5386 Napleton executive accused of sexual assault gets probation

Napleton executive accused of sexual assault gets probation

A Napleton Automotive Group executive accused of sexual assault by a co-worker in 2018 was sentenced Wednesday in Florida to five years of probation on a charge of third-degree felony battery.

Edward Napleton Jr., director of operations for Napleton Automotive Group and son of company President Ed Napleton, will not face prison time nor will he be required to register as a sex offender in Florida under a type of guilty plea identified in court documents as a “best interest” plea. Under a best interest plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but does acknowledge that a guilty plea is in his or her best interest.

Napleton Jr. stipulated to one count of sexual penetration, according to his plea sheet. Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge Scott Suskauer withheld adjudication in the case, which means Napleton Jr. isn’t formally convicted of the charge.

A Florida statute gives judges special authority to sometimes “withhold adjudication” in probation sentences, meaning a court won’t impose on the defendant a conviction and the “collateral consequences” that accompany conviction. A spokesperson with the Florida State Attorney’s Office confirmed to Automotive News that, in Florida, “a withhold of adjudication means that a defendant is not a convicted felon.”

Napleton’s sentence includes 200 hours of community service and one day of jail time, which he already has served, a court spokeswoman said.

Napleton Jr.’s probation could be terminated after two years if he abides by the court’s rules, according to his plea sheet. As long as he gives prior notice, he also has the court’s permission to travel out of state for work purposes related to his job with Napleton Automotive Group.

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According to a case memo provided to Automotive News by the Florida State Attorney’s Office, the woman who had accused Napleton and her legal counsel were consulted about the plea deal “and expressed their full approval of this resolution.”

“On October 13, 2021, the State Attorney’s Office received written confirmation from the victim, who wrote in part, ‘I agree with and approve the terms of the plea offer,’ ” the memo said.

According to the memo, the woman agreed to the negotiated plea because going to court would have been invasive and possibly re-traumatizing and because the details of the incident may have been difficult to prove at trial.

A lawyer representing Napleton Jr. did not respond to multiple requests for comment. A lawyer for Napleton Automotive Group also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The felony battery charge stems from an incident that police said occurred Aug. 8, 2018, at the West Palm Beach Marriott.

In an incident report, West Palm Beach police said hotel surveillance video showed Napleton Jr. and another car dealership executive, Dee Frank Grinnell, leading a South Florida woman to a hotel room. The video showed the woman collapsing at the door, and Grinnell dragged her in, according to the report.

The police report said the two men were in the room for about 30 seconds, then departed, after which the woman left the room but fell again in the hallway. Hotel staff found her unconscious and left her in the room in a wheelchair, according to the report.

Hotel staff then gave one of the men a key to the room she was in, the report said. Surveillance video showed Napleton Jr. entering it after 1:30 a.m. and leaving six hours later, the report said.

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The woman, a corporate trainer for Napleton Automotive Group, later reported waking up naked in bed in the hotel with no recollection of what had happened after she left a company dinner at a nearby restaurant the night before.

The woman identified Napleton Jr. and Grinnell in the video, and forensics tests confirmed Napleton Jr.’s DNA on her body, the police report said. The woman filed a civil lawsuit against Napleton Jr. in June 2019. That suit is still pending in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, court documents show.

Napleton Automotive Group, of Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., ranks No. 13 on the Automotive News list of the top 150 dealership groups, with retail sales of 35,768 new vehicles in 2020.

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