A Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputy made unwanted sexual overtures to multiple women who called the agency for help, leading to his firing Monday, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said.
Brian Overton, a former St. Pete Beach police officer who joined the Sheriff’s Office when it took over that jurisdiction in 2013, admitted that he regularly used his position as a law enforcement officer to pursue sex with women he met on the job, Gualtieri said.
Overton comes from a prominent family in the Florida legal world: His father, William Overton, served for decades as a Pinellas County Court judge, and his grandfather, Ben Overton, was a Florida Supreme Court justice.
Multiple complaints precipitated Overton’s firing, Gualtieri said.
In June 2020, Gualtieri said, Overton responded to a call from a woman in St. Pete Beach whose father had just died. Afterward, Overton “started having contact with her trying to start a relationship with her, telling her he wanted to help,” Gualtieri said.
The texts “quickly transitioned to a personal conversation with some comments being sexual in nature,” according to an internal affairs report. Overton also sent photographs of himself, including one that showed him in uniform.
Overton never initiated physical contact, Gualtieri said, but what he did was inappropriate. He was given a written reprimand.
Then, in February of this year, Overton responded to a child abuse complaint from a woman who was in a custody battle with her ex-husband, Gualtieri said. He found no evidence of child abuse, but he told the woman that he’d still have to file a report with the Department of Children and Families.
Early the next morning, Gualtieri said, Overton texted the woman to ask if she had any animals in the house, because the Department of Children and Families was asking. But this was a ruse to get her attention, Gualtieri said: He didn’t report the case to the Department of Children and Families until hours later.
Later that morning, the woman responded, Gualtieri said. Over the course of more than 30 text messages, Overton commented on her looks, told her he’d had a vasectomy and made other sexual comments.
“Don’t take this the wrong way but you have Thst (sic) attractive independent vibe, not a perfect body but def still sexy,” Overton wrote, according to the investigation. Minutes later, he added: “So do you have a sister or a friend just like you lol jk.”
The woman told her current husband that the texts upset her but that she feared going to the Sheriff’s Office, because she believed that Overton could retaliate in a way that would hurt her child custody case, records show. The husband soon filed a complaint, telling investigators he believed Overton’s texts constituted sexual harassment.
The woman told investigators that she “tried to backpedal out of the conversation,” but that took nearly two hours. She felt sexually harassed, she said.
“If I piss this guy off,” she said, “what’s he going to do?”
Overton later deleted the texts from his own phone — he had used an application to send the texts, rather than his personal number — because he feared his wife would find them, he told an investigator.
While investigating that complaint, Gualtieri said, deputies learned about another incident: When Overton responded as backup to a traffic stop in the Seminole area, he looked at the woman behind the wheel and immediately turned around. According to the investigation, Overton left the scene when he realized he knew the woman, who was suspected of driving under the influence — they had met on the dating app Plenty of Fish.
Overton told investigators that he’d had an affair with the woman for about a month, but that he couldn’t remember her name.
In interviews with investigators, Overton admitted that he had passed out business cards to women he met on the job, hoping the connections would result in sex.
“This is a predator,” Gualtieri said.
Overton said in a written statement Monday that he was looking for affirmation in his overtures to the women, and that he has “come to know and reckon with how my conduct impacted others.”
“I understand that these women were strangers who I was supposed to protect and serve,” he added. “At the time, I was just thinking about me. I did not think about how my conduct would impact them. I know now that I made them feel uncomfortable, and that I likely changed the way that they view and rely on law enforcement. For that, I offer my deepest apologies and sincerest regrets.”
Gualtieri said he found it appalling that Overton used the power of his law enforcement position for his own ends.
“He’s using the Sheriff’s Office, as a deputy, as his playground for his sexual escapades,” he said. “It’s a terrible situation.”