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Pasco County deputy retires with complaints still pending against him

NEW PORT RICHEY — An internal Sheriff's Office investigation concluded seven months ago that embattled Deputy Robert Scott Gattuso violated several agency policies in handling a drunken teenager who claimed she had been assaulted.

But with no decision from his supervisors on disciplinary action, Gattuso, 45, remained on the job until last week.

He left by his own decision, retiring after 20 years on the force and taking with him nearly $12,000 in cashed out sick and vacation time — money that could have been withheld had he been fired.

Sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll said he could not comment on the time lapse because of other pending internal investigations.

"They have to be finalized one way or the other, and there's more than Deputy Gattuso involved," Doll said.

Inquiries into Gattuso's conduct are nothing new. He has been investigated more than 30 times in his career, and in 1995 was fired by then-Sheriff Lee Cannon over the accumulation of problems. Gattuso appealed and got his job back.

The first complaint against him this year came Jan. 17. Gattuso, responding to a 911 call, had picked up a drunk 13-year-old girl at a pawn shop on U.S. 19, according to the Professional Standards report released Wednesday.

She wandered into the shop saying four boys had slipped alcohol in her Mountain Dew and tried to get her to take her clothes off. When she refused, they left her on the street. Gattuso drove the girl home, where child protection investigators were already there to take her and her siblings into custody because of trouble in the house, the report says.

The child protection investigators, according to the report, said Gattuso told them the girl was now their problem.

He agreed to drive her to their office. On that ride, the report says, the girl told Gattuso that one of the boys had sexually assaulted her.

Still drunk, she threw up in the back of his patrol car, and when she got to the office she was unable to stand up, the report said. The child protection investigators eventually called paramedics. She was taken to the hospital, where tests showed she had a blood-alcohol level of 0.143. Florida law presumes adults impaired at 0.08.

Gattuso, the investigation found, did nothing to seek medical care for the girl and failed to document anything in the investigation, including the girl's claim of sexual abuse. He also did not report his mileage when transporting the girl, an agency policy.

The Sheriff's Office followed up on the sex assault allegation and cleared it as unfounded. Gattuso denied the girl ever told him that someone touched her, and she later told counselors that it didn't happen.

"We definitely were concerned about it enough to investigate it," Doll said.

A Professional Standards investigator completed his report on Gattuso in March. Major Maurice Radford did not sign off on it until Monday. No disciplinary action is recommended.

Would he have been fired?

"That's unknown because he resigned," Doll said. "We can't fire him after he resigns."

The Sheriff's Office also released two more reports on Gattuso on Wednesday.

In one incident, on Sept. 10, Gattuso responded to the home of an 11-year-old girl who had been beaten up by other kids at the bus stop. Gattuso, the investigation found, reclassified the case from battery to juvenile problem even though he saw the girl's injuries. He also didn't take any photographs or written statements and he failed to document the incident accurately, the investigation found.

The girl's mother wrote that Gattuso told her that's how boys show that they like a little girl.

In the other investigation, from Sept. 5, Gattuso investigated a home burglary in which jewelry was stolen. He wrote in his report that "there were no latents (fingerprints) on the jewelry boxes." But the follow-up investigation found that he never dusted for prints.

Julie Harrison, the victim of the burglary, wrote that Gattuso "looked around my house, wrote down what was stolen, gave me his card and left. He was here maybe 10 minutes."

There are more complaints, but Doll could not elaborate on them because they're still pending.

Depending on those outcomes, he said, Gattuso could lose his officer's certification.

In any case, Gattuso's file with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will show that he resigned under investigation, and that could prevent him from getting another job in law enforcement.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

Pasco County deputy retires with complaints still pending against him 10/08/08 [Last modified: Sunday, October 12, 2008 6:11pm]
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