A spokesperson for the lead prosecutor in Broward County, Fla., has confirmed a notice filed in court indicating plans for dropping two counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor filed against former D.C. police lieutenant Brett Parson by Boca Raton, Fla., police in February 2022.
An arrest affidavit filed by Coconut Creek 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.
Police and prosecutors at the time charged Parson, 54, with violating Florida’s age of consent law, which is 18, even though authorities acknowledged that the Growlr app requires users to be at least 18 years old.
“There is a court hearing scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on Monday [March 13] when it is anticipated the prosecutor will drop or dismiss the two counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor,” Paula McMahon, Public Information Officer for the Broward State Attorney’s Office, told the Washington Blade in a March 9 email message.
“If the hearing goes ahead as anticipated, the prosecutor will provide the judge with full details,” McMahon said. “These include the parents of the victim, who was 16 at the time of the incident, recently informed prosecutors that he does not want to go forward with the case.”
McMahon told the Blade in her message that her office would be in a position to release more information about the outcome of the case after the March 13 hearing in Broward County Circuit Court, which is located in Fort Lauderdale.
NBC 4 Washington was the first to report the plans by prosecutors to drop the charges against Parson.
Parson’s arrest took place about two years after he retired from the Metropolitan Police Department of D.C. after a 26-year career in which, among other duties, he served as supervisor of the department’s LGBT Liaison Unit. At the time of his retirement Parson announced he was starting a consulting business to advise law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad on police-related issues.
Parson has declined to speak with the media since the time of his arrest.
Charging documents filed by Boca Raton and Coconut Creek, Fla., police say Parson had been staying at the Boca Raton home of his parents at the time of his arrest. An incident report filed by Boca Raton police says Parson and the 16-year-old youth, who is not identified in charging documents, arranged to meet at a gas station in Coconut Creek near where the youth lives.
A separate arrest affidavit filed by Coconut Creek police says after first meeting at the gas station the two agreed to drive in their separate cars to another secluded location, where the two parked and the youth entered the car Parson was driving and had a consenting sexual encounter with Parson.
The document says after someone walked past the parked car where the two were engaging in intimate acts, the two decided to drive in their separate cars to find another location to park. That’s when police noticed the youth, who is identified only as RT in the charging documents, drove his vehicle into a restricted area at a Comcast facility and police officers approached him to find out what was going on.
The document says police also stopped Parson’s car, but they allowed him to drive off after he told them he didn’t know the person in the other car and he was from Washington, D.C. and not familiar with the area where he was driving.
It was at that time, according to charging documents, that RT provided the officers with a full account of his interaction with Parson. The documents do not provide a reason why the youth provided information the officers would not otherwise have obtained.
Among other things, the affidavit says RT turned over to police his cell phone, which included text messages between him and Parson, which helped police locate Parson to carry out the arrest. Court records show Parson, who pleaded not guilty, was released on a $50,000 bond six days after his arrest for which defendants usually must pay 10 percent, which would have been $5,000.
After initially requiring that Parson remain in Florida at his parents’ home while awaiting trial, a judge later allowed Parson to return to his D.C. home with the requirement that he attend any court hearings deemed required by the judge.
“In Florida, laws governing sexual activity with minors are ‘strict liability’ offenses,” Fort Lauderdale attorney Norm Kent told the Blade at the time of Parson’s arrest. “This means that a person can be charged where they do not know the age of the person that they engaged in sexual activity with, or even worse, where the other person has lied about his or her age,” said Kent, the former owner of South Florida Gay News, an LGBTQ community newspaper.
Kent noted that in Parson’s case, the alleged victim used a dating app that limits its users to individuals over the age of 18. He said it also appears from police reports that the 16-year-old never told Parson he was under 18.
“These are troubling facts that could be presented to a prosecutor or judge in support of mitigation, but the law does not allow them to operate as a complete defense to the crimes charged,” Kent said.