Two Marco cops who gave 'free pass' to woman who had sex with officers have yet to face discipline
Marco Island officers who gave a "free pass" to a woman they suspected of driving impaired earlier this year have not faced any repercussions five months after the city said it would investigate the incident.
In February, Officer Hunter Howell issued a warning to Madeline Barrett in the presence of his supervisor, Sgt. Kyle Kreis, for Barrett's erratic driving despite noting the strong scent of marijuana. Howell told Barrett he did not want her driving and told to her call for a ride, yet both he and Kreis drove away before ensuring either happened, dashcam video shows.
Barrett is the same woman who had sexual dalliances with multiple officers both on and off duty, resulting in two officers resigning and one being terminated. Last year, she filed a notice of claim against the city for damages caused as a result of negligence in the hiring, supervision and retention of officers.
Despite then-City Manager David Harden telling the Naples Daily News in March that a description of the events warranted further investigation, the city has taken no substantive actions in response.
In an email to the Naples Daily News, Capt. Dave Baer wrote he was aware that a conversation took place between former Police Chief Al Schettino and Harden but was not privy to what was discussed.
Baer also said he was not aware of the existence of a departmental directive on how to treat Barrett. He declined to comment further, citing the potential litigation the city may face.
Dashcam footage and audio from Kreis’ vehicle showed Howell explaining to Kreis why he initiated the traffic stop and stating, “that stuff smells like weed in there.”
Howell told Barrett he pulled her over for “driving patterns, lights and everything,” before stating “I don’t even want to go through this stuff.”
“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 Barrett was driving impaired, video from both officers’ vehicles shows they left the scene moments later without ensuring that she had called for a ride or wasn't continuing to drive.
This was not the only incident where Marco police gave Barrett a "free pass."
One week later, Kreis pulled Barrett over for going 49 mph in 30-mph zone. While Kreis was writing a ticket in his vehicle, he received a phone call from then-Police Chief Al Schettino in which he was ordered to issue a warning.
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.”
After Kreis ended the call with Schettino, an unidentified officer who pulled up to scene said, "That's nice to know you get a free pass now."
The following month, Baer defended the actions in stating, “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."
Prior to the February incidents, Marco Island police had multiple encounters with Barrett for similar types of offenses.
An internal affairs report for former Sgt. James Inlow includes text messages between him and Barrett in which she describes being let off for underage drinking and an open container while she was preparing to drive away from a friend's house.
"I was finishing a beer before I left and he found the open container," Barrett wrote to Inlow when an officer pulled up.
Inlow was the first Marco Island police officer investigated as part of the the sex on duty scandal last year. The investigation into Inlow, who resigned in February 2018 after being placed on administrative leave, spawned investigations into three other officers after police found incriminating messages and videos on her cellphone and computer.
Sgt. Neil Giansanti resigned months later and like Inlow, was found to have engaged in sex while on duty. Both Giansanti and Inlow also lost their certifications from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The department terminated Officer Kevin Hennings in September, but his case is currently moving through arbitration.
Later, Barrett texted Inlow back and wrote she was let go. Inlow intimated that he had something to do with the decision.
"(You're) welcome," Inlow wrote. "(You) owe me again."
In the lone incident where police actually arrested Barrett, it brought the sex-on-duty scandal to light. Howell arrested Barrett in December 2017 after she was caught smoking marijuana while driving.
Before her February 2018 court date, Barrett's father emailed Schettino about the incident as well as evidence showing Inlow's on-duty activities with his daughter, which triggered the internal affairs investigation.
He added he would be including most of the messages between Inlow and his daughter as part of her criminal defense and suggested Howell had motivation to go after Barrett because Inlow was previously his supervisor.
"You told me the officer felt she had been getting off lightly on previous offenses and she needed to learn a lesson," Greg Barrett wrote. "You'll find a couple of texts where James admits to doing it as well as telling Maddie to lock her phone so other officers' won't discover what is happening with them. It wasn't Maddie's fault she was 'getting off lucky,' it was James protecting his (expletive)."