Update: The 5th District Court of Appeal on June 3, 2022, threw out the injunction against Robert Lentino, agreeing with him that “the evidence was legally insufficient to support a finding that [the alleged victim] had a reasonable fear that she was in imminent danger of another act of dating violence.”
Robert Lentino, the 26-year-old Palm Coast resident suspended from his job as a Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy in early July over allegations of domestic violence, resigned today.
On Aug. 17, a Volusia County judge extended the injunction against Lentino that his ex-girlfriend had filed on July 17 and that was temporarily granted on July 22. On Aug. 18, the State Attorney’s Office requested documentation of the injunction as part of its ongoing investigation.
Lentino had been suspended with pay when the allegations first came to light. (See: “Flagler Sheriff’s Deputy Lentino Suspended Pending Investigation into Dating Violence Involving 21-Year-Old Woman“). But last week he was allowed to work in “strictly just administrative stuff” at the sheriff’s Communications (or 911) Center, Sheriff’s Chief of Staff Mark Strobridge said today. The work may have entailed taking 911 calls.
Today, he tendered his resignation. “Please accept this email as my two week notice of resignation from the Flagler County Sheriff’s Department,” he wrote in an email to Sheriff Rick Staly. “It is my understanding that you will be accepting this resignation effective immediately.” Strobridge confirmed that the resignation went into effect this afternoon. The Sheriff’s Office had been holding an internal investigation of Lentino in abeyance, pending the completion of the criminal investigation. “The criminal investigation is still pending out there,” Strobridge said.
The Daytona Beach Police Department investigated Lentino’s ex-girlfriend’s allegations of domestic violence in July and completed its charging affidavit, forwarding it to the State Attorney’s Office. Neither the police department nor the State Attorney’s Office have released the affidavit, citing the ongoing investigation: it’s up to the State Attorney’s Office to decide whether to file a charge or drop the case.
Based on the Daytona Beach police report FlaglerLive obtained, the woman, who is 21 and a resident of Volusia County, alleged to police that Lentino first became physically abusive with her in April 2021, and that he allegedly struck her on three separate occasions in May 2021, in the face and in the chest. The most recent incident of physical abuse, she alleged, took place on July 3 into July 4, even though she said she had ended the relationship in June. The woman told police “she never wanted to report any of these incident[s] due to being in love with Lentino and not wanting him to get in trouble due to him currently being employed with Flagler County Sheriff[s’] Department,” the report states. But the report states she showed law enforcement “numerous photographs and videos” related to the abuse.
After ending the relationship, the woman reported to police that he “began to threaten her life and would frequently show up to her place of work or call her work place to harass her commonly using his power and position to intimidate her,” the report states. She worked at a private insurer’s office in Palm Coast. The alleged victim showed police “videos and recordings of Lentino actively using his patrol vehicle in an on duty fashion to follow her around the Flagler area,” according to the Daytona police’s incident report. The woman said he would “activate his emergency lights and sirens to complete unlawful traffic stops to intimidate her.” The woman could not provide a date or a location of such incidents.
The details of the woman’s report of the last alleged physical confrontation made the reporting officer skeptical about that particular claim. The woman had claimed Lentino had cut her upper right thigh with a kitchen knife. The investigating officer saw three laceration, not one, and described two lacerations “as if someone hesitated in making the cuts,” while the third laceration was deeper and longer, according to the report–6 to 7 inches. The woman also showed the officers bloodied sheets in her bedroom.
The report also notes that she had been “inconsistent” to two different officers, telling one that the confrontation took place in the kitchen and another that it took place in the bedroom. Two detectives inferred that the cuts “appeared to be self-inflicted,” and that the woman had “a history of self-harm,” an inference in the report that Trish Giaccone, the executive director of the Family Life Center, Flagler’s shelter for abused person, said assigned blame and went beyond what the report should have done–observe and report the incident neutrally at that point.
“We don’t know that. We don’t know if the woman did that to herself or if it was something the alleged perpetrator did to her,” Giaccone said. “There’s no way to know that. You can notate it, where the marks are, but assigning blame, we ask them not to do that, to leave it–just what you see, it makes it clearer in a police report.” Giaccone said the Family Life Center has conducted numerous training sessions with the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office to ensure that deputies take in the whole scene and handle domestic violence cases from a basis of believing the victim, not questioning his or her veracity. A conclusive statement about the cutting means that the reporting officers are “really diminishing her credibility, which follows her through the system. The State Attorney will say, oh well–and then it creates this snowball effect.”
In this particular case, the challenge for the Daytona Beach police was even greater: “When they arrive and there are law enforcement and the victim is dating someone in law enforcement, it is really difficult for that victim to trust what is going to be written down in that report, it is really difficult for that victim to trust the system,” and share with law enforcement what took place, Giaccone said. And in fact the police report notes that as the alleged victim was writing a statement, “she was being overwhelmed,” could not complete it, and said she would consult an attorney before answering more questions.
Giaccone said self-harm by cutting “is not something that we see for victims of abuse typically.” Rather, children–witnesses of violence–are more typically the ones who cut “to get in touch with their emotions and feel something,” or evade a numbness. “It’s not a typical behavior of victims of domestic violence but you really never know.” That’s why the caution about not prematurely reaching for conclusions.
Domestic Violence Hotline:
Call or text 386/437-3505, 24 hours.