Pinellas County deputy reprimanded for sexting with colleague

CLEARWATER — A Pinellas County deputy who already had been disciplined for sending racy messages to female colleagues in September has been reprimanded again, this time for sending inappropriate texts to a detective in December.

Mitchell Grissinger, who is married to another Sheriff's Office employee, discussed oral sex with the detective and was suspended for 64 hours without pay. The suspension ended Thursday, the same day the agency released findings from an internal investigation.

According to a 516-page report, Grissinger and the detective were among nine officers selected to represent Pinellas at an international competition and training seminar in Orlando in November. The detective's name is redacted from the report.

Around 11:40 p.m. Dec. 1, Grissinger used his personal cell phone to send a text to the woman, who had recently returned to the Sheriff's Office after a three-year military deployment:

Just wanted to say hi. Didn't really get to the other day.

Text messages about work, tattoos and how they "would have made a good team" if he wasn't married were exchanged.

The detective told Grissinger she meant no disrespect with one of her messages to him.

No disrespect taken. We would make a good team. And the sex would be great. I need someone that loves oral.

He told investigators he was just playing.

"Before she left three years ago, we were always sarcastic and smart aleck," Grissinger told Sgt. Judy Vovan and Glenn Luben in a Jan. 22 interview. "It's just the way most people in law enforcement deal with things. They tell jokes that most people might find offensive.

"To me, this was two grown adults being smart alecks joking around with one another. And I don't know where or how it came to the point where it was taken the way it was taken."

But the detective wasn't laughing. In a Jan. 5 interview with Vovan and Luben, she said she was "in shock, just like, 'Wow!'

"I mean, I've been working (in) this country (that) is the most sexually deviant and they wouldn't speak to me that way."

Grissinger has since been removed from the Pinellas SWAT team and the community policing unit. He now works in patrol and earns $51,264 annually.

"The disciplines that were handed out were commensurate with the systems we have in place," sheriff's spokeswoman Marianne Pasha said.

• • •

Six days before the texts, Grissinger served an eight-hour suspension, also without pay, for violating the Sheriff's Office sexual harassment policy.

In that case, he was off duty on Sept. 21 when he used his agency-issued computer to send several sexually offensive messages to female colleagues. He said he was so drunk, he didn't know what he said or why he said it.

"I'm sure there's a majority of the individuals of this agency that don't believe me," Grissinger told investigators in January. "I can't change the way they feel or what they think. But I know in my heart that I'm being truthful and that I'm not trying to hide anything."

He was sent to Windmoor Healthcare in Clearwater to be tested for substance dependency.

"The report was that there was none," said Pasha, the sheriff's spokeswoman.

Friday, when the St. Petersburg Times asked for the number of women Grissinger had targeted in September and a general description of the messages he sent, another spokeswoman said the newspaper would have to request the entire file from that case. That file won't be ready until Monday, Cecilia Barreda said.

• • •

It was because of that previous case that the latest woman took her concerns to a colleague. She told officials she just wanted "one of the guys to talk to him, make sure he doesn't do that to the wrong person so that he wouldn't get in trouble again."

Superiors eventually ordered the woman and Grissinger to turn over texts, call logs and other information. Though there were about 33 texts between them from 11:38 p.m. Dec. 1 to 12:20 a.m. Dec. 2, the detective forwarded only eight of them. Grissinger initially produced records that showed just six texts on the dates in question. Later, he was able to supply the Sheriff's Office with more.

Asked if there was a reason she didn't forward all the messages, the detective said, "No." She didn't elaborate. Among the messages:

Grissinger: Did I offend you

Detective: Not at all just trying to be good

Grissinger: Why you want to be good. That's no fun

Detective: True but its the right thing for me, for my own self respect

The detective said she told him she didn't want to have sex with a married man. Grissinger, however, wasn't done.

Grissinger: You couldn't handle it anyways

Grissinger: Ok. Ill stop tryn

Vovan and Luben interviewed Grissinger for nearly two hours at the Sheriff's Office administration building on Ulmerton Road.

"I don't understand why you would take the chance of sending a female member of this agency a text message that parallels the messages you sent female members of this agency in your prior sexual harassment case," Vovan said. "Why would you do that?"

"She's a very flirtatious person," Grissinger said. "Most every guy that works here knows that that's the type of person she is. So that's where my whole thinking is coming. I'm not trying to be disrespectful, rude."

Luben had questions of his own. "What would you have done if she would have said yes to that proposal?" he asked.

"I would have told her I was just kidding around," Grissinger said. "I had no intentions of actually following through with it."

Rodney Thrash can be reached at rthrash@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4167.

Pinellas County deputy reprimanded for sexting with colleague 03/06/10 [Last modified: Saturday, March 6, 2010 2:23pm]

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