Unable to prove or disprove sexting on duty, Marco police officer receives reprimand
A Marco Island police officer under suspicion of sexting will receive a written reprimand after an investigation could not prove or disprove whether the act occurred on duty.
The department opened an internal affairs investigation into Sgt. Mark Haueter on Oct. 30 after the Marco Eagle forwarded allegations and instant messages sent in 2015 seemingly between Haueter and a woman who made claims he was sexting and flirting.
While Haueter faced four violations of police policies, the department concluded he was only guilty of noncompliance with directives and misuse of his personal cellular phone while on the clock.
"As a result of this investigation, I concur with the findings of IA-18-005 that you used your personal cell phone while on duty and exchanged KIK messages with another person," Chief Al Schettino wrote in a disciplinary recommendation. "In fact, you have not disputed that claim, though you indicate not recalling the exchange. These messages contained flirtatious comments and plans to meet. The one sexually explicit message sent from your personal cell phone did not display a date or time; therefore, it cannot be proven it was sent while you were on duty."
In the investigative report, violations of conduct unbecoming and integrity were not sustained because the "investigation failed to disclose sufficient evidence to prove or disprove" the allegations.
The Eagle's previous reporting on multiple officers, who were found by the department to have had sex on duty, triggered a person to come forward with the information about Haueter.
The messages, which had timestamps between March 27 and April 1, 2015, appeared to be taken from the woman's phone and suggested Haueter used a mobile application, Kik, while on duty and over several days to flirt with a woman before their conversations became sexually charged ahead of a physical meetup in 2015.
While Haueter, who was married at the time, told Capt. Richard Stoltenborg that he did not recognize who he sent the messages to (as he disclosed he had multiple girlfriends), he did acknowledge he had used the message application in the past.
Haueter's face appears as an avatar on one side of the conversation and details of his shift activities, which are included in the messages, identified him as a participant. In one conversation on March 30, 2015, Haueter referenced a sudden death call.
Police reports and Schettino’s monthly report to the City Council also verified the incident took place and involved Haueter. The timestamps on the majority of the messages also line up with his shifts according to a time card obtained through a public records request.
The investigation, however, was unable to obtain Haueter's message history from the application.
A law enforcement guide prepared by Kik states that data retention is very limited with some of it not available past 90 days. A new policy went into place in October 2018.
No additional witnesses also stepped forward to aid in the investigation.
Stoltenborg was in contact with Haueter's former in-laws, who previously expressed concerns to the department after reading news stories about officers having sex on duty. They, however, did not provide any information relevant to this case.
Haueter's ex-wife was also contacted but ultimately declined to be interviewed. In emails to Stoltenborg, Michelle Kilickiran wrote she feared retribution if she were to say anything before downplaying any affect an investigation would do.
"I was not the person who originated the Kik messages, I still (to) this day do not know all the details and all the Ashley Madison people Haueter was with, but I am done associating any further," she wrote. "God knows the entire truth and no newspaper, or investigation into one of the (sliest) people I have ever known will do anything."
Although he was neither found guilty or exonerated of sending the sexual messages while on the clock, his comments to the woman he was flirting with were found to be unprofessional and insensitive when mentioning the death investigation,
Forty-three minutes after EMS personnel pronounced the woman dead, the provided text messages indicated Haueter sent a message to the woman (at 12:03 p.m.) to say he had been tied up with the death. After the woman expressed commiserations, the provided messages indicate Haueter responded “Ehhh. Worse for her,” followed by a winking emoji.
In his recorded interview with Stoltenborg, Haueter did issue an apology, which was taken into account in the disciplinary recommendation.
"I would just say to you that sometimes in this profession we make off-color comments as a way of dealing with the dark side of the job or stressors of things that we see," Haueter said. "So if I made that comment, you know, it very much could have been done out of stress, you know, from being on a scene where a woman died and being unable to help or to save her."
Schettino cited Haueter's previous work history in recommending the written reprimand and counseling on policies and procedures in his disciplinary findings.
"Due to your excellent work ethic and the fact that you have no previous disciplinary history, I consider the violations to be an error in judgment and meriting a lesser penalty," Schettino wrote.