Three Flagler County Sheriff’s detention deputies have resigned after during or following investigations of allegations of sexual misconduct at the Flagler County jail. The investigations were carried out by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Sheriff’s Office. No charges are to be filed against any of the deputies who resigned.
The former deputies who resigned are Bradley Gilyard, Julio Vazquez and Jonathan Vitale. Gilyard resigned this afternoon, just before he was called in to be told he would be fired following an Internal Affairs investigation. Vitale, who could have faced being fired as well, resigned earlier this week. Vazquez resigned in January, at the beginning of the FDLE investigation. Gilyard and Vitale were among the deputies recognized for five years’ service at a sheriff’s ceremony in April.
The FDLE forwarded its investigation report to the State Attorney’s Office. The State Attorney informed the Sheriff’s Office that it would not pursue charges against any of the three deputies or ex-deputies involved.
The Sheriff’s Office requested an FDLE investigation after a deputy reported “rumors” circulating in the jail of Gilyard’s sexual involvement with an inmate. Investigations included Vitale and Vazquez over other allegations, though the investigation of Vazquez was pre-empted by his resignation. Vitale was found to have violated department policy by sharing contraband with inmates and misleading or interfering with investigators. Twice before, in June and July 2011, he’d been reprimanded orally and in writing for untruthfulness.
The Sheriff’s Office took the allegations seriously, and immediately after FDLE agents initially spoke with Gilyard on Jan. 20, four days after the alleged sexual encounter, The Prison Rape Elimination Act protocols were initiated at the jail and services offered to potential victims and witnesses. Gilyard himself was placed on administrative leave with pay.
In sum, investigators concluded that Gilyard had had sex with an inmate and that Vitale and Vazquez had worked to alert him of an investigation, among other violations.
An initial inquiry by sheriff’s investigators led them to believe that Gilyard “entered the laundry room and proceeded to have sexual intercourse” with an inmate, and that the entire incident had been witnessed by another inmate. Video surveillance “corroborated some” of the inmate’s statements, but did not capture the alleged sexual act.
Rather, it captured Gilyard going off camera while holding his gun belt in his hand and wearing no vest, while the inmate he is alleged to have had sex with leaves her work station and goes into the blind spot as well. The episode lasts six minutes. The female reemerges, disheveled. Gilyard denied having had a sexual encounter with the inmate. “I wasn’t aware [the inmate] was off camera, I wasn’t aware I was off camera, but like I said there was at no point when she was within arms-reach of me,” he told the Internal Affairs investigator.
Gilyard is also captured on video displaying his Taser to two female inmates in the laundry room, without cause, which would be a policy violation.
At one point an internal affairs investigator asked Vitale if he thought the inmate with whom Gilyard is alleged to have had sex had anything to gain by making accusations against Gilyard. Vitale’s answer was a “No.”
Vazquez was placed on administrative suspension with pay on Jan. 23. Vitale was not initially suspended.
On Jan. 20, sometime before shift change, according to a memo written by Chief Steve Cole, who oversees all jail operations, Vazquez contacted Vitale by phone to give him a “heads up” that FDLE was conducting an investigation at the jail, and to ask him to let Gilyard know. Earlier that day, a shift commander had told all personnel on duty, including Vazquez, not to talk to anyone about the FDLE investigation.
The “heads up,” according to the internal investigation report on Vitale, “took the element of surprise away from the FDLE and could be considered obstruction of justice or legally defined as resisting an officer without violence.”
“Once FDLE Agents gave Dep. J. Vitale and opportunity to clarify, he was then forthcoming about his involvement,” the internal affairs investigation report states.
Vitale was also facing disciplinary action for taking a note from an inmate. He said he did not recall what was written in the note, but conceded: “I often receive paper from inmates.” As for the “contraband” he reportedly gave two inmates, it was, he told an investigator, sweet tea. After initially denying sending a text and placing a call, Vitale admitted to the investigator that he warned Gilyard of the FDLE investigation. Vitale, in his interview with the investigator, described his actions as “a few mindless bad choices.” (See the Internal Affairs investigation of Vitale here.)
One of the inmates FDLE had interviewed worked in the laundry room. She told investigators that Vazquez had told her to report herself being sick on Jan. 16 because, Vazquez reportedly told the inmate, “Gilyard was going to have sex” with another inmate sometime that Monday in the laundry room, according to Cole’s memo. The inmate FDLE interviewed also reported being inappropriately touched by Vazquez when she was working in a supply room, putting away laundry, and he came in there and “began to fondle and kiss her,” Cole wrote. That inmate denied having sex with Vazquez. A review of video of several shifts the inmate worked in the laundry room shows Vazquez entering the supply room in booking, where he was not allowed to be by himself. Solo male deputies are not allowed to be in areas where video cameras are not installed.
Two years into his service with the Sheriff’s Office, Gilyard was recognized as the Detention Deputy of the Quarter, in Summer 2013, for his “his high degree of professionalism, positive attitude and impeccable attendance record,” according to his citation at the time. He had “developed an ability to detect and diffuse potentially combative situations within the inmate facility.Deputy Gilyard is keenly aware of the dangers that are present among a large inmate population and employs excellent officer safety skills while ensuring the safety of inmates.”
Vazquez was presented a similar award last July, when he’d worked with the agency for seven years. He was part of the transition team at the time as the Sheriff’s Office was moving into the new jail. He was “responsible for helping to implement safety guidelines that he learned while working for the Florida Department of Corrections,” a release stated at the time of his award, and had “also been part of instructing jail staff in the operations of the new building, ensuring a successful transition and safer work environment.”
The incident represents the first serious issue on Sheriff Rick Staly’s watch. “I was elected to bring strong ethical practices and leadership to the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office,” Staly is quoted as saying in a release issued this afternoon. “This bad behavior tarnishes the badge and will not be tolerated under my administration.”
Jon Dopp, the vice president of the Coastal Florida Police Benevolent Association, the union representing law enforcement officers in the region and at the sheriff’s office, including corrections deputies, made a brief statement when reached by phone late this afternoon: “I echo the sheriff’s sentiment that the poor behavior should not be tolerated.”
Sexual victimization in prisons and jails is a grave problem the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics began tracking in 2004. In 2011-12, the last year for which numbers are available, an estimated 4 percent of state and federal prison inmates and 3.2 percent of local jail inmates reported experiencing one or more incidents of sexual victimization either by another inmate or by facility staff in the previous 12 months, or since admission to the facility, if less than 12 months, a pattern that reflected previous years’ surveys. The problem is more pronounced with staffers rather than with fellow-inmates: Nationwide, 1.6 percent of all jail inmates reported at least one incident involving another inmate, and 1.8 percent of jail inmates reported having had sex or sexual contact with facility staff. (See the full report here.)