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Pinellas deputy under investigation over questionable texts to woman

PALM HARBOR — The woman who allegedly persuaded a Clearwater police commander to illegally search state records on her behalf is also involved in a newly opened internal investigation at the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, officials say.

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Thursday that he is launching an internal-affairs inquiry to determine whether veteran sheriff's deputy Paul Martin interfered in any law enforcement actions involving Laura McLynas, a 44-year-old Palm Harbor resident.

McLynas' estranged husband, James McLynas, has supplied the Sheriff's Office with text messages from his wife's phone that he says indicate Martin interceded for her in criminal investigations or court cases.

"If he was doing something to compromise an investigation, that's very serious," Gualtieri said. "It's something we're going to have to look at and try to investigate."

James McLynas said he first brought complaints about Martin based on his wife's phone records to the Sheriff's Office over the summer. However, Gualtieri said the only issue investigated then was a photo of Martin's genitalia that the deputy sent to Laura McLynas.

Internal-affairs investigators confirmed that Martin sent the photo, but decided it was not cause for disciplinary action, Gualtieri said.

The content of the text messages, brought to Gualtieri's attention Thursday by the Tampa Bay Times, "rises to a new level," he said.

Gualtieri is referring the matter to his agency's Administrative Investigations Division, which he said would seek additional information from Martin, Laura McLynas and her husband.

Laura McLynas already features prominently in a case that threatens one of the Clearwater Police Department's senior officers. Clearwater police have referred a felony computer-crimes charge against Lt. Richard Crean to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office, which is conducting an investigation as it decides whether to pursue the case, the Times reported Thursday.

Records from Laura McLynas' cellphone suggest she sent Crean the license plate number of a car parked outside the home of her husband, with whom she is engaged in an ongoing divorce case and child-custody fight.

Crean then ran the number through a state law enforcement database and sent Laura McLynas personal information about the car's owner, a friend of her husband's, authorities say.

The phone records were obtained by James McLynas after his wife accidentally left her phone in their 9-year-old daughter's backpack in June. He had the phone's data extracted and preserved by E-Hounds, a computer evidence retrieval firm in Clearwater. E-Hounds president Adam Sharp confirmed the authenticity of the text messages for the Times.

Among the text messages that James McLynas discovered was this one, sent from Martin's phone to Laura McLynas on May 16: "Delete this text. I made some calls. Nothing will go anywhere. He can make all the complaints he wants. File all the motions he wants. From this point forward he will be ignored and nothing will go anywhere."

Two months earlier, James McLynas had filed a criminal mischief complaint with the Clearwater Police Department, alleging that Laura McLynas had spray-painted a slur on a boat stored outside his home. No one was arrested.

He said Martin's messages "make it clear" that the deputy got in touch with "anyone he could to allow Laura McLynas to get away with any crime she felt like committing against me."

Martin has a checkered disciplinary record.

In 2011, he received an 11-day suspension over a domestic violence incident in which he tried to handcuff his ex-wife. Later that year, he was again suspended, this time for 12 days, after an internal investigation found he had dated a woman who was using prescription drugs illegally.

Reached by telephone, Martin declined to comment.

Gualtieri cautioned against jumping to conclusions about the case, which comes in the context of a bitter and long-running divorce conflict between James and Laura McLynas.

Without further information, it is not clear what Martin's text messages were about, he said. Even if Martin did tell Laura McLynas that he would try to influence a case, it might have been empty "puffing," Gualtieri said.

Laura McLynas could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Earlier this week, she told a reporter she never had a sexual relationship with Martin. She said she believes James McLynas has falsified the records of her text messages, a claim he denies.

"This all has to do with our divorce," she said.

Peter Jamison can be reached at pjamison@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4157.

Pinellas deputy under investigation over questionable texts to woman 11/29/12 [Last modified: Thursday, November 29, 2012 10:50pm]

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