows what a lie your claims of accountability is. As long as cops only loose their jobs, at worst, for these crimes, cops will continue to exactly this kind of crap.

  • Rich

    Obstruction of justice and vandalism charges against the thug cops is in good order.

  • Rich

    Where does it say that the officers destoyed evidence. You are making an assumption to make your point. Also it states that they were tresspassing with intent to do him harm. Here’s a thought, if the guy was breaking the law and growing marijuana, then he would of had nothing to worry about. If the police did this to a law abiding citizen then I might agree with part of what you are saying (a very small part) but since this guy was a drug dealer, screw him. The officers being fired was more than adequte.

  • Aaron

    Rich, the question is: If they didn’t wear badges, would they be treated differently? Since the Constitution says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, …” this is a big deal. Losing your job is not the same as spending time in jail. Why do cops avoid jail when anyone else would be prosecuted?

  • BJ

    @ Rich

    Read it again. The officer ordered the destruction of DVDs. Evidence taken from the home surveillance capturing the officer’s illegal activities and nowhere in the law does it state officers have to play by the rules unless they’re going after “drug dealers”.

  • slappy

    Another BS lie. These people should be writing for Penthouse. Leave it to cop block to post stupid ridiculous stories like this.

  • Steve H
  • John

    Gualtieri said Cole’s charges went away because of concerns about the “veracity” of the officers involved. Giovannoni and Sciarrino were listed on Cole’s arrest documents.

    Other pending cases against indoor pot growers could also be in jeopardy, Gualtieri said, as well as cases recently resolved through plea bargains or convictions.

  • t.

    BJ: No retard. Personnel polices change and adapt to various court rulings….like Garrity. What a retard.

    Shawn: You stupid is showing again. They are out of my profession.

    Rich: BJ isnt really very good with reality. He gets pieces and thinks he has it all. There isn’t any evidence other than a drug dealers statement that they erased evidence of the officers wrong doing. There may have been wrong doing, but not necessarily.

  • steve

    they are not cops anymore go after them personally.

  • BJ

    t. says:
    “Garrity doesn’t allow for statements made during internals to be used in criminal matters. Sounds like the sherrif did a reply good job”

    Is Sheriff Gualtieri a boss you’re trying to brown-nose?

    It states in the article, “Florida law does not allow those statements to then be used to build a criminal case” and “(Sheriff) Gualtieri sent thousands of pages of investigative documents to (State Attorney) McCabe’s office”.

    So not only did Florida Law prevent those internal statements from being used in criminal matters, Sheriff Gualtieri did in fact turn over internal documents to the State Attorney.

    Wanna try different kiss ass comment?

  • John

    Well there you have it, if cop does something that criminal, it is up to the DA to press charges. It looks like a pretty nice system to protect criminal cops. In other words a cop cannot arrest a cop. One other thing how many charges has the DA brought against police???

  • Shawn

    @T

    But not behind bars. Even those you boot get special treatment. And as I said, as long as all that happens is they loose their jobs, other cops will continue to do the same crap. Your idea of accountability is a joke even to burger king, let alone the rest of the working world.

    And since 9 out of 10 fired cops get their jobs back, I’m not holding my breath on the ‘out of your profession’.

  • t.

    Behind bars. For trespassing. … … … … … … ? That’s beyond stupid.

  • courtofpublicopinion

    @t behind bars for aiming a camera at a cop,, thats beyond stupid

  • Shawn

    @t

    How about behind bars for illegally searching for evidence? Violating rights, destruction of evidence and property?

    They aren’t kids skinny dipping in his pool. Your inability to see this is beyond stupid.

  • shawn

    @T

    Oh, as was said armed tresspass. Does that lower your stupidity comment?

  • t.

    No.

  • http://aol allen

    erase dvr and put mecian tv on the dvr sounds a coverup to me

  • http://aol allen

    ERASE THE DVR AND RECORDED MEXICIAN TV ON IT IF THAT’S NOT COVERUP WHAT IS IT