Sex-crime charges have been dropped in Florida against the retired D.C. police lieutenant who headed the city’s former Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, garnering a national reputation for building trust between law enforcement and under-served communities.
Brett Parson was arrested in Broward County, Florida, in February 2022 and charged with two counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor — a 16-year-old boy.
On Monday, prosecutors told a judge the boy’s parents informed them he no longer wants to be involved in trying the case.
A three-page memo provided to WTOP by the prosecutor’s office detailed the decision to not bring Parson’s case to trial. The charges could have resulted in seven to 15 years in prison for each count.
According to prosecutors, Parson and the boy agreed to meet at a gas station, then drove to a more remote parking lot, where they engaged in sexual activity.
In explaining the rationale for dropping the case, assistant state attorney Danielle Lennox said the two had met on Growlr, a gay dating application.
“It should be noted that in order to have an account with Growlr, the user must be 18 years of age or older. The victim’s profile listed him as 19 years of age,” wrote Lennox.
Although in Florida, claiming to be misled about the age of the victim is not a valid defense, “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,” according to Lennox.
Prosecutors never spoke to the victim in the case, although they communicated with his parents and explained the ramifications of participating in a criminal trial. The boy told his parents he didn’t want to take the witness stand, according to the memo.
“If there is a way to proceed without his involvement, we would like to,” the boy’s father wrote in the email to Lennox. “I explained that I would do my best to resolve the case but that it would likely be dismissed.”
In court Monday, prosecutors announced nollo prosequi — that they would not prosecute — and Judge Tim Bailey dismissed the case.
It’s unclear what the case dismissal will mean for Parson’s career. He retired after 26 years with the D.C. police in 2020, in the role of acting supervisor for the Special Liaison Unit, which served the Asian, Latino, deaf and hard-of-hearing, and LGBTQ+ communities.
WTOP is seeking comment from Parson’s attorney, Michael Dutko.