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Pasco-Hernando Community College instructor investigated for explicit e-mail, threatening message

NEW PORT RICHEY — A part-time instructor at Pasco-Hernando Community College's Law Enforcement Academy was fired last month after a student discovered a sexually explicit video of a female student attached to the instructor's e-mail on a classroom computer.

College officials confronted Jeffrey Gattuso about the matter on June 9. He did not admit anything, said college spokeswoman Lucy Miller. But based on information provided by the student — including an e-mail forwarding trail that traced the video back to Gattuso's Hotmail account — Gattuso was terminated immediately.

"He did not return to class," Miller said Tuesday.

The firing — officially for inappropriate use of college computers — has prompted another investigation. The same day Gattuso was dismissed, Miller said, he allegedly sent a threatening text message to the instructor who reported the matter to higher-ups. The text message said something to the effect of "watch your back," Miller said.

That matter has been referred to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.

Gattuso, 42, had been teaching law enforcement and corrections classes at the academy in Gowers Corner since 2006. He most recently taught a course titled "Traffic Stops" with several other instructors, Miller said, earning $23 an hour.

Since 2000, he also has worked for the state as a prison guard. He has worked at Florida State Prison and Zephyrhills Correctional Institution, and is currently a sergeant at Polk Correctional Institution earning $35,000 a year.

He did not return messages seeking comment Tuesday.

Gattuso is the brother of former Pasco Sheriff's Deputy Robert Scott Gattuso, the subject of numerous internal investigations during his 20-year career. Scott Gattuso was fired once by a previous sheriff but appealed and was reinstated. In one investigation from 2005, Scott Gattuso was accused of filing a false insurance claim on a personal vehicle. His former wife told the Times that Jeffrey Gattuso was involved in the scam. Scott Gattuso was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.

When he retired last fall, Scott Gattuso collected nearly $12,000 in cashed out sick and vacation time.

Quick thinking

The PHCC incident involving Jeffrey Gattuso and the explicit video might never have come to light but for the quick thinking of the student, Miller said.

The student went to check his own e-mail during a class break on a computer connected to instructional equipment, Miller said, and "apparently that image was still up."

He forwarded it from Gattuso's e-mail account to another one. A week later, on June 9, another instructor noticed the student seemed upset. The student said he felt intimidated by Gattuso, who had reprimanded him harshly for a minor uniform violation. That's when he mentioned the video.

The two then spoke to Law Enforcement Program Coordinator Gregory Schnake. The student, Miller said, accessed the e-mail with the video, which showed the forwarding trail with Gattuso's Hotmail address.

College officials have not confirmed the identity of anyone in the video.

"There's a female cadet not very clearly shown in an identifying way, but apparently recognizable," Miller said. "The student who viewed the video believed he knew the female involved was a cadet in the class."

College officials, who have launched a formal investigation, have not interviewed that woman.

"We did not interview the student because if it were her, we had no reason to believe this was anything other than consensual sex," she said. "Nobody said that they were coerced. Nobody complained of inappropriate activity."

She said it's not known where the video was taken or who else might have been involved.

"We've got interviews to conduct of our own," Miller said. "We are taking this very seriously. Of course this is upsetting. We feel like we have a fine reputation in the community.

"It's just not representative at all of our faculty."

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

Pasco-Hernando Community College instructor investigated for explicit e-mail, threatening message 06/30/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 8:21pm]
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