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Pinellas deputy fired for comments during sex investigation

CLEARWATER — A 25-year veteran of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office was fired Monday for speaking inappropriately to a 17-year-old girl reporting a rape — using foul language to describe body parts and sex acts, letting her know he went to strip clubs and asking her whether the man she accused of assaulting her appreciated her body.

“I feel bad for the girl, that she had to endure this from him,” said Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.

Deputy Paul Martin, 48, was dispatched July 10 to a home in unincorporated Largo, where the girl lived. Her guardians told authorities a 25-year-old man also living there was making the girl have sex with him.

In front of the girl, Martin spoke openly of his lifestyle, which included going to strip clubs. The words made the girl feel awkward, according to an internal affairs memorandum released Monday.

Meanwhile, the sheriff’s child protection team received a tip about the forced sexual relationship; the day after Martin was dispatched, a child protection investigator went to the home. Coincidentally, Martin was dispatched to accompany the investigator.

“During this interview, you made wholly inappropriate comments with sexual overtones to this sexual battery victim,” Gualtieri wrote in his memo to Martin.

Martin used profane words describing to the girl her breasts and rear end and intercourse; he also asked whether the man she’d accused of assaulting her liked her breasts and rear end, the memorandum states.

Martin also asked the girl about sex acts she never claimed happened, and when he found out she sometimes went to Busch Gardens with another girl, he asked whether she was “into girls, too,” according to the sheriff’s memo.

After asking the girl about exchanging sex for money, Martin said ”sounds like my ex-wife,” the memorandum states. Martin was arrested in 2001, accused of misdemeanor battery in an assault on his ex-wife. He later entered a domestic violence deferred prosecution program.

When he was questioned by internal affairs investigators, Martin said he was “indifferent” to the 17-year-old victim’s feelings and told them he intentionally made her feel uncomfortable to ensure she was telling the truth.

Martin also acknowledged he told the girl “I own you” and “I control your destiny,” the memorandum says. When asked why, Martin said that “fear of the unknown outweighs the fear of consequences.”

Regardless of his intentions, investigators concluded Martin’s techniques fell outside the bounds of what’s acceptable.

“Telling a 17-year-old girl who is making a sexual battery complaint that you ‘own her’ or that you ‘control her destiny’ is contrary to all interviewing boundaries and effective police practices,” the memorandum states.

During the interview, Martin learned the girl had intentionally cut herself and had scars on her rib cage, just below her bra line. Martin asked to see them and reached out as if he were about to lift her shirt to see them, both the girl and the child protection investigator testified.

After the interview, the child protection investigator filed a complaint against Martin with internal affairs.

The girl didn’t have a favorable impression of either Martin or his interview skills.

“It kind of made me lose respect for him,” she told internal affairs investigators.

No arrests have been made in the sexual assault case the girl reported. Detectives are investigating, said sheriff’s spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda.

Martin had two prior internal affairs cases that resulted in long suspensions in 2011, and they were factors in his dismissal.

Martin was suspended in September 2011 after he the fight with his ex-wife. He was suspended that November for 12 days after he started dating a woman who was illegally using prescription drugs.

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