08/12/2018: "More Questions On Gaylord’s Action In Grellett-Tinner Case"
By Alex MacLeod
Not long after Randy Gaylord filed sex charges against Gerald Grellett-Tinner, then an Orcas High School teacher, he signed a “Certificate of Helpfulness” on behalf of a “U Visa” request of the young immigrant woman who was the victim in the case.The 19-year-old mother of a young child was living with family on Orcas despite her visa having expired and she was worried about being deported.
A U Visa is reserved for crime victims who have reported a crime to law enforcement and “who have suffered substantial (emphasis added) physical or mental abuse,” “have useful information about” the crime and “have been or will be ‘helpful’ to law enforcement in order to bring the perpetrator of this crime to justice.”
If granted, a U Visa allows the individual to remain in the country legally another four years. After three, he or she may apply for permanent citizenship. It’s a rare avenue of relief from the country’s immigration laws.
The woman had revealed her relationship with Grellet-Tinner to another teacher, not law enforcement, and by no reasonable measure had suffered “substantial physical or mental abuse.” Investigative records show she was a willing participant in the relationship, had no idea it was a crime and initially had been reluctant to cooperate in the prosecution.
Even so, less than a month after learning of the illegal student/teacher relationship, records show the county already was helping her obtain the U Visa. Two months later, assured of her willingness to testify, Gaylord signed the “Certificate of Helpfulness.” Almost exclusively on the strength of her testimony, he was convicted. (All that was needed was proof of sexual contact between the teacher and a student under age 21.)
Later, while Grellet-Tinner was sitting in jail awaiting sentencing, the woman told the prosecutor’s victims-assistance advocate she also had a sexual relationship with Parker, the sheriff’s deputy whose investigation led to the charges and who sat next to Gaylord at the prosecution table throughout the trial.
Dumbfounded, the assistant told Gaylord, who told Krebs, who told Parker. A day later, after several calls from Parker, the woman withdrew the claim, saying it was a lie. For his part, Parker told the prosecutor’s victims-assistance advocate that the woman was “hypersexual” and had “set up” Grellet-Tinner. He then signed a document under oath denying any improper involvement with the woman.
A Skagit County deputy was asked to investigate. Given the withdrawn claim and a denial under oath from Parker, she said it wasn’t possible to say what, if anything, had occurred. However, she added a final section to her report labeled “Curious Things,” including excessive email contacts between the two as well as “similar parallels to the student/teacher case where she tells of a relationship, it causes trouble, she recants.”
The revelations, along with later proof that the sexual relationship had occurred, led former Judge Donald Eaton to vacate the conviction and then dismiss all charges “with prejudice,” which means they could not be brought again. What had been the help provided by the woman, the basis of Gaylord’s support for the U Visa, was gone for good, largely the result of her behavior with the detective in the case.
In light of that, I asked to review any documents that related to the county’s role in her U Visa, in part to see if the prosecutor, in light of how the case had evaporated, had withdrawn the county’s support for the visa. I first asked for “Any and all written communication … to the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services relating to a “Certificate of Helpfulness” (CIS Form I-918, Supplement B, Non-Immigrant Status Certification.” I was told there were “No Responsive Records.”
So I tried a different approach, asking for “any and all written communication between anyone in San Juan County government and any U.S. agency pertaining to the visa status of (and here I put in the name of the woman).” Again, I was told there were “No Responsive Records.”
Since I had read a Seattle Times article about the Grellet-Tinner case in which Gaylord said he’d signed paperwork for the U Visa, I asked specifically for that record. I got it a day later. It was the “Certificate of Helpfulness” (CIS Form I-918, Supplement B).
When I asked Gaylord why it had not been produced in response to my first two requests, he said it was because it had not been “sent to” nor was it “between our office and another government agency.” Apparently, it went to the woman’s immigration attorney, who sent it to the immigration agency. In other words, he knew what I was asking for, but because I had been technically imprecise in my request, he hadn’t made the document available.
In a follow-up exchange, he acknowledged I was “correct to conclude that I did not take action to withdraw the Certificate of Helpfulness form I-918,” adding, “To assist our discussion on this topic it would be helpful to know what leads you to believe that the Certificate of Helpfulness should have been withdrawn?”
I replied that the foundation of any U Visa was immigration’s reliance on law enforcement’s validation of “significant physical or mental abuse” as the result of a serious crime, and the person’s help in bringing a perpetrator of that crime to justice. “The record in her case strongly undercuts both elements of that foundation,” I concluded.
Gaylord replied: “I do not share your perspective,” and then added that an element of a state law (to which he previously had made no reference) provided “no basis to exercise discretion to withdraw the certificate.” He didn’t point out that an earlier section of that state law, as well as the rules of the federal program, should have disqualified the woman from the U Visa program in the first place.
And there it sits. The record indicates the woman shouldn’t have qualified for a U Visa and that the prosecutor’s office simply used it as a means of securing her testimony, which was essential to its case. Had it waited to make the offer until after Grellet-Tinner was in prison, or at least convicted, it could be viewed otherwise. But Grellet-Tinner is free and the crime can never again be prosecuted.
Gaylord told The Times he does not know if the U Visa was granted, and added: “I don’t think anybody feels good about any part of what happened here.”
That is as close as he has come to conceding any responsibility for the debacle.
(Alex MacLeod lives on Shaw Island. He retired in 2003 after 17 years as managing editor of The Seattle Times. This is the second in several reports about Gaylord’s performance as prosecutor.)