Florida prosecutor drops sex with minor charges against former DC police officer

Florida prosecutor drops sex with minor charges against Brett Parson. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A prosecutor with the Broward County, Florida, State Attorney March 13 dropped two charges of unlawful sexual activity with a minor filed against former D.C. police lieutenant Brett Parson by Boca Raton, Florida police in February 2022.

A spokesperson for the State Attorney’s office told the Washington Blade the charges were dropped at an 8:30 a.m. hearing before a judge at the Broward County Circuit Court in Fort Lauderdale March 13.

In a three-page Closeout Memorandum released by the Broward State Attorney’s Office, Assistant State Attorneys Neva Rainford-Smith and Damette Lennox state that prosecutors decided to drop the charges after it became clear that the then 16-year-old boy, who told authorities that his sexual encounter with Parson was consensual, did not want to participate in the prosecution against Parson.

An arrest affidavit filed by Coconut Creek, Florida, police at the time of Parson’s arrest on Feb. 18, 2022, says Parson allegedly had a consenting sexual encounter with a 16-year-old boy who told police he met Parson on the gay online dating app Growlr and agreed to meet for a sexual encounter after the two exchanged “explicit” photos of each other.

The age of sexual consent in Florida is 18, which made it illegal for Parson to engage in sex with the youth. The age of consent in D.C. is 16.

Charging documents say the youth and Parson agreed to meet at a gas station in Coconut Creek near where the youth lived. The documents say both arrived in separate cars and, at the suggestion of the youth, drove separately to another location at a secluded parking lot at about 1 a.m., where they engaged in sex in the car Parson had been driving.

Police became involved, according to the charging documents, after the youth noticed people were walking near where they were parked and asked that they drive to yet another location. With Parson following the youth as the two drove in their separate cars, the youth drove into a restricted location. Police stopped both cars, the charging documents say.

One of the officers allowed Parson to drive away after Parson said he was lost and did not know the person in the car. But for as yet unexplained reasons, the youth, when questioned by a police officer, provided full details of his involvement with Parson, which enabled police to locate Parson through text messages between the youth and Parson that police obtained from the youth’s cell phone.

“The defendant was a 53-year-old man who was in Broward County visiting family after one of his parents had surgery,” the memorandum released by prosecutors says. “The defendant and the victim, a then 16-year-old boy, met on Growlr, which is a gay dating application,” the memo continues.

“It should be noted that in order to have an account with Growlr, the user must be 18 years of age or older,” the memo says. “This victim’s profile listed him as 19 years of age.”

The memo says the youth told police at the time they stopped him that Parson “never forced him or threatened him” and that while at times he was uncomfortable, “he never showed signs of wanting to stop or never told the defendant to stop.” It says the youth’s parents, who charging documents say were called by police to the scene where the youth was stopped, told police their son did not want to talk about what happened “but was starting to realize what happened was wrong.”

The charging documents state that at the request of the parents, police and prosecutors filed the two charges of unlawful sexual activity with a minor against Parson. But the memorandum released by the State Attorney’s office on March 13 at the time the charges were dropped in court states that in the months following Parson’s arrest, the youth and his parents were reluctant to speak with a victim advocate to arrange for interviews needed to go forward with the case.

“She left multiple voicemails in early April of 2022 and did not receive a call back,” the memo says. It says between then and February of this year, the youth’s parents continued to decline to make the youth available for an in-person interview needed if the case against Parson was to continue.

“Myself and [the youth’s mother] wanted to move forward, but do not want to put him through this against his will,” the memo quotes the youth’s father as saying in an email to one of the assistant prosecutors, according to the memo. “If there is a way to proceed without his involvement, we would like to. But if this requires his involvement, then we prefer to drop the case.”

The memo continues “Obviously, even though lack of knowledge of age or misrepresentation of age is not a defense to the crime charged, the defendant’s position has always been that he believed the victim was a 19-year-old man, which is what the victim had listed as his age in the dating application.”

“Due to lack of victim cooperation, my conversations with the victim’s parents and the potential scheduling of a deposition of the victim, the State believed it was in the best interest of the victim to not require him to come in for deposition and subsequent trial testimony, to respect his wishes and announce a nollo prosequi in the case,” Assistant State Attorney in Charge Neva Rainford-Smith concludes in the memo.

The term “nollo prosequi” is a Latin phrase used in criminal law for a decision not to prosecute a case.

Parson has declined to speak with the media since the time of his arrest.

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