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Manatee County sergeant arrested, accused of discussing sex acts with a minor

Detectives say Stephen Utter, 37, thought he was talking with a minor; instead, it was a deputy with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.
Credit: 10 Tampa Bay

A sergeant with the Manatee County Sheriff's Office finds himself on the other side of the law.

Stephen Utter, 37, was arrested on Tuesday for discussing sexual acts with who he thought was a minor, but was in reality a deputy of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, according to a press release from the HCSO.

Investigators say an undercover detective had a conversation with Utter on July 24. Utter was reportedly immediately made aware of the fictitious girl's age. During the course of the conversations, both online and through texting, Utter is accused of sending explicit messages detailing the sexual acts he wished to perform on the child.

Hillsborough County deputies alerted the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, and Utter was taken into custody at the Manatee County Fairgrounds during a work-related training exercise.

Utter has worked as a law enforcement officer in the Manatee County Jail since 2011.

He was booked on charges of unlawful use of a two-way communications device, transmission of harmful material to a minor, and use of computer devices to solicit certain illegal acts.

“This is a deeply disturbing incident, and we are thankful that the person on the other end of those chats and vulgar text messages was a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office deputy, not a real child,” said Sheriff Chad Chronister. “The conduct of this sergeant is in no way a reflection of the thousands of deputies across Tampa Bay who are committed to serving their communities with integrity. We will not tolerate this predatory behavior from anyone, including a fellow law enforcement officer, as displayed by the quick actions both the Manatee and Hillsborough County Sheriff's Offices took to arrest this individual.” 

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