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    Youth worker faces new charges

    Authorities say the man coaxed girls at Florida Youth Academy into participating in sex acts.

    By CHRIS TISCH

    © St. Petersburg Times, published December 8, 2000


    LARGO -- Fallout from a youth worker's arrest continued this week, as police lodged additional charges against the employee while an ongoing facility investigation has resulted in two managers receiving reprimands.

    Police say Freddie R. Crayton, 43, a program technician at the Florida Youth Academy, coaxed four females into sex acts in a bathroom by offering them cash and additional phone calls from the facility.

    Police last week charged Crayton, 2724 21st Place, Largo, with sexual battery based on accusations he had sex with a 16-year-old girl. Wednesday, police charged Crayton with two more counts of sexual battery based on allegations from two 15-year-old girls. They also charged him with sexual misconduct in connection with allegedly having sex with an 18-year-old juvenile offender.

    Crayton remained in Pinellas County Jail on Thursday evening on $320,000 bail.

    St. Petersburg attorney Darryl Rouson, who is representing Crayton, said he believes the charges are false.

    "I believe he is innocent and the charges are trumped up by a disgruntled young woman," Rouson said Thursday. "He's a good family man and a role model in the community. We'll trust the process and in the end he will be vindicated."

    Rouson said Crayton has a wife and two daughters. He said Crayton helped launch a youth program to help young African-American men in local neighborhoods a few years ago.

    While police continued their investigation, supervisors at the Youth Academy, 12895 Seminole Blvd., were undergoing "red flag training" Thursday that should prevent this from happening in the future, said executive director John Cheney.

    Cheney said supervision and training at the facility were not lacking before this. Yet, Cheney said, two facility managers were given letters of reprimand because they could not prove that staff members under them never spent time alone with juveniles, which is a facility guideline.

    The internal investigation is continuing and could result in more reprimands, Cheney said.

    "This is really an isolated case," he said.

    Crayton worked as a program technician at the Youth Academy. He helped the young people with daily life skills and goal-setting while monitoring their behavior. Cheney said he received no complaints about Crayton's behavior until the victims stepped forward.

    The academy works with youths up to 18 years old who have gotten in trouble with the law. The youths are referred to the academy by the state Department of Juvenile Justice. Their stay can last anywhere from six months to a year.

    The academy has 146 employees and 132 beds for the youths. State and local criminal background checks are done on all employees. Police said there are no sexually related offenses in Crayton's background.

    "All the good things we do out here simply go unnoticed," said Cheney, who added the program has a 90 percent success rate. "We do have a good program."

    Largo police Officer Karl Gracy, who has been investigating Crayton, said he has received no indication that there are additional victims.

    Because of Crayton's employment around children -- he also has driven a bus for the Pinellas County School Board for 10 years -- Gracy said he is asking any additional victims or witnesses to contact him.

    Police said the sex acts with three of the victims were consensual, though juveniles cannot give consent for sex under the law. Gracy said he could not determine if the sex act with one of the 15-year-olds was consensual.

    Personnel records at the Pinellas County School Board indicate Crayton was "very good with students" and "works well with others."

    Crayton resigned his position at the Youth Academy after the accusations surfaced. If Crayton is released from jail and reports to his School Board job, he will be directed to report to the School Board's office of professional standards. Administrators then will decide whether to put him on leave with pay or to reassign him to a job where he does not serve children.

    To help

    Anyone with additional information may call Largo police Officer Karl Gracy at 587-6730.

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