A former Orcas teacher cleared of a felony is seeking to file citizen criminal charges against a former county detective involved in his case.
Gerald Grellet-Tinner is petitioning San Juan County District Court Judge Stewart Andrew to charge detective Stephen Parker with the gross misdemeanors of making a false or misleading statement to a public servant and obstructing a law enforcement officer when he signed a voluntary witness statement to Skagit County Sheriff’s Office on Aug. 8, 2016. In the document, Parker stated he had never had any type of relationship – physical, sexual or emotional – with the victim involved in Grellet-Tinner’s case. Investigators later concluded he had had an inappropriate relationship with the victim.
“Someone has to provide justice,” said attorney Nick Power, who is representing Grellet-Tinner.
Power is adamant that charges should have been filed when Parker’s misconduct came to light in 2016.
Parker was the lead detective on the case that charged and convicted Grellet-Tinner of sexual misconduct with a student in 2016 in San Juan County Superior Court. The charges and conviction were thrown out the following year after a report alleged that Parker was having relations with the same student during the investigation and trial. Parker resigned and moved to Florida in 2016 without facing any criminal charges.
In April 2018, the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission charged Parker with one count of official misconduct and/or failure of duty and one count of making a false or misleading statement to a public servant and/or false swearing. Parker has until June 22 to ask for a hearing, otherwise, his officer certification will be revoked.
At the May 30 hearing, Andrew questioned if the removal of Parker’s credentials would affect the outcome of a potential trial if the charges were accepted. Parker’s attorney Allen Ressler, of Ressler and Tess in Seattle, said that information could be used against Parker in court.
Charging crimes are primarily the responsibility of prosecuting attorneys, but a Washington state law allows citizens to petition courts to file misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor criminal charges, but not felonies.
“[Citizen complaints are] very rare, only allowed in a few states,” Power told the Journal.
Power is running for the position of San Juan County Prosecuting Attorney in this November’s election against Randy Gaylord, who has held the position since 1995.
“Parker had my client convicted,” said Power. “This made me want to run [for office]. I can’t stand the fact that no one has been brought to justice.”
Andrew will make a decision on June 20 on whether there is enough probable cause to file charges against Parker at a later date.
According to the San Juan County Prosecutor’s Office, no hearing is scheduled, but Andrew will likely send his decision as a written document.
Why weren’t charges filed?
In a hearing for Grellet-Tinner’s petition on May 30 in San Juan County District Court, Power questioned why Gaylord or Skagit County (the third party who investigated Parker’s relationship with the victim) did not file charges against Parker.
“Everyone says Parker should be charged, but the elephant in the room is that nobody is doing it,” he said.
Power attributed to an April story called “The professor, the cop and the student: a tale of sex and deception in San Juan County” by Mike Carter in The Seattle Times where Gaylord and Skagit County Prosecuting Attorney Rich Weyrich state charges against Parker should have been filed.
According to Carter, Gaylord said he could not charge Parker because he and several people from his office were interviewed during the Grellet-Tinner investigation. Due to this conflict, the Skagit County Prosecuting Office, not San Juan County, investigated Parker’s relationship with the victim from the Grellet-Tinner case.
When hearing that Parker was not charged with the felony of perjury by Skagit County authorities, Gaylord told the Seattle Times, “This is disappointing news. … If there was a crime Parker could have been charged with, he should have been charged with it.”
At a Jan. 24, 2017, county council meeting, Gaylord was asked why Parker was not charged with perjury. Gaylord said he respected Skagit’s decision to not pursue any charges.
“It almost feels like there should be something else or something different,” said Gaylord during the council meeting. “But I feel that it’s appropriate to honor and give the respect to the adjoining prosecuting attorney on that one.”
In The Seattle Times’ story, Weyrich said his office did not look at a perjury charge, but that Gaylord “should have at least reviewed that charge and [Weyrich] believes it should have been filed.” According to The Seattle Times, Weyrich looked at sex crimes and witness tampering, but none of the charges could be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
Weyrich could not be reached by the Journal for comment as of press deadline.
Because perjury is a felony, Grellet-Tinner’s petition can only charge the gross misdemeanors of making a false or misleading statement to a public servant and obstructing a law enforcement officer. Citizens cannot place felony charges.
Parker signed a voluntary witness statement at the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office on Aug. 8, 2016, stating he had never had any type of relationship with the victim. A 2016 investigation by Skagit County concluded that Parker had an “inappropriate relationship” with the victim, showed disrespectful conduct toward her, used aliases to hide communication with her and shared details of other cases.
Ressler said only the victim can state whether Parker made a false claim about their relationship, as any information she disclosed about their relations to others would be considered hearsay in court. He also noted that the victim changed her statements multiple times on whether she had a sexual relationship with Parker.
Both Ressler and San Juan County Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Teresa Barnett disclosed concern over bringing the victim to another trial.
“It would be cruel to drag that lady into this court room and testify,” said Ressler.
Barnett asked why, if Parker’s alleged actions were so egregious, the petition for citizen charges was filed now, almost two years after Parker signed the sworn statement.
Power told the Journal it took until March to receive all of the public records needed to present the petition.
At the May 30 hearing, Power made it clear that when Grellet-Tinner’s charges were dismissed on April 21, 2017, “he is as innocent as you or me.” On April 27, 2017, Power wrote in a press release that his client Grellet-Tinner intended to seek a $10 million lawsuit against the San Juan County Prosecutor’s Office.
“It’s a $10 million motive by the complainant,” said Barnett about the petition.
As of press time, Power has yet to file a lawsuit.
“I always advise my clients to be open to resolution without resorting to litigation,” Power said. “Thus far the county has made no overture, however, so that option remains a viable course of action.”
Conflict of interest
At the beginning of the hearing, Power filed a motion to disqualify San Juan County Prosecutor’s Office staff from the proceedings. Judge Andrew denied the motion.
Power maintained there was a conflict of interest pertaining to the petition for charges because of Gaylord’s involvement in the Grellet-Tinner case.
Power took issue with emails between Gaylord and San Juan County Sheriff Krebs showing they were notified of Parker’s alleged bad character just two months after Parker was offered employment on Oct. 31, 2014.
According to Power, Gaylord and Krebs should have disclosed this information to the San Juan County Council.
Gaylord was questioned by the council about Parker incident Jan. 24, 2017, about a year after he had resigned.
In the aftermath of Parker’s misconduct, Gaylord was asked if “there was any process, any training, any action we could take trying to help assure or ensure, as we look at our own internal controls, our own internal checkpoints that should be done or could be done?”
Gaylord explained that he and Sheriff Krebs had done a good job looking at Parker’s full employment file before hiring him.
“It’s important that we ever be vigilant for small things that can lead to big things like this,” said Gaylord. “I don’t know what we would have done differently.”
Sheriff Krebs echoed this sentiment. As for the background check on Parker, Krebs told the council that “we went overboard. And nothing, nobody anywhere had anything bad to say about him.”
On Dec. 20, 2014, Krebs emailed Gaylord that San Juan County Deputy Jeff Asher came forth with “a grandiose story of lies, changing statements, hiding evidence, destroying evidence, fabricating victim statements and other issues regarding Stephen Parker.”
Asher is a candidate for San Juan County Sheriff in the Nov. 6 election.
According to the email, Asher claimed he was contacted by an anonymous source. Krebs asked Gaylord to call the prosecuting attorney in Chouteau County, Montana where Parker worked as a deputy prior to San Juan County.
“I just want to make sure we are not putting the wrong person in the detective’s office,” wrote Krebs in 2014, adding that Parker passed his background check with flying colors.
Due to a skiing injury and the Christmas holidays, Gaylord told the Journal he did not place the call. Instead, he directed then-deputy prosecutor Emma Scanlan to follow up with the Montana official. Gaylord and Krebs said they cannot recall if she ever spoke with the Montana prosecuting attorney. Gaylord said that Scanlan called and left a message, but her phone call was possibly never returned.
The Journal spoke with Chouteau County Prosecutor Stephen Gannon in May 2018. He said that he was not aware of any instances of misconduct by Parker while he worked for the local police department.
The Journal also spoke with an anonymous source who claimed that Parker had been involved with credibility issues during a court case while working as a civilian for the U.S. Air Force in Montana. The Journal contacted the Air Force and is waiting for court documents to corroborate this story.
A look at Parker’s history
In June 2016, Grellet-Tinner was found guilty of two counts of sexual misconduct in the first degree. In the state of Washington, both parties have to be 21 or older to have consensual sex between a teacher and student. The victim was 19 at the time. Later that summer, a new trial was granted based on the fact that student had a relationship with the lead detective Parker. In December 2016, Parker resigned. A few weeks later he sold his island home and moved with his family to Florida.
In 2017, the independent investigation was finalized. The final report alleged that Parker had an inappropriate relationship with the crime victim, showed disrespectful conduct toward her, used aliases to hide communication with her and shared details of other cases. In April 2017, San Juan Superior Court Judge Donald Eaton dismissed the misconduct charge against thus freeing Grellet-Tinner. A few days later, Grellet-Tinner’s attorney sent a press release stating they would be seeking $10 million in compensation for damages stemming from the alleged violation of his constitutional rights by the county.
Parker’s questionable conduct was responsible for reduced charges or dismissal of three sex crime cases in San Juan County. In addition to the Grellet-Tinner case, a former San Juan Island soccer coach, originally charged with the rape of a child, agreed to a plea deal of a misdemeanor on July 12, 2017. According to prosecutors, Parker failed to report the incident to them. A year after the alleged crime occurred, the victim’s parents came to the sheriff’s office to complain that no action had been taken. Sheriff Ron Krebs asked a deputy to investigate the case. The deputy found three recorded interviews made by Parker: two from the victim and one from the Martinez. These initial files never made it to the prosecutor’s office.
The third case involved rape charges of a 20-month-old child, which were dropped to molestation charges on Jan. 6, 2017 because the perpetrator’s confession to Parker was thrown out by the judge.
Journal general manager Cali Bagby contributed to this story.