Attorney warns Marco police of prospective lawsuit alleging sexual abuse, trafficking
An attorney representing the woman at the heart of the Marco Island Police Department's recent claim of sex on duty has put the city on notice; the city could face a federal lawsuit for trafficking and sexual abuse if they don't reach a settlement agreement.
Attorney Dennis Webb sent a letter to City Manager Mike McNees and City Council Chairman Erik Brechnitz on Tuesday with an ultimatum to respond, along with a copy of a prospective 26-page federal complaint.
The prospective complaint contains seven counts of wrongdoing, including multiple violations of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and battery for physical, psychological and sexual abuse.
"My own investigation and legal research and analysis have convinced me that the City shares significant culpability and legal responsibility in this matter," Webb wrote. "The shameful and shocking events that transpired over the course of several years have resulted in the utter psychological devastation of Madeline Barrett, and essentially, the ruination of her life."
Internal affairs investigations in 2018 found that Barrett had been sexually involved with at least three Marco Island police officers while they were on-duty over a three-year span. Barrett was 18-years-old when the sexual relationships began.
Those investigations prompted the resignation of Sgts. James Inlow and Neil Giansanti and the city to terminate officer Kevin Hennings. Investigators found hundreds of sexually graphic photos and messages to sustain the allegations of wrongdoing by the officers in their police cars and in public places.
A fourth officer, Brian Granneman, was reprimanded for knowing about Inlow's on-duty sexual activities but not reporting them to another supervisor. Months later, Granneman was promoted to sergeant by then-Police Chief Al Schettino.
Although Barrett told investigators Granneman had provided her alcohol while underage and had sexual contact with her at this home, the investigation did not substantiate those allegations.
Granneman, who was once a friend of Barrett, is also accused of facilitating Barrett's sexual relationship with Hennings.
Along with the city, Inlow, Giansanti, Hennings and Granneman are individually named as defendants.
The prospective complaint delves further into the conduct of officers and accuses them of using their status to prey and capitalize on Barrett's "fragility, vulnerability and instability for their own self-gratification, and aided and abetted one another in said venture."
Webb continued by stating officers knew Barrett's mental health and emotional issues made her incapable of knowing of and giving lawful consent to the sexual acts.
Referencing the mental health issues, the complaint details how Granneman requested Sgt. Hector Diaz and Officer Bob Marvin perform a wellness check on Barrett one day after she attempted to harm herself in front of Inlow.
Granneman allegedly took her to a facility, but Webb wrote there were no incident reports filed.
Along with that incident, Barrett suffered from other mental health issues and abuse as a result of the actions of the officer, the complaint stated.
Included was an incident in the parking lot of a Marco Island Starbucks where Inlow allegedly threatened Barrett after she and Inlow's wife confronted him about his affair.
Although Barrett was interviewed by both the police department and Collier County Sheriff's Office, she declined to press criminal charges.
Referring to the police department's approach as "see no evil, hear no evil," Webb wrote the department had a "deliberate indifference to the welfare and protections of citizens" such as Barrett.
Webb cited the long history of complaints against the department, including special treatment, excessive use of force and the employment of "Brady Cops," or officers with a history of credibility issues.
"The result of Defendant City's failure to provide appropriate training resulted in Marco Island police officers running amok, and engaging in immoral, illicit, and otherwise unbecoming conduct, to the detriment of the citizens they are duty-bound to protect," Webb wrote.
Webb's letter gives the city 21 days to respond to the claims outlined.
"The (Barrett family) would prefer to achieve a fair and just resolution of this tragic situation, without the necessity of a lawsuit," Webb wrote. "But make no mistake, given the patently unconscionable and unlawful victimization of this young woman, and the egregious breach of the public trust that has occurred here, we are fully prepared to proceed with legal action if that turns out to be the only viable avenue to vindicate her legal rights and dignity, and obtain the redress to which she is entitled."