OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – An Osceola County Sheriff's deputy has been disciplined after he admitted to sending inappropriate texts and photos to a woman he encountered during a traffic stop.
Prosecutors later dropped the misdemeanor drug charges against the woman after learning about the "flirtatious and sexually explicit" conversations, records obtained by News 6 show.
According to an internal affairs investigation report, Deputy Hunter Perkins sent a photo of his genitalia and engaged in an improper personal relationship with the defendant.
Perkins lost two days of paid vacation and received a written reprimand after sheriff's officials determined he violated agency policy.
News 6 is not identifying the woman since she is not charged with any crimes.
Perkins said he stopped the woman's car as she drove into a gas station on U.S. 192 because the vehicle's tag was expired, records show.
After smelling marijuana, Perkins and two other deputies searched the car, recovering a small amount of cannabis and a pipe, according to court records.
Perkins issued the woman a notice to appear in court for misdemeanor drug charges.
Less than an hour after conducting the traffic stop, Perkins sent a message to the woman from his Instagram account, the woman later wrote in a complaint filed with the sheriff's office.
She believes Perkins obtained her personal information while conducting the traffic stop, the complaint states.
"My fear was, if I turned him down, I would have a potential problem if he goes to court for my case and make things worse for me," she wrote in the complaint. "So I played along."
Over the next four days, the deputy and the woman exchanged private text messages and photos, records show.
"So sexy," Perkins reportedly wrote in one exchange. "I'd eat that body up."
In another message, the deputy told the woman, "I want to see you. It satisfies me," records indicate.
The two also discussed the traffic stop that led to the woman's criminal charges.
"You really had no reason to pull me over. But you did," the woman wrote in another text conversation.
"We would've never met," the deputy replied.
According to her complaint, Perkins deleted the Instagram messages after the woman revealed that she had researched his home address.
"I did not give him permission to contact me," the woman wrote in her complaint, which she submitted to the sheriff's office six months after the traffic stop while still awaiting trial on the drug charges.
The woman's attorney provided a copy of the text messages to prosecutors, court records show.
Two weeks later the state attorney's office announced it was dropping the woman's criminal charges.
During an internal affairs investigation, Perkins admitted to sending the texts and photos, the report shows.
“(It was) just a foolish mistake,” said Perkins, who was married and expecting a child at the time of the traffic stop. “I’m sorry for my actions, and this isn’t something that will ever come up again.”
When asked why he looked up the woman on social media, Perkins answered, "I did believe she was cute, I'm not gonna lie."
After reviewing law enforcement communications logs and GPS records from Perkins's patrol vehicle, sheriff's investigators determined the deputy acted properly when making the initial traffic stop.
However, investigators determined Perkins violated department policies related to unbecoming conduct and associating with known criminal suspects.
“We have reviewed the facts of this incident and determined the 16-hour suspension is appropriate and in line with our progressive discipline policy,” Captain Fred Hinderman wrote in an email to News 6. “It was taken into consideration that this is the deputy’s first-time offense, he had no previous discipline history. This deputy has taken full responsibility for his actions, and has continued to serve the citizens of Osceola County.”
Weeks after receiving discipline, the deputy played a role in a high-profile murder investigation.
Perkins was dispatched to a home in Celebration on December 29 to conduct a well-being check after a family member called the agency expressing concern about the occupants, records show.
According to the sheriff's office, no one answered the door and the deputy did not notice anything suspicious.
Two weeks later deputies returned to the home and found the bodies of a mother and her three children inside the home.
The woman’s husband, Anthony Todt, has been charged with their murder.