The Orcas high school teacher previously found guilty of sexual misconduct with a minor will not be going to trial again.
On April 21, Judge Donald Eaton dismissed the charges against Gerald Grellet-Tinner for two counts of sexual misconduct with a minor. Grellet-Tinner is now seeking $10 million in compensation for damages stemming from the alleged violation of his constitutional rights by the San Juan County Prosecutor’s Office.
According to Grellet-Tinner’s current lawyer Nick Power, “his life has been completely upended by his wrongful prosecution.”
The 59-year-old was accused of having a sexual relationship with one of his students, who was also his teaching assistant, in October 2016.
In the recent hearing, the court said the case presents a classic example of a “miscarriage of justice” and that it was the responsibility of one person – former Detective Stephen Parker, who had an inappropriate relationship with the victim.
See the timeline below:
The former teacher is found guilty of two counts of Sexual Misconduct in the First Degree in San Juan County Superior Court. He is accused of having a sexual relationship with one of his students.
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.
New trial granted
While awaiting Grellet-Tinner’s sentencing, County Prosecutor Randall Gaylord learns of a report that the student/victim had a relationship with the lead detective Stephen Parker.
Upon further investigation, the relationship is initially denied by Parker and the victim/student.
After the accusations against Parker and motions for dismissal by the defendant’s counsel Robert Butler, San Juan County Superior Court Judge Donald Eaton grants Grellet-Tinner a new trial.
Parker resigns from the department voluntarily. In the aftermath, the sheriff issues a statement about the inappropriate conduct of Parker, whose actions are against county policies and procedures.
January – March 2017
An independent investigation into Parker alleges that he did have sex with a crime victim, showed disrespectful conduct toward her, used aliases to hide communication with her and shared details of other cases. Gaylord asked Skagit County to consider prosecuting Parker, but the office declined to pursue it. Gaylord excused himself because of his involvement in the Grellet-Tinner case.
The defense renews the motion to dismiss the trial, arguing that the misconduct by Parker could not be corrected in a new trial. The prosecution acknowledges that there was egregious misconduct in this case that was further complicated by the fact that it was hidden by Parker and the student/victim.
“This is a highly unusual set of circumstances,” said Gaylord, who has been county prosecutor for 23 years.
The court ruled that the misconduct was prejudicial because the victim and Parker could each be questioned and impeached in regards to their relationship. In other words, the testimonies of each party would show how they are not credible witnesses.
According to a press release by the prosecutor’s office, the court said that while a fair trial was possible based on the information known in early September, the additional information that came to light in the fall of 2016, “materially affects the defendant’s right to a fair trial.”
Power also sent a press release stating that at the hearing Judge Eaton said in reference to Parker’s role in the case, “there is no dispute of the new facts that have come to light here. I’ve been in this community a long time and I have never known anything this egregious by any aspect of our law and justice community.”
Accordingly, the court dismissed the case with prejudice, which means these charges cannot be refiled.
The prosecutor’s office will not be pursuing any other charges in reference to Grellet-Tinner, but made it clear that the ruling does not exonerate the former teacher.
“Under the constitution, he is presumed innocent, but the ruling doesn’t exonerate because we can’t give him a fair trial,” said Gaylord.
The court’s decision also does not deny the physical evidence in the case, specifically the DNA presented by the victim, the gifts given to the victim and the victim’s knowledge of Grellet-Tinner’s private areas of his home and his physical characteristics.
The defense argued in the first case that the DNA, semen in a tissue, did not mean the two had intercourse; she could have “gotten it from somewhere.”
According to a press release by Power, his client was “incarcerated unjustly, and lost custody of his 5-year-old son because of this governmental misconduct. As a Ph.D. level paleobiologist, and as a member of the community-at-large, he has suffered severe reputational damage. This is a clear violation of his constitutional rights which no one should tolerate.”