Kent Stermon coerced young woman, investigation shows

Published on September 29, 2023 at 3:45 pm

The State Attorney’s Office has released its investigation into prominent Northeast Florida businessman and political donor Kent Stermon, nine months after Stermon killed himself in front of an Atlantic Beach post office

The 13-page report concludes that if he were still alive, the 50-year-old man would have been charged with the criminal offenses of solicitation for prostitution, false imprisonment, theft by false pretenses, unlawful use of a two-way communications device and obtaining by false representation.

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The charges stem from meetings Stermon had with a young woman identified only as Jane Doe, and the sexually suggestive requests he made to her, the report said. But with Stermon’s suicide, the report ends any investigation into the case, the report concludes.

“The investigation provided context to, and motivation for, Stermon’s actions in his office,” the report’s conclusion states. “Finally, it also answered many unresolved questions about additional potential victims or perpetrators, and it has indicated neither. Because the investigative objectives have been met, and in light of Stermon’s death, we will be taking no further action in this matter.”

Stermon was the subject of an investigation that began a few weeks before his death, Sheriff T.K. Waters confirmed shortly after the suicide. Stermon, known as a friend to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and a confidant to former Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams, had a badge allowing him electronic access to the the police station before that investigation, when it was rescinded, police said.

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The State Attorney’s Office’s published the investigation here. Details are blacked out to protect the victim’s identity. (Some items in the evidence file may be objectionable to some readers.)

Asked for comment about the state attorney’s completed investigation, the Sheriff’s Office did not respond other than to link to the original redacted police report and supplemental material.

Stermon was a well-connected political consultant for the Duval County Republican Party. He was a board member of Florida’s State University System and president of Total Military Management in Jacksonville. He also was chair of the Governor’s Public Safety Transition Advisory Committee and had contributed to Waters’ recent election campaign. 

Atlantic Beach police said they found Stermon late Dec. 8 inside his truck at the Atlantic Beach Post Office on Mayport Road. Police said they were investigating his death as a suicide. Stermon had been reported as a missing person just before he was found..

Stermon, president of a logistics firm that relocates members of the armed services, also was dealing with health problems, according to Florida Politics. In fact, just hours before his death, Stermon texted Florida Politics reporter A.G. Gancarski. He said he was “stepping about as far from politics as I can right now. … My prognosis is positive and I just got discharged from hospital but I have a ton of work to do to get healthy.”

The Sheriff’s Office confirmed in June to WJCT News 89.9 that Stermon had a badge allowing him electronic access to the Police Memorial Building Downtown. He had been issued five separate badges giving him access to Sheriff’s Office buildings, starting in 2013 under former sheriff and current congressman John Rutherford. Records obtained by Jacksonville Today show Rutherford was the first of three Republican sheriffs to allow Stermon access to Sheriff’s Office buildings.

Stermon used his badges to access multiple Sheriff’s Office substations, police aviation facilities and investigative areas. He had access, for example, to one area the Sheriff’s Office has refused to disclose under a Florida law that protects “surveillance techniques or procedures.”

The Sheriff’s Office’s security policies say someone could be denied a badge for “any pending felony criminal or theft case.” Stermon’s most recently issued card was granted Nov. 22, 2018, under Williams. It was deactivated Nov. 30, 2022 — after the agency was notified of a “potential crime” involving Stermon. 

The State Attorney’s Office’s investigation now reveals what that “potential crime” was.

On Nov. 29, 2022, a young woman identified as Jane Doe and her father contacted police, reporting that she had been “prohibited” from leaving Stermon’s office “until she complied with his demand that she show her breasts to him,” the report said. The State Attorney’s Office confirms that the woman was not a minor.

“Before demanding Jane Doe show her breasts to him, Stermon solicited her to perform certain acts for money and tried to coerce Jane Doe to send him photos of her breasts through a bizarre and fraudulent scheme, even using a fake email account,” it states. “Jane Doe and Stermon’s office encounter stemmed from a series of social media messages and telephone calls between the two in early November 2022, relating to Stermon’s claims he could procure tickets and VIP access for Doe to a Taylor Swift … concert.”

Unbeknownst to the young woman, Stermon set up a fake email account, pretending to be a backstage security staffer who could grant VIP access to the concert, the report states. Under this claim, he “deceptively coerced” the woman into sending provocative photographs of herself and answering a series of personal questions. This was done with the woman from his personal cellphone via calls and text messages.

Stermon told the woman to buy the concert tickets and he would reimburse her, telling her to come to his office to collect the money.

In a meeting at Stermon’s office a few weeks later, he offered her $10,000 in exchange for a “lap dance” and later $5,000 in exchange for “Facetime sex,” the report said.

“After refusing both, Stermon told Doe, ‘You can’t leave here without giving me something,’ and ‘It has to be more than 30 seconds,'” the report said. “He demanded she expose her breasts to him. Doe explained that she was scared and wanted to leave but did not believe she was free to leave. She said she was frightened and unsure of what might happen if she did not comply with Stermon’s demand.”

The woman said Stermon handed her his cellphone, told her to set a timer for 30 seconds and ordered her to expose her breasts before leaving. 

The investigation by police and the State Attorney’s Office turned out to take 10 months. It continued despite Stermon’s death to determine whether this incident was a one-time event or part of a pattern involving other victims or perpetrators, the report said.

The investigation has not revealed “any evidence indicating other victims or implicating other perpetrators,” the report says. “Further, no evidence has been discovered indicating a broader scheme to defraud or extort other victims.”

author image Reporter, WJCT News 89.9 Dan Scanlan is a veteran journalist with almost 40 years of experience in radio, television, and print reporting. He has worked at various stations in the Northeast and Jacksonville. Prior to joining the WJCT News team, Dan spent 34 years at The Florida Times-Union as a police and current affairs reporter.
author image Reporter, WJCT News 89.9 Dan Scanlan is a veteran journalist with almost 40 years of experience in radio, television, and print reporting. He has worked at various stations in the Northeast and Jacksonville. Prior to joining the WJCT News team, Dan spent 34 years at The Florida Times-Union as a police and current affairs reporter.

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