Marco Island will investigate prospective lawsuit's allegations against police department
This is a six-month review of the most-read crime stories in Collier County on naplesnews.com from September 2018 to February 2019. Wochit
Marco Island city officials will investigate the newest claims of impropriety by its embattled police department that were outlined in a prospective lawsuit received Tuesday.
The city was aware of the sex-on-duty scandal involving at least four current or former officers, but the woman who was involved is now alleging violations of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and physical, mental and sexual abuse.
While internal affairs investigations prompted the resignation of two of the officers and the termination of another, the complaint includes additional accusations of wrongdoing that would bolster claims that officers used their positions and preyed on her mental vulnerabilities if found true.
"I can say that we take all of the allegations made in the 'prospective lawsuit' very seriously and that (the) new allegations that have not been the subject of prior internal investigation will certainly be investigated," City Manager Mike McNees said. "As you know there has been considerable activity at MIPD in terms of investigation and discipline since these allegations first came to the attention of the City, and if there is work left to be done in that regard both Chief (Tracy) Frazzano and I are committed to seeing to it."
The prospective lawsuit claims former Sgts. James Inlow and Neil Giansanti, officer Kevin Hennings and current Sgt. Brian Granneman knew of Madeline Barrett's vulnerabilities and caused harm through on-duty sexual relationships occurring over three years. It also states Barrett's mental health issues prevented her from knowing or giving proper consent.
Barrett, now 22 years old, was 18 when sexual contact began.
The prospective seven-count complaint assigns culpability to the city through claims the city failed to properly train and supervise officers and that they used their positions to prey on her.
A slew of internal investigations in 2018 prompted the resignations of Inlow and Giansanti. The city terminated Hennings in September 2018 despite him proclaiming his innocence. 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.
Granneman, then a detective, received a written reprimanded for knowing about Inlow's on-duty sexual activities but not reporting them to another supervisor. His punishment was short-lived as then-Police Chief Al Schettino promoted him to sergeant months later.
The 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."
It specifically mentions 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 in November 2015.
Granneman was accused of taking possession of a weapon and then transporting Barrett to a mental health facility. Barrett's attorney, Dennis Webb, wrote in the complaint that there were no incident reports filed for the Baker Act.
Along with that incident, Barrett suffered from other mental health issues and abuse as a result of the actions officers, the complaint stated.
Before the sex-on-duty allegations surfaced, Barrett accused Inlow in August 2017 of threatening to blow off her head in the parking lot of a Marco Island Starbucks after she and Inlow's wife confronted him about their affair.
Barrett gave sworn statements to both the Collier County Sheriff's Office and police department but declined to press criminal charges. The police department also dropped its internal investigation into Inlow, citing Barrett's decision.
The discovery of sex on duty did not occur until January 2018 after Barrett's father contacted Schettino via email and showed him graphic messages between Inlow and his daughter, including ones where he appeared to solicit her for Adderall.
A forensic download of Barrett's phone and computer revealed hundreds of photos and videos which implicated the other officers and spawned the other investigations.
Hiding in plain sight
Much of what Barrett's complaint alleges has been hiding in plain sight of the police department for years.
The department was made aware of the two-year sexual relationship between her and Inlow during the 2017 criminal investigation into Inlow's threats. While Barrett never went into details, the police department never pressed her for more information.
The Naples Daily News obtained an electronic copy of Barrett's sworn interview with Capt. Rich Stoltenborg through a public records request and found it lasted six minutes and 34 seconds, including the reading of disclaimers and basic biographical information.
The police department also interviewed Barrett's father, Greg, who reported the complaint.
Adding to the need for additional scrutiny were comments made police administration during a meeting with a Daily News reporter and an editor from its sister publication, the Marco Eagle, nearly one year later.
The Aug. 22, 2018, meeting took place at the request of the department after the Daily News made a records request for an incident report involving Barrett. A letter signed by Schettino expressed concerns about the Daily News' interest in the document.
"Unfortunately, former members of this agency had a negative impact in this young person's life," Schettino wrote. "Regrettably, we cannot change that fact. It is clear I found the former officer's behavior reprehensible and contrary to the public trust."
Stoltenborg said when the department investigated Inlow the second time, it had concerns about Barrett's age given that the sexual contact allegedly occurred right after she turned 18.
When the Daily News followed up with the police department about why it wasn't more thorough, Capt. Dave Baer wrote an email back stating, "The Department stands by its investigations and actions."
A review of the Inlow's January 2018 investigation revealed the city should have also been aware of the November 2015 Baker Act incident.
One of the documents Barrett's father submitted includes an Instagram message between her and Inlow before it occurred. It includes the following commentary: "This is about the time James called Brian Granneman to come and take her to David Lawrence Center for a 'Baker Act' charge in November of 2015. James didn't take her himself as to not have his name on any of the paperwork."
Despite receiving this document, there was no investigation of the incident concerning either Inlow or Granneman.
City attorney warns Marco councilors to be 'very cautious' about lawsuit comments
Internal emails reveal Marco Island City Attorney Alan Gabriel warned elected officials Wednesday about commenting on the latest "alarming" allegations against the department.
"While this is probably always good advice, it is particularly appropriate here, given the 42 USC § 1983 claim," Gabriel wrote in an email. "As you may not be aware, such claims are based upon municipal 'policies,' and elected officials are policy-setters. Thus, your comments could be relevant and admissible in the litigation, and, in my experience, even innocuous comments by municipal officials are oftentimes taken out of context by plaintiffs’ attorneys in the furtherance of their cases."
Gabriel's email also instructs councilors to note "the City responded swiftly and appropriately when it came to the City's attention that the alleged misconduct had occurred."
The points Gabriel wanted to highlight were:
- The MIPD expeditiously forwarded the matter to the Collier County Sheriff's Office for criminal review. The MIPD then proceeded with several internal administrative reviews.
- Sergeants Inlow and Giansanti resigned during internal affairs (IA) investigations opened against them by (former) Chief Schettino. The two IA investigations were nevertheless completed and forwarded to FDLE.
- Officer Hennings was terminated by Chief Schettino. The PBA challenged the termination. The matter is presently in arbitration.
- Detective Granneman was subjected to an IA investigation. Though there was not enough evidence to sustain every claim, he was found guilty of certain offenses and disciplined.
Gabriel also said the concept of a "prospective lawsuit" was not grounds to go into executive session to discuss the complaint because an Attorney General's Office ruling that "impending or imminent litigation" is not "pending litigation."