Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas narcotics detective resigns after seeing sheriff's evidence against him

LARGO — One narcotics detective has resigned and three others will begin disciplinary hearings this week amid allegations of trespassing, lying and brutality that have plagued the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office for months, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Monday.

Michael Sciarrino, 36, was scheduled to be interviewed under oath today in an administrative hearing.

Instead, said Gualtieri, Sciarrino quit on Monday after reading thousands of pages of interviews and documents collected by internal affairs investigators.

The sheriff declined to provide details because three other deputies — Paul Giovannoni, Chris Taylor and Kyle Alston — are still scheduled for hearings this week. Some allegations that involved Sciarrino involve them as well.

Gualtieri did confirm that allegations against Sciarrino involved trespassing, lying and brutality, including the alleged beating of a suspect who had a verbal interchange with Sciarrino's wife at a WingHouse restaurant on Ulmerton Road.

Sciarrino could not be reached for comment. His attorney, police union lawyer Michael Krohn, did not return a phone call.

Gualtieri put all four deputies on administrative leave in March. The trespassing and other allegations have since become election fodder for candidates running for sheriff against Gualtieri.

While on leave, Sciarrino got into a fight at a Clearwater Beach bar, then lied about it to Clearwater police and sheriff's investigators, Gualtieri said.

"He said he wasn't involved, but we have him on video punching the guy in the face and putting him in a headlock,'' Gualtieri said.

While investigating the reported WingHouse beating, the Sheriff's Office also discovered another case involving Sciarrino's wife, Gualtieri said.

Ashley Sciarrino had called her husband in March 2011 to report a prowler in the back yard of their St. Petersburg home late at night. Sciarrino drove there, which took about 30 minutes, Gualtieri said, and confronted the man personally.

The suspect, Pinellas Park resident Michael Blood, 26, said he was cutting through Sciarrino's property to visit a girlfriend who lived next door. The properties are separated by a fence and he was trying to avoid her parents, Blood said Monday in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times.

Blood said he had used that route several times before because the property was vacant. He did not realize that the Sciarrinos had moved in, he said.

Blood said he had been there less than five minutes when Sciarrino showed up and accused him of peeping in windows.

"He told me to get on the ground and crawl toward him, which I did, and then he kicked me in the face,'' Blood said.

"It was enough to bust blood vessels in my eye and I had a swollen jaw and cheekbones for a month.''

Sciarrino's report says that he held Blood at gunpoint and called 911 and waited for St. Petersburg police to arrive. He kicked Blood, he said, because Blood was trying to get up and possibly run.

Charged with loitering and prowling, Blood waived his right to an attorney, paid court costs and accepted a pre-trial intervention offer. He did not file an abuse complaint against Sciarrino at the time and told his story only after internal affairs investigators approached him about two months ago, he said.

Blood said he spent no more than five minutes walking from his car and through the Sciarrinos' yard. He said he has no idea why sheriff's records show that it took Sciarrino 30 minutes to arrive.

Other than this case, Blood's only encounters with Pinellas authorities involve traffic citations.

Allegations of deputy trespassing stemmed from surveillance of the Simply Hydroponics store in Largo, an operation run mainly by Sciarrino, Giovannoni and Taylor, who was their supervising sergeant. Alston joined a few of these investigations.

Defense lawyers think detectives trespassed to gather evidence against indoor marijuana farmers, then lied to judges to get search warrants. In February, one lawyer asked Alston under oath whether he had ever seen his colleagues "jump fences,'' which is shorthand for trespassing.

Alston refused to answer.

After the Times wrote about Alston's statement, Gualtieri put all four men on leave.

Once investigators finish their work, an administrative board of sheriff's supervisors reviews the evidence and questions the accused deputy under oath. The board summarizes facts, then the sheriff decides on discipline.

A deputy who refuses to answer the board's questions can be charged with insubordination in addition to the original allegations. State law lets officers review the evidence amassed against them before the board convenes.

Sciarrino and his lawyers reviewed the evidence Friday, then he quit Monday.

Gualtieri declined to speculate on Sciarrino's motivation for resigning rather than face the review board.

Sciarrino had 12 years with the department. Even if fired for cause, he could still collect his state of Florida pension, Gualtieri said.

The Sheriff's Office plans to notify state authorities that Sciarrino resigned while under investigation, which could result in removal of his state certification as a law enforcement officer.

In general, Gualtieri said, deputies sometimes resign to avoid answering more questions under oath and to avoid formal, written findings that they broke rules.

Trespassing is a crime and armed trespassing is a felony. Gualtieri declined to say whether he would seek criminal charges against Sciarrino.

"We are going to pursue everything, but I have to be careful with that,'' he said. Discipline hearings have yet to be held on the other three deputies.

Gualtieri did say that the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office is now evaluating possible charges against former Deputy Jeffrey McConaughey, who resigned last year amid allegations that he kept $200 intended for a confidential informer.

"My understanding is that McConaughey has left the state,'' Gualtieri said. "If it were up to me, if he showed up in Pinellas County, I would arrest him myself. We are waiting for a final determination from the state (attorney) on that one.''

Stephen Nohlgren can be reached at (727) 893 8442 or

Pinellas narcotics detective resigns after seeing sheriff's evidence against him 06/18/12 [Last modified: Monday, June 18, 2012 10:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Jones: Bucs need success to get national respect


    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports.

    No respect

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  2. Hopes fade after landslide destroys Chinese village (w/video)


    Crews searching through the night in the rubble left by a landslide that buried a mountain village under tons of soil and rocks in southwestern China found 15 bodies, but more than 110 more people remained missing.

    Vehicles and people line a road leading to the site of a landslide in Xinmo village in Mao County on Saturday in southwestern China’s Sichuan Province. More than 100 people remained missing after the village was buried under tons of rocks and soil.
  3. Rookie Jake Faria dissatisfied with performance in Rays' loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The rookie pitcher walked to his locker Saturday after tossing the fourth quality start in as many tries to begin his career. He held the potent Orioles bats to three runs and for six innings gave his team a chance to win.

    Orioles third baseman Manny Machado tags out the Rays’ Mallex Smith at third after a rundown in the first inning.
  4. Thousands converge in two St. Pete locations celebrating LGBT rights

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom Rockhill didn't know what to expect Saturday, but by noon people were knocking on the door of his bar Right Around the Corner in Grand Central.

    (From left to right) Emma Chalut 18, gets a rainbow sticker on her cheek from her sister Ellie, 15 both of Jacksonville before the annual St. Pete Pride parade in downtown St. Petersburg on Saturday. This year the route was changed from the Grand Central and Kenwood area to Bayshore Drive.
[EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  5. Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald dies

    TALLAHASSEE — A former Florida Supreme Court justice, who wrote a decision that prevented lawyers from excluding jurors because of their race, has died.

    Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald died Saturday, the court said in a statement. He was 93.