Brett Parson with MPD in 2005 – File photo: Todd Franson
Florida prosecutors have dropped charges against former Metropolitan Police Department lieutenant Brett Parson, who had faced two counts of unlawful sexual activity with minors. The charges could have landed Parson at least seven years in prison, and potentially up to 15 years on each count.
Parson was arrested and charged in February last year after meeting a 16-year-old on the dating app Growlr.
According to a memo from the Broward County state’s attorney’s office explaining its decision, the teenager’s parents wanted to press charges against Parson, but did not want to subject their son to questioning on the stand and were reluctant to allow prosecutors to talk to him to help him. determine the facts of the case.
Assistant State’s Attorney Danielle Lennox, of the office’s sexual battery and child abuse unit, wrote in the memo that a victim advocate from the office had begun contacting the family after they came forward the charges against Parson.
In a May 2022 conference call with the victim’s parents, Lennox explained what the prosecution process would entail, but they were reluctant to have their son speak with her.
Lennox agreed to give them time to think and scheduled a follow-up meeting with the parents to arrange an in-person interview with the teenager, but was unable to contact the family.
In February 2023, the victim’s attorney in the case attempted to contact the family.
The victim’s father eventually responded in an email, reiterating that parents did not want to force their son to testify against his will.
The father also indicated a desire to move forward with charges against Parson, but also said he would prefer to “drop the case” if his son’s further involvement was necessary.
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Lennox noted that while ignorance of a minor’s age is not a defense under Florida law, Parson has maintained that he always believed the minor was 19, or over the age of consent , since they started chatting on Growlr.
“Due to the victim’s lack of cooperation, my conversations with the victim’s parents, and the possible scheduling of a victim deposition, the State believed it was in the victim’s best interest not to require- him to come for the deposition and subsequent trial. witness, respect his wishes and announce a nollo prosequi [declining to prosecute] in this case,” Lennox wrote in the note.
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Appearing in court Monday morning, Lennox told Judge Tim Bailey of Florida’s 17th Circuit Court that, based on the family’s wishes and the victim’s lack of cooperation, the state would not pursue the charges against Parson.
Bailey then declared the case closed, meaning Parson will no longer face prison time or be required to register as a sex offender.
It’s unclear what the decision not to file charges against Parson implies because of his status as a retired law enforcement officer or any future involvement with law enforcement.
After his arrest, he was fired from his position as an officer in the Metropolitan Police Department’s Reserve Corps and as an instructor for ABLE, a training program for police departments across the country, according to reports. The Washington Post.
According to the memo from the state attorney’s office, the minor and Parson originally connected and talked back and forth on Growlr for two to four days before agreeing to meet in person, exchanging also mobile numbers and texts.
While Growlr requires users to be 18 years old to use the platform, the apps do not require documentation to verify a user’s age. As such, minors who identify as LGBTQ can sometimes get accounts. In this case, the teenager in question had created a profile in which he claimed to be 19 years old.
Parson and the minor agreed to meet at a gas station in Coconut Creek, Florida, which was halfway between where the teenager lived and Boca Raton, where Parson’s parents live. They then decided to go to an empty parking lot for more privacy before engaging in mutual oral sex. The victim later told police she felt uncomfortable, despite having previously consented, but never gave Parson any indication of her discomfort, according to a memo from the assistant state’s attorney.
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After being startled by a passerby, the teenager and Parson agreed to relocate and drove to what he thought would be an isolated spot, with Parson following. Police officers spotted them after entering a restricted-access facility owned by Comcast.
Police approached Parson, who allegedly told officers he did not know the individual in the other car, identified himself as a police officer visiting Washington, D.C., and claimed he was lost while searching the highway, according to the loading documents.
They then approached the teenager and began questioning him when he admitted he was a minor and explained how he had met Parson on Growlr.
Parson was later arrested, tried and pleaded not guilty to two counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor.
Under Florida law, the age of consent is 18. Having sex with anyone under the age of 18, even if the victim consents, is considered second degree sexual assault. Defendants charged with these crimes cannot use their ignorance of a minor’s age as a defense, even in cases where a minor may have lied or misled their sexual partner about their age.
Michael Dutko, Parson’s attorney, praised the state’s attorney’s office for declining to prosecute his client, specifically praising Lennox for choosing to dismiss the charges.
“The state attorney’s office showed a certain intellectual courage in the way it looked at this case and decided not to prosecute it. They did the right thing and the right thing for good reasons,” Dutko told Metro Weekly in an interview after the charges were dismissed. “In this business that kind of intellectual courage is uncommon.”
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Dutko said his client is pleased with the outcome.
“This has been a very stressful test and he is glad to have it behind him,” Dutko said. “He has been sincere and responsible from the first moment. And finally, the information we gave to the State’s attorney corroborated their version of the facts and the nollo prosequi was the correct determination here.
“Mr. Parson went to an adult website in search of adult companionship, never expecting to meet anyone under the age of 18,” Dutko continued. “He was not a predator looking for children.”
Dutko said Parson may be eligible to file a petition to have the charges expunged from his criminal record, but said those issues will be addressed at a later date.
Parson, who retired from the MPD in early 2020 after serving 26 years on the force, previously served as head of the former Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, then based in the historic Gayborhood of the city’s Dupont Circle, from 2001 to 2007.
After returning to patrol for 10 months, he was tapped by former MPD Chief Cathy Lanier to lead the reorganized Special Liaison Unit, which oversees liaison units for the Asian, Latino, deaf and disabled communities hearing and LGBTQ, for the with the goal of developing a plan to expand the liaison program and provide culturally sensitive training for officers on how to deal with marginalized or minority communities in the city’s seven police departments.
He left the unit again in 2009 and returned to patrol for several years, before returning once more in 2017 to serve as acting supervisor of the Special Liaison Unit.
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