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Governmental misconduct alleged in teacher sexual misconduct case

  • Written by Sharon Kivisto

A routine sentencing procedure in San Juan County Superior Court was turned on its head when the defense attorney, representing an Orcas Island teacher convicted of sexual misconduct with a 19-year-old student, accused the county of governmental misconduct.  

Gerald Grellet-Tinner was found guilty in June 2016 of  two counts of first-degree sexual misconduct with a minor.  At the September 14, 2016 sentencing hearing, Superior Court Judge Don Eaton unsealed a 50-page investigative report about a claim made by the victim that she had a sexual relationship with a San Juan County Sheriff's detective.

The report by Skagit County Detective Lori Sigman dated August 23, 2016 was received by the defense on Monday, September 12, 2016.

The Sigman, concluded: "Because there is no proof, I've come to the conclusion this allegation is not sustained. I do, however, find some things curious that have left me with some hesitations." 

In his motion for an Order for Relief from Judgment, Defense Attorney Robert Butler wrote: "We clearly have newly discovered evidence which with due diligence could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial...The defense is not taking a position on any issue of misconduct in the report as a basis for relief. It is the totality of the report that provides the basis for relief."

Butler filed a Motion to Stay Sentencing and a  Motion to Dismiss OR in the alternative an Order for Relief from Judgment.  The motion states: "This court has been granted authority to dismiss a case when the Court is aware of governmental misconduct when there has been prejudice to the rights of the accused which materially affect the accused's right to a fair trial."  

Butler, questioned the credibility of the victim. He noted that San Juan County Prosecutor Randy Gaylord repeatedly emphasized her credibility in his closing arguments before the jury.

in the Sigman report, the Victim Services employee said the San Juan County detective said to her "You know she seduces people" and "you know she set him up." Whether the person  set up is the teacher or the detective is unclear.  The Victim Services employee said it wasn't a direct quote but the impact of what his conversation with her was.

San Juan County Sheriff Ron Krebs asked Skagit County Sheriff's Department to conduct an investigation after the victim made the allegation to a county Victim Services employee on July 27, 2016.

The employee then informed Prosecutor Gaylord on July 29 (he was out of the office on July 27).

Sheriff Krebs was told on July 30 and as per the guild contract, he informed the San Juan County detective,  who in turn contacted the victim that same day.

The victim called the San Juan County detective  twice on July 31, 2016.

On July 31, 2016 she recanted her accusation against the San Juan County detective. 

In her report, Detective Sigman wrote: "This has similar parallels to the teacher/student case where she tells of a relationship, it causes trouble, she recants."

In the case against Grellet-Tinner, the victim told a school employee about the sexual relationship. The employee reported the information to the school administration. At that point, the victim recanted her statement. Later she reiterated her original statement saying she was in a sexual relationship with her teacher. Charges were then filed

In the course of her investigation into the allegations against the San Juan County detective, Detective Sigman interviewed the victim, her mother, the San Juan County detective, the Victim Services employee, Prosecutor Gaylord and Sheriff Krebs.

The Victim Services employee believed the allegation against the detective and in her testimony said he was aware of and attended meetings between  her and the victim or the prosecuting staff and the victim  - meetings he hadn't been  invited to or informed about  by county staff. She said he mentioned to her a Facebook message he had received from the victim.

None of the other interviewees believed the allegation. 

One of the items listed in Detective Sigman's list of curious things is the fact that the San Juan County detective and the victim exchanged 69 emails between October 20, 2015 and January 21, 2016. She wrote: "This seems an astonishing amount based on my experience."  

She  wrote: "I also find it interesting there (is) no other email correspondence between the San Juan County detective and the victim from January 21, 2016 to present when they wrote so much to begin with. It abruptly stops. Was there some other means of communication?"

Both the  San Juan County detective and the victim denied using Facebook to communicate. 

Besides  his knowledge of meetings  no one from the county had informed him about,   Detective Sigman  wondered about his knowledge of the victim "no showing" for her meeting with the Victim Services employee over a holiday weekend, despite the employee not having told him. 

Sheriff Krebs believes the allegations against his detective are false. In an interview after the court hearing, he said the detective is empathetic. As an example, he said last year the detective used his own money to purchase Christmas presents for the children of a man convicted that year of rape.

Judge Eaton continued the sentencing hearing until 3 p.m. Friday, September 16, 2016.

The Defense Attorney will use the report to make his case for dismissal or relief from judgment.

The Prosecutor is asking for a sentence in the mid-range of the standard 15-20 months in prison and three years of community custody. 






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