Depraved Indifference

No one will really know what led St. Petersburg City Council Chairman John Bryan to commit suicide last week, but the likelihood that it was related to this story in the St. Petersburg Times is pretty good.
Bryan's suicide came after news spread Friday that authorities were investigating allegations that he had sexually abused three girls, including two of his adopted daughters, ages 12 and 15. Ron Stuart, a spokesman for the Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court, said the third alleged victim was a nanny for Bryan years ago and no longer lives in the area.


Around midmorning Friday, Bryan attended a shelter hearing in front of Circuit Judge Raymond Gross at the criminal court complex in Largo. Such hearings determine who has custody of children while authorities investigate abuse allegations.

The hearing was brief, according to court spokesman Stuart. St. Petersburg police had opened a criminal investigation into Bryan.

Authorities were investigating allegations that Bryan had sexually abused two of his adopted daughters, Stuart said. The Times is withholding their names because of the nature of the allegations.

In addition, authorities were investigating whether Bryan had sexually abused his former nanny, whom he had also adopted. The former nanny is now 38.

Stuart said Bryan admitted to a sexual relationship with the nanny, but said it was consensual and occurred after the nanny turned 18. "He claims she was of age," Stuart said Friday afternoon.

Judge Gross ordered Bryan to have no contact with the children, Stuart said. Gross allowed the children to remain at home with their mother, Alicia Bryan.

"Mr. Bryan agreed to this," Stuart said.
If that isn't enough to creep you out, this may take care of that.
Friends and colleagues of City Councilman John Bryan were shocked by sex abuse allegations that led to his suicide.

But not everyone was surprised.

Stories about Bryan's sexual indiscretions had been circulating for nearly two decades.

"I heard the rumors, but you never know if someone's out to get him or no," said Bill Dudley, who was in the Northeast Exchange Club with Bryan. "So I never paid much attention to them. You have to take rumors at face value."

Just as stunning as the rumors, perhaps, is that many of Bryan's closest associates say they never heard them.

Mayor Rick Baker said he didn't know of them.

Current police Chief Chuck Harmon and former police Chief Goliath Davis both said Saturday that they never heard any questions about Bryan's past.

"I wasn't made aware of any type of allegation against Mr. Bryan until this week," Harmon said.

Those who did hear them include Jerry Knight, St. Petersburg's one-time fire chief. He said he couldn't substantiate the rumors.

"I don't know that anybody knows," he said Saturday. "That's the whole issue."

Daniel Price, 77, who was part of a luncheon group with Bryan, also said he heard the gossip.

"The stories about Bryan flouting around with little girls have been abroad in the land for 15 years," Price said.
Nearly two decades. To quote Melissa (who tipped me off to this story via blogenfreude, who got it from Wonkette): "WTF??"

Gossip and rumors can be destructive and wildly at odds with reality, but there is usually a grain of truth in a rumor - just ask Larry Craig or Ted Haggard -- and if anyone actually knew the truth in spite of the denials why the hell didn't they do something? Was Mr. Bryan such a staunch Republican and defender of family values that either they didn't believe it, or were afraid to cross him? Or worse, was it because they just didn't want to get involved?

Well, obviously someone did something or else Mr. Bryan would not have spent that Friday morning in court being told to stay away from his adopted children (which makes you wonder why he adopted them in the first place). But the very idea that people were covering for him by either ignoring the rumors or actively covering for him is beyond understanding and, to me, it borders on the legal definition of depraved indifference.

What's even more ironic is that Florida is so very concerned about the welfare of children that it has a ban on gay people adopting children. It doesn't matter if you're the most moral upstanding person in the Sunshine State, if you're queer you're automatically disqualified because everyone knows that queers molest children. It's how we recruit them. But if you're a straight... hey, no problem.

I'm sorry that Mr. Bryan felt that the only way out was to kill himself, but I feel a lot more sorry for the children whose lives he damaged. For the people that ignored it and the state that still enforces medieval stereotypes about "family values," all I have is cold rage.

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