Islander who had sex with former Marco police officers given 'free pass' after traffic stops
In a three year span, interactions between one Islander and Marco police have led to the resignation of two officers, an officer being reprimanded, another terminated, and a claim filed against the city.
Dashcam footage and audio from multiple traffic stops show Marco Island police officers have looked the other way, including at the instruction of the police chief, on potential offenses committed by the woman at the heart of the department’s sex on duty scandal.
On multiple occasions in February, Madeline Barrett was pulled over by police only to escape any criminal or traffic citations each time despite legitimate reasons for the traffic stops; including one where the officer noticed the smell of marijuana.
Barrett, who allegedly had sex with three now former officers in public places while they were on duty between 2015 and 2017, in October filed a notice of claim for negligence against the city of Marco Island.
The department launched four internal affairs investigations into officer misconduct related to Barrett last year after her father came forward in late January with hundreds of text messages that showed Sgt. James Inlow had sexted his daughter, scheduled trysts and solicited Adderall while he was on duty over a two-year period.
Cross-referencing the timestamps of the messages with shift reports, investigators were able to prove that these activities had occurred while Inlow was acting as a Marco Island police officer.
A forensic download of Barrett's phone and computer found that her relationship was not limited to Inlow and implicated Sgt. Neil Giansanti and officer Kevin Hennings.
Although Inlow and Giansanti resigned prior to the completion of their investigations, the department found that the digital forensic evidence and testimony from Barrett was sufficient to prove violations of multiple police policies, including conduct unbecoming. In Giansanti's investigation, police uncovered a video file in Barrett's possession of him putting his pants on outside his vehicle in a church parking lot.
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A GPS location and timestamp attached to the video also showed that it occurred during a time when Giansanti reported as inactive. Shift reports showed that Giansanti had also responded to events around the same parking lot before and after his period of inactivity.
In her interview with investigators, Barrett estimated she and Giansanti had sex while he was on duty about 20 times over the course of eight months, including in his squad car and at the ball field on Winterberry Drive.
Hennings was placed on administrative leave from May until September before investigators concluded that text messages and Barrett's testimony were sufficient to find he had also had sex on duty. Shortly after a pre-determination hearing, the city terminated his employment, which he is currently trying to regain through arbitration.
A fourth officer, Brian Granneman, received a written reprimand in May after text messages proved he knew about Inlow's activities but failed to report them. Months after receiving the reprimand, Granneman was promoted to the rank of sergeant.
The October claim against the city alleges Barrett suffered harm as a result of negligence in the hiring, supervision and retention of officers, including those whom she had a sexual relationship with.
A notice of claim is the first step before a negligence lawsuit can be lodged against a governmental entity in Florida. The party alleging negligence must wait six months after filing a notice of claim before he or she can file an official lawsuit.
During one stop on Feb. 6, the footage shows Officer Hunter Howell pulling Barrett over for erratic driving and not having her lights on at night, only to discover the woman’s vehicle smelled like marijuana. Audio captured from the traffic stop shows Howell made that declaration to his supervisor, Sgt. Kyle Kreis, who joined Howell at the stop location minutes later.
Barrett did possess a medical marijuana card.
As Howell and Kreis walk towards Howell’s vehicle, dashcam footage and audio from Kreis’s vehicle show Howell explaining to Kreis why he initiated the traffic stop and stating, “that stuff smells like weed in there.”
When Howell returned to the woman’s vehicle, he told her he pulled her over for her “driving patterns, lights and everything,” before stating “I don’t even want to go through this stuff.”
Howell asked the woman to call for a ride and not leave the parking lot by driving her vehicle.
“I don’t want you driving on the roadway because I don’t want to go through this stuff,” Howell said.
Despite the suspicion that the woman was driving impaired, dashcam footage from both officers’ vehicles shows they left the scene moments later without ensuring the woman was picked up by another driver.
Officer: ‘That’s nice to know you get a free pass now'
One week later, Kreis was involved in a second stop involving Barrett near Heathwood Drive and Auburndale Avenue because her vehicle was clocked at 49 mph in a 30-mph zone.
After explaining the reason for the stop and collecting the woman’s license and registration, Kreis returned to his vehicle where he received a phone call from Police Chief Al Schettino, the dashcam audio and video shows.
In the few minutes that elapsed from when Kreis made the initial stop, it appears that Barrett had alerted someone that she had been pulled over again by a Marco Island police officer.
“Hey, what’s going on out there right now with pulling over Maddie Barrett?” Schettino said.
Despite Kreis stating to him why he had pulled her over and that he was not targeting her, Schettino seemingly ignored the officer's explanation.
“Just give her a warning and that’s it,” Schettino said. “Alright, this is the second time I’ve gotten a call that she was getting pulled over. I mean I just don’t understand.”
Kreis complied with Schettino’s order, but footage of the traffic stop corroborates his account that the stop was made during normal patrol.
Prior to Schettino’s phone call, another officer pulled up to the scene and Kreis stated that he didn’t know who he was pulling over when he initiated the stop.
Records from the Marco Island Police Department also show the citation Kreis was going to issue was voided.
Audio from Kreis’s vehicle indicates that one of the officers disagreed with the order once the call disconnected.
“That’s nice to know you get a free pass now,” one of the Marco Island police officers said.
Marco Island City Manager David Harden said a description of the events warranted further investigation but withheld drawing any conclusions until he had the opportunity to hear both sides of the story.
In response to questions from the Marco Eagle about the special treatment being afforded to Barrett, Capt. Dave Baer responded, “given the high profile nature of these traffic stops, Chief Schettino became involved to ensure that the person being stopped, the department and the community’s interests were being protected. With respect to warnings versus other enforcement options - it is more common than not for persons being stopped for traffic violations on the Island to be given a warning versus being issued a citation or being arrested. All law enforcement situations are different and must be handled according to the unique circumstances associated with each incident. Whenever possible, the Marco Island Police Department strives to treat all persons with empathy and compassion."