Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas schools: no plan to investigate ex-teacher nabbed in underage sex sting

There are no grounds to open an internal investigation of a former Pinellas County high school baseball coach arrested this week in an underage sex sting, the school district said.

Robert Francis, 31, a St. Petersburg College baseball coach, was arrested by the Orange County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday when deputies said he showed up to meet what he believed would be a 14-year-old girl.

Francis worked for the school district for three years before he was hired by SPC.

School district officials said he started as a substitute teacher in 2004, then became a Bauder Elementary teaching assistant and Seminole High baseball coach. He moved to East Lake High in July 2005, where he was a teacher and baseball coach until August 2007.

Valerie Walker, administrator in the district's Office of Professional Standards, said the Orlando arrest does not warrant a fresh look into his time with the district. He had only one complaint in his personnel file, from the parents of a student unhappy he didn't make Francis' Seminole High team.

SPC placed Francis on paid administrative leave, banned him from the campus and barred contact with students or staff. Francis was the Titans' baseball coach for 14 months. Francis makes about $47,000 a year, according to school officials.

Lucas Fleming, Francis' attorney, said Thursday he wants more detail from the Orange County Sheriff's Office about how the sting was conducted.

"We view this as an isolated incident," Fleming said. "A lot of times in these cases, basically, the transcripts will help us really understand the extent to which law enforcement communicated with our client to determine how actively he pursued this lead."

Francis sent a nude picture of himself to what he thought was a 14-year-old girl he met in a chat room, records show. He drove to Orlando to meet her with a bottle of wine, a box of condoms, a video camera and M&Ms. Then he discovered the girl was actually undercover law enforcement.

Fleming said Francis, who is married with an infant daughter, has "a lot of support from people in the community."

Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at (727) 893-8707 or

Pinellas schools: no plan to investigate ex-teacher nabbed in underage sex sting 12/08/11 [Last modified: Thursday, December 8, 2011 8:40pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. St. Petersburg police investigating why civilian employees accidentally fired AR-15 semiautomatic rife inside HQ


    ST. PETERSBURG — An internal police investigation is looking into two civilian employees who accidentally fired a round from an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle inside St. Petersburg Police Department headquarters.

    The St. Petersburg Police Department is investigating an incident in which two civilian employees accidentally fired an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle they brought inside police headquarters. Department rules prohibit civilian employees from bringing weapons into police facilities.
  2. A 12-foot pilot whale washes ashore on Siesta Key


    A 12-foot-long beached pilot whale appeared on the shore of Point of Rocks Beach in Siesta Key early Friday morning, according to the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office.

    The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office responded to a 12-foot whale washing ashore early Friday morning. (Sarasota Sheriff's Office)
  3. Trump signs 'VA accountability' bill, as Gus Bilirakis watches


    WASHINGTON - Rep. Gus Bilirakis was among a group of lawmakers on hand to see President Trump sign a "VA accountability bill that will make it easier to dismiss problem employees.

  4. In this June 18, 2012, file photo President Barack Obama and Russia's President Vladimir Putin, left, go to shake hands during their bilateral meeting at the G20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico. [AP photo]
  5. Gradebook podcast: Charter school fraud, budget woes and more


    School districts across Florida have been grappling with financial concerns they contend lawmakers did not improve with a new state education budget. Reporter Marlene Sokol joins reporter Jeff Solochek to discuss the problems as they're manifest in Hillsborough County, which has local woes beyond anything the state has …

    Hillsborough School Board member April Griffin has been asking pointed questions about the district's budget.