Saturday, December 16, 2017
News Roundup

Former Clearwater Fire Chief Jamie Geer takes stand, denies abusing girl

LARGO — Clearwater's former fire chief on Thursday insisted "I did not, never, ever" molest the woman who says he committed hundreds of sex acts on her during her childhood.

But Jamie Geer's decision to testify in his own behalf also left him with a problem. It meant he could be cross-examined.

Assistant State Attorney Michael Marr grilled Geer about a secretly recorded phone call between the former chief and the girl. In that 2010 call, the teen told Geer they had sex and it was hard for her to deal with.

Marr pointed out that Geer did not deny the claim or even sound surprised by it.

"You never said, 'What are you talking about, why are you saying these things?' " Marr said, adding, "You never said 'we never had sex.' "

"In fact," Marr continued, "you apologized and repeatedly apologized that you didn't know how bad it was eating her up."

But Geer, 58, who presided over a period of rocky relations with the union representing Clearwater firefighters, did not appear shaken. Still looking the part of an executive, dressed in a dark suit and striped tie, he said he believed that phone conversation was a set-up.

He believed union members were maneuvering to have him ousted as chief, grasping at any tactic that might accomplish the job. He also thought the girl and her mother were attempting a "shakedown" to get money out of him. So he played along with the phone call to listen to what she was saying.

"I'm setting her up, I'm double-crossing her, I'm not taking anything she's saying seriously," Geer said.

He said he even tried to record the phone conversation on his iPhone so he could expose "the scam." But he said be botched the recording.

By today, Geer may know if he benefited by speaking directly to the jury that is set to decide his fate. Closing arguments are scheduled for this morning. Then the jury will decide whether to convict him of three charges: sexual battery, lewd or lascivious battery and unlawful sexual activity with a minor. He could be sentenced to life in prison.

The alleged victim in the case, who is now 19, testified for about two and a half hours earlier in the week, and said Geer manipulated her into repeated sex acts.

She said he got her to dress in lingerie as early as age 7, and got her to blow up condoms like balloons before she knew what they were. He coerced her into oral sex and intercourse, she said. This lasted well into her teens, she testified.

Because of the nature of the allegations, the Times is withholding her name and some details about her relationship with Geer that could identify her.

Her lengthy testimony forms the crux of the state's case, but prosecutors have presented other evidence as well.

A Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent determined Geer purchased lingerie at Dillard's at International Plaza. The woman said she was with Geer when he bought the lingerie and took her to a fire chief convention in Jacksonville, where he made her pose in it.

But Geer had an explanation — he stopped at Dillard's for the lingerie because he was planning to meet a female friend in Jacksonville.

While prosecutors have focused on the girl's story, Geer's defense attorney, David Parry, has been focusing on Geer's relations with unionized firefighters. Geer said the union was angry with him after he investigated missing drugs in the department. Testimony also has revealed the girl's mother was having an affair with a firefighter who was high on Geer's list of people to investigate.

When the girl was first asked about the alleged abuse, she denied it, but instead blamed that same firefighter. She later recanted that and accused Geer. The firefighter was not called to testify.

Also Thursday, FDLE Agent Edie Neal testified about her interview with the girl. During the first interview, she denied that Geer abused her, but in a second interview she said he had.

Neal said she considered Geer a "preferential" sex abuser, who preferred sex with children, and who would likely store child pornography. A search of Geer's house and vehicle turned up several videotapes, but none showed pornography. Some appeared to have been taped over. There was one image on one tape of someone in lingerie. Geer smiled when asked about the image, and said it was an adult with whom he used to have a relationship.

Times Staff Writer Curtis Krueger can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8232.

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