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Police don't believe detective coerced jail inmate into sex act

ST. PETERSBURG — A Pinellas County Jail inmate said he performed a sex act on a St. Petersburg detective in exchange for "favorable treatment" in the criminal cases against him.

But the St. Petersburg Police Department said it could find no reason to believe the inmate, 18-year-old Jaqueal E. Harris.

Part of the reason might have to do with the array of criminal charges against Harris. He is accused of fatally shooting a St. Petersburg man last year and enlisting his parents to help him rob a convenience store this year.

And Harris' family said police suspect him in another St. Petersburg murder: the January shooting of 15-year-old Malayshia Gamble.

Harris, whose criminal record started at age 13, has been in the jail since his Jan. 10 arrest.

"There were a number of issues which affected the complainant's credibility and made it highly implausible the allegation occurred," says a memo issued Thursday by police Chief Chuck Harmon and a chain-of-command board.

Harris said the incident took place Jan. 28 when Detective Rodney Tower went to the jail to interview Harris. The men met in an interview room, but police said the interview didn't last long. Harris refused to talk because his lawyer wasn't in the room.

Then, two days later, Harris told Pinellas detention deputies that the detective coerced him into performing a sex act "in exchange for leniency on the criminal charges against him," according to a police report.

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office launched an investigation, and Harris reiterated his allegations to those detectives. But in a followup meeting, Harris refused to speak with sheriff's detectives.

"As a matter of fact, in the second interview he got up and left," said sheriff's spokeswoman Marianne Pasha.

Harris also refused to speak with internal affairs investigators from the St. Petersburg Police Department.

The St. Petersburg detective denied the allegations.

Jamal Thalji can be reached at thalji@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8472.

Police don't believe detective coerced jail inmate into sex act 08/13/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 13, 2009 11:38pm]
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