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Search warrant says ex-Clearwater fire chief videotaped sex with girl

CLEARWATER — Former Clearwater fire Chief Jamie Geer made his underage victim wear lingerie as he videotaped sex acts with her, according to a search warrant filed in Pinellas County this week.

The search warrant says Geer offered the girl gifts such as "a cell phone, purse and other items" to perform sexual acts with him.

Geer, Clearwater's fire chief since 2004, was fired Monday after he was accused of sexually abusing the girl for several years. Authorities say the abuse started when the girl was 8 or 9; she is now 17. Geer was arrested on a charge of capital sexual battery. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison.

A judge Tuesday refused to lower Geer's bail, which is set at $500,000. Geer, 56, was still being held Friday in the Pinellas County Jail.

Minutes after Geer was booked Monday afternoon, investigators with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement were at his Dunedin home looking for evidence. They seized videotapes, 8mm tapes, a video camera, memory cards, minidiscs and printed e-mails. An inventory of items seized does not list any lingerie, according to the warrant.

New details about the investigation emerged from the search warrant, filed Wednesday afternoon.

Geer showed the girl pornography "to explain the act" and trained her to perform oral sex on him, according to the document.

The girl told investigators that Geer videotaped her repeatedly and that she had also seen him try to hide a video camera to tape her during the abuse without her knowledge.

In the spring of 2008, Geer told his victim he was depressed. He was thinking about committing suicide.

If anything happened to him, Geer told the girl, he would leave her a letter telling her where she could find the tapes.

She said that the last time she was sexually abused, in August, Geer bought her alcohol for a party "in trade" for sex.

That's not uncommon in cases of child sexual abuse, said David Finkelhor director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.

"These cases often start out with grooming the kid to accept it for the attention or making a game out of it or normalizing it," he said. "But then, when the kid begins to get older and realizes that this is really not cool, offenders begin to bargain with them over stuff they want."

Victims of long-term sexual abuse sometimes engage in this type of bartering and keep the abuse to themselves because they've been indoctrinated to believe it is normal behavior, said Finkelhor, an expert on child sexual abuse who is not connected to this case.

The girl also told investigators that Geer abused her at a hotel in Jacksonville, where she had accompanied him to a fire chiefs conference.

It's unclear from the document when the trip occurred, but the girl said that before they left town, Geer bought her "bubble-gum pink" lingerie at Dillard's at Countryside Mall. He made her wear it as he videotaped himself sexually abusing her, according to the search warrant.

Afterward, the girl said, Geer put the lingerie in his suitcase.

The allegations against Geer were first reported to the FDLE in August in an anonymous letter, which stated that Geer is "a pedophile and may have taken liberties with underage children." The FDLE spoke to an unidentified witness who said that in April 2008 the victim said Geer was abusing her, according to Geer's arrest warrant.

The witness confronted Geer days later. The chief "apologized and said it would not happen again," but the alleged abuse continued until this August, the warrant said.

The witness said she did not report the abuse originally because she feared Geer, and later, because she did not think anyone would believe her, the search warrant shows.

Investigators spoke to the girl and Geer on Nov. 4. Both denied the allegations. Twenty days later, the girl contacted investigators and said Geer had been abusing her for years.

On Dec. 1, investigators had the girl call Geer and recorded their conversation. She told him she needed "closure," the arrest warrant said. Geer asked if it was "safe to talk."

The girl asked Geer why "anything happened." Geer, according to the arrest warrant, responded: "He never did anything against her will and he was sorry if he put pressure on her or made things difficult."

Geer also told the girl, the arrest warrant said, that "he should have known better" and that he "tried to do the right thing" and that he was "sorry" that she was struggling with what happened, according to the warrant.

"He sounds like he knows that someone might have been listening," said Finkelhor, the expert on child sexual abuse. "I don't put a lot of stock in what he's saying in that situation.

"He does seem at least capable of hearing her and acknowledging her suffering which is good, but he's not taking full responsibility. He's not acknowledging that what he did was terribly wrong."

Times staff writer Jamal Thalji and Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4157.

Search warrant says ex-Clearwater fire chief videotaped sex with girl 12/17/10 [Last modified: Friday, December 17, 2010 7:58pm]

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