Sunday, February 25, 2018
Public safety

Sheriff fires Pinellas deputy who had record of misbehavior

LARGO — A veteran Pinellas County deputy with a history of internal affairs investigations has been fired for making sexually explicit comments to an underage rape victim and failing to submit a timely report in the case, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced Monday.

Patrol Deputy Paul A. Martin, hired by the Sheriff's Office in August 1988, was terminated Monday morning.

"This is just egregious conduct," Gualtieri said, adding that Martin "has been here 25 years and has spent time as a detective and an investigator and he knows better."

On July 10, Martin responded to a sexual battery case. A 17-year-old girl said she had been assaulted by a 25-year-old man near Largo. While in front of the victim, Martin began discussing his personal life, at one point saying he enjoyed visiting strip clubs, internal affairs records show.

The next day, a child protection investigator was assigned to interview the same girl after the Florida Department of Children and Families received a hotline call about the case. Martin, 48, accompanied the investigator.

It was during this second interview that Martin's "inappropriate conduct" escalated, Gualtieri said.

Martin began asking the girl personal and irrelevant questions about her sex life, including the manner in which she had been raped and whether she was attracted to women. His questioning of the girl, the sheriff added, was laced with profanities.

"I own you," Martin at one point told the girl. "I control your destiny."

When Martin reached toward the girl, as if trying to lift her shirt to see a scar on her chest left by a self-inflicted cut, the child protection investigator intervened, Gualtieri said. The investigator later filed a complaint against Martin.

Though incident reports are typically supposed to be filed within 24 hours, Martin waited until July 18 to file his sexual battery report, which "fails to adequately detail" the case, records show.

During his interview with internal affairs investigators, Martin said he was intentionally trying to make the girl uncomfortable.

"He says that he thought that she may not be telling the truth, so he was trying to get on her level and trying to extract information from her," Gualtieri said. "I don't believe that."

As for the report, Martin admitted he "did a poor job," according to records.

Investigators also spoke to the rape victim, who said Martin's remarks "made me lose respect for him."

Martin could not be reached for comment Monday.

The former deputy has a long, tainted record at the Sheriff's Office.

In February 2011, Martin tried to arrest his ex-wife, Angela Martin, placing handcuffs on her right wrist, internal affairs records show. He told responding deputies that she had trespassed into his home, but she had not been issued a trespass warning in the past and Martin had granted her access to the home in case of an emergency.

During the struggle, Angela Martin sustained bruises to her head, arm and torso, records show. She obtained a temporary injunction for protection from Martin. The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office filed a domestic battery charge against Martin, records show, but it was dismissed after he entered a domestic violence program. Martin received an 11-day suspension in that case.

In July 2011, he was investigated for dating a woman addicted to prescription drugs, according to records. He was suspended for 12 days.

Martin was also the subject of another ongoing internal affairs investigation.

Late last year, James McLynas, 54, reported several allegations against Martin to the Sheriff's Office, including that the deputy interfered with police investigations or court cases at the request of McLynas' estranged wife, Laura.

"I'm pleased that Deputy Martin will no longer be carrying a gun and a badge," McLynas said upon hearing about Martin's firing. "However, I am disappointed that they are using this case to bury and subsequently not investigate what Deputy Martin had done to me."

That investigation will be closed now that Martin is not employed by the Sheriff's Office.

"Now that he's gone," the sheriff said, "there's nothing to do."

Gualtieri's options for disciplining Martin in the sexual battery case ranged from a 10-day suspension to termination. Gualtieri said he opted for termination because of Martin's suspension history and the nature of the latest case.

"I don't know what Martin's motives were," Gualtieri said, "but they were wrong, and I'm not tolerating it, and we're not putting up with it."

Contact Laura C. Morel at [email protected] or (727)445-4157.

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