A jury found 59-year-old Orcas Island High School teacher Gerald Grellet-Tinner guilty of two counts of Sexual Misconduct in the First Degree.
He was accused of having a sexual relationship with one of his students, who was also his teaching assistant, last October. According to the Washington state legislature, a teacher cannot have intercourse with a registered student under the age of 21 if he or she is at least five years older than the student. The student in this case was 19 at the time of the sexual relationship. She is 20 now.
Grellet-Tinner is being held in Island County jail until his sentencing on July 22 at 1:30 p.m. in San Juan County Superior Court. The conviction is a class C felony, punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
“The sentence will be imposed consistent with the Sentencing Reform Act Manual, which considers the defendant’s criminal history and the seriousness of the offense,” said San Juan County Prosecuting Attorney Randall Gaylord. “The time of confinement will be determined by Judge Eaton.”
The trial started June 13 and ended June 23. Grellet-Tinner was represented by Robert D. Butler and Emily Beschen of Bellingham, Wash.
On the last day of the trial, the defense presented the majority of its case. Robert Matheson, an employee of Rosario Resort and Spa, testified that the defendant used the hot tub facilities around 9 p.m. on Oct. 4, 2015 which is in contradiction to the victim’s testimony about alleged sexual acts occurring during that time. He testified that Grellet-Tinner was a regular at the spa facilities, using the hot tub about three days a week.
During cross-examination, Gaylord asked Matheson if he was sure it was Oct. 4 as he had originally stated to Gaylord in a telephone interview that he saw the defendant on a different date. He also presented Matheson with a sign-in sheet for the spa that did not list Grellet-Tinner’s name on that date.
The defendant took the stand and testified that he did not have sexual intercourse with the victim. He admitted to inviting her into his home to grade papers, attending a party with her and her family and kayaking. On Oct. 4, 2015, the day of the barbecue and kayaking trip, he testified that in the evening, they returned to his house and the victim went inside to change out of her wet clothes while he put the kayaks away. She then drove home, and the defendant said he went to Rosario Resort and Spa, where he used the hot tub and had a conversation with Matheson.
During the subsequent week, Grellet-Tinner testified that the student was listening in on his phone calls and knocking on his door late at night. He called the police on Oct. 11 at 1:30 a.m. to report harassment, and Detective Jack Wilsey responded to the call. The defendant told Wilsey that the student had come to his house late that night, and as he was blocking the door, she grabbed his genitals, tried to kiss him and was “out of control.” He testified that he was barring her entrance because he had been told by the Orcas School Superintendent and Principal to not have any contact with students or parents during the sexual misconduct investigation.
Wilsey testified earlier in the day that no further action was taken after the initial call from Grellet-Tinner on Oct. 11.
The defense filed a motion to reconsider the original motion to dismiss the case, arguing that the victim was not a full-time student and was enrolled in the OASIS alternative learning program and only attended classes at Orcas High School. Washington state statute requires that the offending teacher must be in the same school as the student.
Gaylord told Judge Donald Eaton that the motions to dismiss should have been made before the trial and that it was unfair to present them right before closing statements. He rebutted that the Washington Administrative Code judges full-time enrollment status on the student’s first four days of school and that the victim’s school transcript as well as previous testimony from school personnel show she was a full-time student in the Orcas High School at the time of the alleged misconduct. OASIS is an alternative program of the Orcas Island School District.
Judge Eaton denied the defense’s motion to dismiss with the belief that the legislature did not intend to “parse out this kind of distinction” in its effort to protect students from sexual misconduct. After a recess, the defense filed a motion for a mistrial. It was also denied.
During closing arguments, Gaylord showed a timeline of how the defendant allegedly “groomed” the victim, beginning with emails and invitations to his home, followed by compliments, asking her to go hot tubbing and showing her his bedroom.
“Her version is corroborated by physical evidence,” said Gaylord, adding that nothing in the trial has contradicted the victim’s testimony.
Butler threatened to file another motion for mistrial, claiming that what Gaylord said was a false directive to the jury. Judge Eaton denied the motion.
During his closing statements, Butler said the prosecution’s timeline shows nothing illegal and doesn’t indicate the defendant and student had intercourse.
“Having her over to his house while might be a violation of school rules but it is not against the law,” he said.
In regards to the semen evidence, Butler said it doesn’t mean the two had intercourse; she could have “gotten it from somewhere.” He said the victim has lied about portions of the case and “manipulates” the system.
Heather Spaulding contributed to this story.