Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas sheriff won't seek criminal charges for ex-deputies

LARGO — The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office will not seek criminal charges against four former narcotics deputies forced out of their jobs last year amid allegations of trespassing, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Monday.

In a letter to State Attorney Bernie McCabe, Gualtieri said his office was right to get rid of the deputies, but did not have enough evidence to charge them.

Among other things, he said, officers were compelled to give statements as part of an employment disciplinary action and Florida law does not allow those statements to then be used to build a criminal case.

"While the evidence in the administrative case amply met the burden of proof to establish wrongdoing,'' Gualtieri said, "I have concluded that there is insufficient evidence to meet the burden of proof in a criminal case.''

Gualtieri sent thousands of pages of investigative documents to McCabe's office in case prosecutors want to pursue the matter further, the letter said. Armed trespassing is a felony.

The narcotics unit came under scrutiny in late 2011 after they raided the Seminole home of Allen Underwood and seized pot plants. Underwood had an outdoor surveillance system and said his cameras had caught Sgt. Chris Taylor and Deputy Paul Giovannoni trespassing several nights before the raid. Taylor jumped his fence, he said.

Narcotics officers seized the DVD images during the raid and Taylor ordered them destroyed.

The Tampa Bay Times also reported that Giovannoni had dressed in a Progress Energy uniform to gain access to another suspect's property.

Defense lawyers said detectives had secured search warrants by claiming they could smell marijuana from the street or adjoining property — but were trespassing to get close enough to the houses to peek inside, listen for fans or otherwise detect indoor pot farms.

During a deposition, one lawyer asked Deputy Kyle Alston under oath if he had ever seen his colleagues "jump fences,'' and Alston refused to answer.

After the Times reported this refusal, Alston admitted that he and deputy Michael Sciarrino had once broken down a fence to enter property illegally, Gualtieri said.

Taylor, Giovannoni and Sciarrino resigned in June. Alston was fired. None could be reached for comment.

Pinellas sheriff won't seek criminal charges for ex-deputies 02/18/13 [Last modified: Monday, February 18, 2013 10:22pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Bucs' Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson kneel during national anthem

    Bucs

    Bucs receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson both kneeled during the national anthem in protest before Sunday's game at the Vikings, two days after President Donald Trump made critical remarks about NFL …

    Bucs receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson both kneeled during the national anthem in protest before Sunday's game at the Vikings. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  2. Man dead, 4-year-old girl critically injured in Clearwater Beach boating crash

    Briefs

    A man was killed and a 4-year-old girl is in critical condition late Saturday after their personal watercraft collided with a boat in the Intracoastal Waterway near Clearwater Beach just before 5 p.m.

  3. 'If anyone can hear us … help.' Puerto Rico's mayors describe 'horror in the streets'

    World

    SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - In the northern Puerto Rican town of Vega Baja, the floodwaters reached more than 10 feet. Stranded residents screamed "save me, save me," using the lights in their cellphones to help rescue teams find them in the darkness, the town's mayor said.

  4. My AP Top 25 ballot: FSU out, USF, Florida Gators back in

    Blogs

    Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher still thinks he can have a good team, as I wrote in today's Tampa Bay Times. Maybe he's right.

  5. Forecast: Scattered thunderstorms in Tampa Bay; Maria could affect Carolinas

    Weather

    Scattered thunderstorms will threaten the Tampa Bay area Sunday, but most of the area will see sunshine.

    Scattered thunderstorms threaten Tampa Bay on Sunday. [Courtesy 10News WTSP]