Teenagers meeting at places like Coral Springs’ Northwest Regional Library to play Dr. Feelgood is a practice as old as bookshelves.
But if one person is 25 and the other 14, the older person is committing sexual molestation. And if the rendezvous happened after the older person beckoned the teenager via a dating application such as Grindr, that’s a felony in Florida.
Which is why, Coral Springs police say, they arrested Robert Gittle on Tuesday at the library on three counts of lewd and lascivious behavior with a victim between 12 and 16 years old and two counts of traveling to meet a minor for sexual activity after using a device capable of electronic data transmission.
Gittle was being held at the Broward Main Jail on a $1 million bond, or $200,000 per count.
Though the Coral Springs arrest affidavit lists Gittle’s home as Lauderdale Lakes, his previous addresses placed him for years in Cape May County, New Jersey. Back in January, the Cape May County Herald reported Gittles’ arrest on a stack of charges that included manufacturing, possessing and distributing child pornography.
Here’s the arrest affidavit version of the Coral Springs case, which eventually involved the FBI Child Exploitation Task Force and the Broward County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force assisting Coral Springs Police:
The 14-year-old told police that Gittle claimed to be only 18 when they met on Grindr in March. Over two months, their relationship progressed off the app to text messages then to the hookup stage. They reached that stage the afternoon of May 15 in the upstairs bathroom of the library next door to the boy’s school, Coral Springs Charter School.
On June 26, the teenager told police about the communication and the meeting. Police say the boy’s phone confirmed the communication, and library surveillance cameras confirmed the boy and Gittle met at the library between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. on May 15.
Police say a detective then donned an undercover electronic masquerade, texting Gittle from the boy’s phone. Gittle responded. In the ensuing conversation, he said he wanted to meet the boy, but avoided plainly stating sexual intentions. In fact, Gittle specifically told the undercover detective-as-boy to avoid discussing sex in text messages.
What Gittle didn’t avoid, the affidavit said, was another 3 p.m. library meeting. Gittle confirmed time and place Tuesday morning.
Gittle walked into the library, allegedly ready for sex. He walked out in handcuffs.
Police believe Gittle might have other victims and Due to the possibility that other victims may exist, the public is asked to contact SVU Detective Carter with any relevant information. Det. Carter can be contacted at 954-346-1790.