Collier deputy fired after probe reveals sexual images on his Web site

For about seven years Collier County sheriff’s Deputy David E. Rich, a motorcycle enthusiast, maintained a Web site chronicling his and his wife’s experiences at outdoor motorcycle events.

The Web site, which he said was meant only to be viewed by friends but had more than 50,000 hits, contained an online message board and photos of people having a good time at the events.

But in December, Rich, 38, was fired after an internal investigation revealed the Web site not only contained photos of people having innocent fun, but also of nude women and women performing oral sex. Also, during a separate investigation stemming from a failed polygraph test, Rich admitted to having witnessed online pornography involving minors, authorities said.

Rich, who is now employed with the private investigation firm Ortino Investigations, described the Web site as a “hobby-type fun thing,” and said the photos of women engaging in oral sex were posted inadvertently or were overlooked, a Sheriff’s Office report shows. And he said in an appeal that polygraph tests are extremely subjective and claimed the examiners who administered the test had a conflict of interest.

The investigation into Rich’s Web site began in July when the Sheriff’s Office received an e-mail from someone identified only as “Deputy Dan” who directed authorities to Rich’s site.

“Is this the type of person who you employ?” the letter writer asked.

When investigators opened the site they saw a photograph of a Florida motorcycle license plate licensed to Rich. The site also had a link to a page containing a collection of thousands of photographs, the investigation revealed.

Several of the photographs depicted nudity and oral sex. Others showed Rich with women in various stages of dress, from exposing their breasts to nude, the report said.

“I will volunteer and say that there’s, looking at that, there’s some pictures I did not realize that were not that, that really should not have been on this site,” Rich told investigators.

Rich told investigators that he placed warnings on the site to indicate the images were only appropriate for adults, designed the site to trigger parental software and used software to prevent search engines from pointing to his site, authorities said.

When investigators asked if he thought the site was appropriate for a member of the Sheriff’s Office, Rich replied, “Wouldn’t it be under the First Amendment protection?”

He told investigators he had the site for seven years.

“I think it’s OK,” he said.

Rich told investigators he loved his job, was proud of working at the Sheriff’s Office, and intended to work there for 25 years, the investigation revealed.

“I’m willing to work with whatever needs to be done to make it acceptable,” Rich said of the Web site.

While the investigation into the Web site was under way, a separate investigation was being conducted into Rich’s inability to pass a polygraph examination question regarding viewing underage pornographic material on the Internet.

In March 2005, Rich, who worked in the jail, took a polygraph examination as part of a request to move to road patrol. The examiner, Cpl. Scott Walters, asked Rich if he had ever viewed or been in possession of any types of child pornography since his hire date on August 19, 2003.

“Not intentionally,” Rich said.

Rich told investigators that he would go online looking for movies and clips he could watch with his wife.

“There’s a lot of things I’ll download, just doesn’t do anything for me, so I trash it, you know. Put it in the delete file and erase,” Rich said during an interview.

At one point Rich told investigators that he clicked on a video called “My Teenie Wife,” that may have indicated it contained images of a 15-year-old, according to the investigation.

“I was downloading ‘My Teen Wife.’ I think I trashed it. I think I trashed the whole thing,” Rich said during his first examination.

When the examiner asked if he actually opened the video, Rich said he didn’t remember.

“I tend to think no. I have no memory of the content,” Rich said. “I remember seeing one clip of a girl and a boy, I should say male and female. ... If the title said 15, it would have been a curiosity thing.”

Rich also told investigators he viewed an online movie called “My Girlfriend and I,” featuring two “high school”-age girls engaged in a pillow fight and kissing each other, and a video titled “Teen Prostitute Video,” where the girls appeared to be at least 18, the investigation revealed.

When asked again if he’d ever seen any pornography depicting people under 18, Rich said. “I’m sure I have. I’ll say yes.”

Determining if someone is over 18 is sometimes hard to do, Rich told investigators.

“I don’t know how old someone is because 18 years old and 17 years old is a fine line,” he said. “However, it is a legal line.”

Rich said he never intentionally sought out underage pornography, the report indicates.

“I wouldn’t want to leave an impression on someone else further down the line of people who are going to read this, to think that I’m out there searching out, physically searching, typing in the terms ‘15-year- old woman’ or ‘young wife,’ or any of those things,” Rich said.

“I’m searching with something else and that’s coming up. And like I’m trying to say apparently is that I finally said, ‘Fine, let’s see what it is,’” he said. “For me to physically take the mouse, or the touch pad on the computer, move the cursor up and click on it is obviously an intent for me to see exactly what it was after it had been brought there by other means that I was not trying to do.”

Rich failed a second polygraph with Walters and then went to Fort Lauderdale for a third polygraph with a company called Deception Control Inc. The examiner in Fort Lauderdale, Lou Criscella, said that Rich displayed “significant reactions indicative of deception,” the internal investigation said.

On December 26, Rich, who earned $49,169 a year at the jail, had his appointment withdrawn based on the totality of the two investigations, for “immoral, unlawful or improper conduct,” the Sheriff’s Office reported.

Rich was not arrested or charged with a crime.

“I will say that if the case is released to the media, and the sheriff does not have some sort of hard, concrete evidence, then there will be some suits filed against the department — his department,” Rich said in the report.

Rich appealed the decision on Jan. 9. In his appeal, Rich argued that Criscella was not an “independent examiner” because he and the first examiner, Walters, used to work together. His appeal was denied on March 23, the Sheriff’s Office reported.

In an e-mail to the Daily News on Wednesday, Rich said he did not want to be interviewed because he feared being misquoted or having his statements taken out of context. In the e-mail Rich stated the Sheriff’s Office wouldn’t accept his offer to have the agency inspect his computer, waited until after his termination to inspect his agency-issued laptop, and failed to interview any of his co-workers, friends or his wife.

“Also consider that I was, and still am, the webmaster for the Collier Deputies FOP,” Rich wrote in his e-mail. “It was well known that I was involved in attempting to unionize the CCSO, and had just been elected to the Executive Board of the Collier Deputies Lodge of the FOP.”

During the interview Rich told investigators that he had brain surgery as a child and had significant memory problems.

“I have medical evidence that I should not have been polygraphed,” Rich wrote in the e-mail. “I have a statement from a longtime polygrapher that my polygraph results could not be relied on, and also from Cpl. Scott Walter, CCSO polygrapher, that doubts the findings of my polygraphs. These are all in my file.”

Rich started working with Ortino Investigations around the time of his appeal, said Victor Ortino, who owns and manages the firm. Ortino recently announced his intention to run for Collier County sheriff in 2008.

Ortino said Rich is a “good guy” who denied viewing child pornography.

“I am confident that he is not a child molester and does not view child pornography,” Ortino said.

If the Sheriff’s Office was really concerned about Rich’s behavior, the investigation would have been resolved in a much shorter period of time, Ortino said.

“If you have a person who did something illegal, you’re going to jump on that right away,” Ortino said. “Within 30 days you’re going to have that resolved.”

© 2007 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 27

dreamer writes:

sorry usnavy I think you are banned do to your hatefull thoughts.
well.. I'm not sorry after all

chap914 writes:

Sounds like an Ave Maria mentality is rearing its head in the CCSD. Is this true Father Hunter?

bullhalsey writes:

Okay, so what did he do wrong? Doesn't he have a first amendment right like everybody else? Sounds like there was no evidence, or an actual complaint about child pornography. Something else must be going on - maybe Hunter was threatened because he was involved with the union.

munchkinsdaddy writes:

There goes that morality thing again can't trust them Harley guys oh look he's got naked women and women in bikini's, give me a break LOL. Ithink I shoulda moved to Daytona 25yrs ago instead of Naples

Ironside writes:

I remember when Naples/Collier County wasn't so snooty.

rtsspeaks writes:

What will this cost the county in legal fees when he sues and gets his job back???

ClassyGirl writes:

Wow, well I guess if you're a cop don't watch porn, you may get fired. But on the other hand go ahead and harrass women cause you'll still get fired but you won't go to jail.

TooMuchGovernment writes:

This sounds to me like a political firing looking for a reason.

What the heck is wrong with a biker cop that has a website with some crazyness on it? Ask the man to take it down.

The reason Hunter and his "Mr. Perfect attitude" will never be effective at solving real problems is he doesn't understand the street. He's darn lucky he runs Collier County and not somewhere with tough streets. Hunter and his yes men don't understand the street and it shows out here watching them and listening to the public in reference to their tactics.

To be a good cop you have to have an edge and you have to be able to talk to people from the street. He has too many geek cops there with spit wad marks on their necks from high school. Of course they pass the polygraph, they were never invited to the parties.

You show me a cop with a little edge to him, from the street, who is mature now, honest and trying to help and I'll show you an effective crime fighter. You don't always have to arrest people to be effective. You don't have to be a male reproductive organ to be respected. A kid who's had it rough will know by looking in you in the eye if you're for real or not. (Failed boot camp for kids is an example).

There's something rotten in the cotton in CCSO leadership.

scoutldr writes:

Sounds like it's a internal head hunt. What is sad that our police can not have a personal life. I wish they would use their energy and money and go after real criminals.

Daedalus writes:

This stuff was on his personal website that had nothing to do with Collier county. I used to believe in polygraphs until I took one myself. Several questions I answered truthfully came up as questionable responses. I have been skeptical of them since.

ClassyGirl writes:

Nope, guess USNavyVet wasn't banned after all. Keep it up though shouldn't be too long.

cambier1 writes:

As a Naples native, 16 year Law Enforcement Veteran, FBI National Academy Graduate and Command Officer in a large Mid-Western Urban Police Department I have followed the CCSO for years, and have many friends who currently work there.

The line officers and mid-level supervisors with whom I speak are without exception working in an environment that isn't conducive to quality policing. They have expressed that Sheriff Hunter has insulated himself from being able to understand and address the real issues within the CCSO. He has surrounded himself with people who are scared to be honest with him on any issues of substance. This doesn't develop leaders it develops followers who are scared for their own professional futures to stand up to the chief executive.

Sheriff Hunter, you can read this and dismiss it or you can take a deep breath, facilitate meetings in a safe environment. Meaning nothing said will be held against anyone. Take what is said to heart and start repairing the internal morale of your agency. These dedicated professionals ultimately carry out the mission of the CCSO to the public that elected you as the Sheriff.

From one professional to another. Good Luck

swfl_ff writes:

Deputy Rich's website may have not been the best idea for a law enforcement officer to operate. Maybe it is protected under the first admendment, but still public officals such as police, fire and EMS are usually held to a higher standard. You need to always think of what would this behavor look like if it became public.

Overall though you do have to wander if this whole investigation isn't related to the fact the he had worked on organizing a union at the SO.

This is just another expample of the many peronnel problems that seem to exist at CCSO. Is it the old God mentality that Im above it all and can't get into trouble? I guess that depends on who you are.

I agree with you TooMuch that part of the problem is our sheriff does not understand the street. In his whole career at CCSO Mr Hunter has spent very little time actually working as a street cop. He fell into some cushy posistions early in his career and moved up the ranks quickly.

All this news just keeps adding to the pile of problems that seem to exist. It is time for the sake of all the good people at CCSO that there is a change in leadership. We as a community need to remember this next year when election time comes.

vortino writes:

I feel that some facts need to be presented as you are talking about a man and his family's reputation. First of all I am running for Sheriff in 2008 and I would not risk hiring someone with a questionable background. This investigation is like many other investigations conducted by the CCSO; based solely on the outcome of a polygraph from an examiner that has, according to my sources, a 90% failure rate and who himself was fired from another agency for kicking a man unconcious. The CCSO did not even inspect Rich's computer when offered by Rich!

As I was told by a respected polygrapher, polygraphs are not accurate when the individual has had severe head trauma. In 1985 Rich had a severe accident and sustained head trauma.

What concerns me most is that this first came to light in March 2005 and it took the CCSO until December 2006 to terminate this person when they suspect him of child pornography! During that entire "investigation" Rich continued to work out in the public in an official capacity. If he was such a threat,or even suspected of any wrongdoing, why allow this?

If I felt that one of my deputies was involved in illegal, unethical activities, I would be on that so fast it would make your head spin. For two reasons. One, the citizens need to be protected and two, the deputies need a fair and just investigation as well.

This is a good example of poor leadership and management.

Your next Sheriff!

reallife writes:

Sounds a lot more innocent than oh lets say the bachelor party that now captains and above were involved in with strippers and claims of the sex that went on there, Or trips to Costa Rica for the same.

micronuke writes:

I guess you can't be a law enforcement officer and a sleazy biker at the same time.

phatstuff (Inactive) writes:

From what I have read and heard over the past few years the collier sheriff's office has had nothing but problems with sex. The sheriff's office is a house of affairs. They overlook marital affairs left and right. Last I checked it was immoral to sleep with one woman when you are married to another. These extramarital affairs go one despite complaints. They are pretty much approved of. Someone should check the personell records to see how many times people have been married and divorced to someone in the department. This severely affects the workplace. I also hear they just fired another one for having sex with inmates in the jail.

naples_75 writes:

Jadip811,
Well thank you for calling me out. Although I believe Rich was not looking at underaged sites, his conduct was unbecoming of a law enforcement officer. I do believe the department should have asked him to remove the site and placed him on probation for a set period of time. Either way, Rich was dealt with no differently by CCSO than any other department would have handled it. Jadip811, even you have to see that this Ortino guy is not well suited for a Sheriff's job. He is hiring fired cop's. I think this may be the fatal blow in his attempt to be elected. It is shadey at minimum.

scottlepore writes:

Again, this is simple. Cops have to use judgement just like the average citizen. Having naked women on a web site you own perfoming oral sex is pretty s----- if you are a cop. Grabbing somke waitress while in uniform to check out her underwear is, again, very s-----. The problem is the quality of people who work in law enforcement on the local level. Easy solution. Require a four year college degree and make the starting pay $75,000 a year.

ClassyGirl writes:

Guess phatstuff was right, they just keep popping up don't they.

BlueTonguedVole (Inactive) writes:

One quote which bothered me more than anything was "During the interview Rich told investigators that he had brain surgery as a child and had significant memory problems"

Now, isn't having memory problems a significant problem when being in any investigative role?

As far as the comment about inadvertantly putting pictures up on a website! That was funny. Hard to add any content inadvertantly. I do think this fellow has the right to have anything on a website he wants to have...as long as it doesn't break the law, but it sure might be better when one is in the public eye to be a bit more discrete.

I also think Cambier has great insight. I hope that Hunter can act on Cambier's suggestions. If he doesn't I truly hope there is a strong alternative candidate running against him.

BlueTonguedVole (Inactive) writes:

So anyone find the site? Or is it down? ;-D Sorry, just curious. Hey, I work for myself!

BlueTonguedVole (Inactive) writes:

Scottlepore. I like the idea of the 4 year degree, but will the taxes for a 75K starting salary make it even more difficult for other professionals to survive here? Bet some masters level teachers, would love to see that kind of money. How about the nurses? Even some docs barely make 75K out of school with huge student loan debt to payback.

Apologies for my rather crass comment about this "wicked" website, but I WAS curious. A search landed me on a site I could not get off of quick enough. It was NOT about pretty women or motorcycles or underage anything...but not going back ever. Got a vision I didn't want! So no more searching for Mr. Rich and his motorcyles.

What a strange world we live in.

osceolaoldertimer writes:

Another proof of the low life kind of public servents,(sheriff deputy), we pay with our very expensive property taxes.

What we can espect from this sick men. Don you think guys that the capacity of judgment and prima facie power they have is in the wrong hands?

We have to go after them and report any kind of violation to the law and against our community.

We dont have to let intimidate by crooks with gun and a badge.

Collier County has many incidents in the past with trouble deputys, even with high rank officers, remenber Captain Sanders and others involve in corruption, raquetering and other felonies related with ilegal cassinos in Immokallee few years a go.

Definitely we need a change in this important Agency that the sole mission is to PROTECT AND SERVE THE PEOPLE NOT TO ABUSE OF US.

THANKS.

cambier1 writes:

jadip811,

I appreciate the nice comments. I only wish the CCSO the best and encourage the leadership to get a grasp on the internal plight that exists. An organization cannot fully be effective for its external stakeholders if the internal stakeholders are divided, scared, possess poor morale and lack a clear vision for the future.

Can we blame Sheriff Hunter for everything his 1000 plus employees do. Of course we can't but are the behaviors and incidents systematic of poor leadership, poor hiring procedures and/or poor background investigations. What assessment tools are screening the candidates for employment other than the polygraph which is a marginal determiner of truthfullness.

I challenge Sheriff Hunter, if he is truly open to improving his organization, to bring in an independent outside consultant to assess the CCSO from top down and be willing to share those results with the public who elected him. I say this not as a way to disparage Sheriff Hunter but to elicit true leadership on behalf of his men and women.

Birdman writes:

t, nothing to say sfter the bachelor party comment?

firetjm writes:

so whats the web site addy :

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