Pinellas Sheriff: Investigation revealed racist, sexist, vulgar content on ex-corporal's phone

By Holly Gregory, Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, June 28, 2017, 4:48 PM EDT

A Pinellas County sheriff’s corporal resigned earlier this year after an investigation into an alleged extramarital affair revealed a trove of racist, sexist, and pornographic images on his personal cellphone.

  • Former Pinellas sheriff's corporal investigated for alleged extramarital affair
  • Investigation revealed racist, sexist, vulgar content on his cellphone
  • Shawn Pappas resigned from position after confronted with allegations
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Shawn Pappas, 46, resigned from the agency at the end of February after investigators found the photos, which include images comparing black people to animals, derogatory memes about the Women's March on Washington and photos he took of his genitals while working on duty at the agency shooting range.

The investigation started when the Sheriff's Office received an anonymous tip that Pappas, who Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said is married to a reserve deputy, was engaging in an inappropriate relationship with a corrections deputy. Internal investigators asked Pappas to hand over his personal phone.

What they found were dozens of pornographic photos of women and offensive images with time stamps that were viewed, sent or received both on and off duty.

One shows a white child next to a monkey and reads "Stop racism black children and white children are the same." Another shows a black couple looking at an ultrasound with a doctor. The caption says, "I think he has a warrant....."

The photos also mock women, gay men, American Indians and people with Down syndrome.

"In one day, Trump got more fat women out walking than Michelle Obama did in 8 years," says one meme with what appears to be a photo of the Women's March on Washington.

His photo library also showed five photos of his genitals that Gualtieri said were taken at the Sheriff's Office shooting range.

Some of the videos are more sexual in nature. One shows Pappas in a hot dog suit moving his body back and forth.

The case came to light last week as part of an ongoing consent agreement with the federal government requiring the Sheriff's Office to bolster the number of women and minorities who work for the department. The office filed a motion this month to lift the agreement, saying the agency has met the requirements.

But James McLynas, a former candidate for sheriff and longtime critic of the department, said he filed a document on Thursday arguing that Pappas' case is an example of why the office still needs court supervision.

Pappas worked for the office for 10 years, rising three years ago to corporal in the training division, where he gave instruction on a variety of topics to both new and veteran employees.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said in an interview that McLynas's argument was "a bunch of nonsense."

"It was isolated. Pappas was the ring leader of this," Gualtieri said Monday. "There was no indication there was anything more than that."

Gualtieri said when he confronted Pappas about the allegations, Pappas resigned.

"Because I was going to fire him," he said. "There was no question about it."

"Former Deputy Shawn Pappas’ conduct was vulgar and reprehensible. This isolated conduct will not be tolerated and is not representative of the many law enforcement professionals within the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. Pappas immediately resigned upon being confronted with his gross misconduct and if he had not immediately resigned he would have been fired. Pappas’ lack of character and his bigoted perspective have no place in law enforcement. All members of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s office are held accountable for their actions and that occurred  with Pappas’ separation from employment." - Sheriff Bob Gualtieri

Four other deputies were given written reprimands for their roles in some of the videos. Two of those four were transferred from the training division to patrol. One resigned rather than be transferred to patrol.

Investigators also determined that Pappas and the corrections deputy, who is also married, did engage in an inappropriate relationship. Gualtieri said the female deputy was given a written reprimand.