By Jesse B. Gill

Posted November 17, 2011 in Feature Story

But he didn’t and that decision, arguably, wound up destroying his life.

That teenager, 15 when he met her, seemed innocent, maybe a little needy. Gastineau, being the giving person his friends and family insist he is, wanted to reach out to her, or at least that’s what he told the detectives.

April 22 was an awkward day for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. It was the day Tyson Niles and Roberto Lomelli—detectives for the Sheriff’s Crimes Against Children Detail—went to the Highland Sheriff’s Department to arrest one of their own.

The Investigation

The investigation began earlier that afternoon at San Bernardino’s Public Safety Academy, an institution designed to prepare high school students for careers in law enforcement or firefighting. At lunchtime, the school’s director, Steve Filson, saw Gastineau come to the campus in a Sheriff’s vehicle to drop off lunch to a 16-year-old female student.

Thinking it was odd that a deputy would bring lunch to a teenager, Filson started leaning on the girl’s friends for information. It didn’t take long before one male friend told Filson that Gastineau and the girl were sleeping together, according to court document submitted to the District Attorney’s office by Niles and Lomelli.

Gastineau, 31, was a 10-year veteran of the department. As an advisor to the station’s Explorer post, he was also charged with giving a group of 14 to 20-year-olds a first-hand look at the life of a law enforcement officer.

Niles and Julie Brumm, another Sheriff’s detective assigned to the Crimes Against Children Detail, interviewed the girl and her father. They were both upset. The girl didn’t want to get anyone in trouble. She, like most teenagers, was naïve about who she talked to about the affair. That information got out and before long, the investigation was beyond her control.

Her father wanted to see the deputy burn. He still does. He never misses any of Gastineau’s court dates.

The Interrogation

Gastineau showed up for his shift at the Highland Sheriff’s station just before 7 p.m. Niles and Lomelli waited for him in Capt. David Williams’ office. Williams walked Gastineau into the room, waiting were the two detectives who already knew everything they needed to know to make an arrest before the interview even started.

They nibbled around the edges at first, trying to see if Gastineau would crack. But the 10-year Sheriff’s deputies denied having any kind of inappropriate relationship with the girl or any other teenagers.

You see, he told the detectives, the girl’s dad trusts me. I’m the only one he allows to drive her around.

The girl knew Gastineau through the Explorers. But after learning that he was the co-founder of a cosplay club called the Inland Empire Ghostbusters, she joined that too. Soon enough, she was dressing up in full Ghostbusters regalia and attending events like the Inland Empire Comic Expo on Feb. 5 in Redlands.

“Explorers and Ghostbusters,” Gastineau told the detectives. “That’s the only times I see the girl.”

Niles began to drill down. He told him the girl told the detectives about the sexual relationship.

“She’s lying,” Gastineau said.

“She’s not lying,” Niles countered. “We know it’s the truth and now I need to know why. Did you force yourself on her or was it consensual?”

“No!” Gastineau said, hanging his head.

“No what?” Niles asked.

“It wasn’t forced,” Gastineau said, quietly.

That was the beginning of the now-former deputy’s admission. Niles and Lomelli got many more details out of him before handcuffing him and driving him to West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, where he would be processed and booked. The entire interview was recorded and, according to court documents, submitted to evidence.

The Other Man

But on the way to the county lockup, Gastineau asked Niles and Lomelli if he could talk to them. He asked if he could help them apprehend another adult—another member of the Inland Empire Ghostbusters—who was having sex with the same girl.

Sure, the detectives said. He could help.

But they already knew all about Jason Anguiano.

A 27-year-old Rialto resident, Jason Anguiano wasn’t a deputy. He worked for a fencing company in La Habra. He met the same 16-year-old girl through the Ghostbusters club.

According to Niles’ report, shortly before Gastineau’s relationship with the girl blew up in his face, he found out she was cheating on him with Jason Anguiano, a man Gastineau referred to as his best friend.

In interviews, the girl told detectives that Anguiano twice took her to a hotel in Redlands, where they had sex.

Anguiano never said much to detectives. When they showed up at his mother’s house on April 25 to arrest him, detectives said they wanted to talk to him. He said he wanted to talk to a lawyer and that was the end of the conversation.

After serving a search warrant, detectives searched Anguiano’s room and took his computers. But when they searched his truck they found receipts to the Redlands hotel where he and the girl had their liaisons. They later checked those receipts against hotel records, surveillance footage and credit card statements and confirmed what the girl had already told them.

By April 25, the local media had the story. Two adult men—one of them a deputy—had illicit affairs with the same 16-year-old girl at the same time. And all three were members of a club of Ghostbusters fans who liked to run around dressed up in khaki jumpsuits with prop “proton packs” strapped to their backs.

Media Circus

The story offered more than enough narrative heft to make local journalists drool, but then the case went to court and it got even juicer.

On May 5, two weeks after Gastineau was arrested and accused, a second deputy—Anthony Benjamin, 31, from the Sheriff’s Victorville Station—was arrested and accused of letting a different 17-year-old Explorer perform oral sex on him during ride-alongs. The case was unrelated to Gastineau’s but in light of both incidents, the Sheriff’s Department was forced to shut down its ride-along program and call for a full review of the Explorer program. (The program was re-launched in September, with new restrictions on how many patrol shifts riders can share with the same deputy.)

Then famed attorney Gloria Allred showed up in court June 21 for Gastineau’s arraignment (he pleaded not guilty to three counts of lewd acts on a minor and three counts of unlawful sexual intercourse) and announced she would represent the girl and her family. She held one of her patented press conferences on the steps of the courthouse and said her client was prepared to testify on the stand against her (alleged) former lovers.

The girl—who was allegedly sexually involved with two adult men at the same time—no longer attends Public Service Academy. Allred has repeatedly reiterated that the girl is a victim of two sexual predators. The attorney—who has been visibly busy of late with the most recent of presidential candidate Herman Cain’s sexual harassment accusers—did not respond to an email asking what, if any, responsibility lies with the girl for her relationships with the men.

Social Networking

In June, the Sheriff’s Department announced that Gastineau was no longer a deputy. Sheriff’s officials wouldn’t say that they fired him.

On Aug. 1, after months of complete silence, Gastineau posted a lengthy Facebook message to a page that a devoted group of his friends and supporters set up.

“This is your admiral,” he wrote. “I know there’ve been a lot of rumors going around . . . about the destruction that’s been visited on my life. I would like to tell you that they’re exaggerations, but in fact it can not even come close to convey the horror that’s been unleashed. The facts are that my reputation has been destroyed, my job has been nuked and my best friend is in jail . . .”

Gastineau then descended into a paraphrased quote from a character from the recent iteration of Battlestar Galactica. In it, he referenced war, revenge and payback. Though those words were lifted directly from the science fiction television show, Judge John Martin wasn’t pleased.

The victim’s father, who follows this case closer than any reporter, saw Gastineau’s Facebook post. He forwarded it to Allred, who in turn gave it to Martin.

“What on Earth is the matter with you?” Martin asked Gastineau in open court.

Gastineau and Haynal told the judge what it was—a quote from a TV show, but Martin wasn’t hearing it. He said anyone could have seen that post, could have taken it the wrong way and could have exacted revenge against reporters covering the story or even the victim—whose name is not exactly a well-guarded secret.

At the time, Gastineau was free on $150,000 bond. In response to the Facebook post, Martin increased Gastineau’s bail to $350,000. He was promptly re-arrested, though he posted bail again—for the third time since his April 22 arrest—a few days later.

Plea Bargaining

Anguiano’s case came to an anti-climactic but expected end on July 12 when he took a plea bargain.

He pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual and is now serving a 180-day jail sentence. After that, he’ll have to serve three years probation. When that’s over he’s a free man. He won’t even have to register as a sex offender.

Prosecutors typically extend plea bargains in cases like this, for no other reason than to spare the victim the embarrassment of having to take the stand and testify in open court.

The District Attorney’s office also offered Benjamin a plea bargain in July and he took it. He pleaded no contest to charges of sex acts with a minor. He was sentenced in August to 270 days in jail and three years probation. He, like Anguiano, will not have to register as a sex offender as part of his plea deal.

But Gastineau continues his fight in court. He hasn’t agreed to a plea bargain—and he hasn’t been offered one.

If the reports Niles and Lomelli and other detectives submitted to the District Attorney’s Office are factual (and there is always the chance, however slight, that they’re not), prosecutors will have a trove of evidence to throw at Gastineau when his case goes to trial.

Secret Tapes

The taped admissions he made in interviews alone would be plenty to sway a jury, but prosecutors allegedly have something even more damning.

When the detectives interviewed the same male friend that Filson spoke to, they learned of a video that Gastineau allegedly took of himself having sex with the girl. After serving search warrants, they found a recording device in Gastineau’s locker at the Sheriff’s station. On that device they found the video the boy spoke of, according to court documents. They also found graphic photographs they believe depict Gastineau conducting sex acts on the girl.

And when forensics specialists were done with it, they found the video and photos were time-stamped to late 2010—when the girl was 15 years old.

And if the prosecutors do indeed have the smoking-gun video, if they do indeed have audio recordings of him providing detailed descriptions to detectives, both Gastineau and his Redlands-based attorney, Andrew Haynal, know it. And they know that District Attorney Bobbie Mann won’t hesitate to roll that evidence out in court.

Despite this, Gastineau and Haynal are choosing to fight what looks like an open-and-shut case. It’s always possible they have a trump card they’ve yet to play, but if they do, neither will talk about it.

In fact, Haynal won’t say much of anything. He did not return a phone call seeking comment for this article.

The next stage in the court case will be a preliminary hearing, where testimony will be heard and the prosecutors will begin to present much of their case against Gastineau. The preliminary hearing has been delayed several times, but is now scheduled for Dec. 15.

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