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Shake-Up in Chambers: At Flagler Courthouse, 3 Judges Intervene Over Allegations of Deputies’ Sexual and Racial Improprieties

| March 16, 2018

Three of the Flagler County Sheriff's deputies assigned to courthouse duty that were named in internal inquiries, and that led to a shake-up at the courthouse: from left, Sgt. John Bray, who lost his position as a supervisor of courthouse bailiffs and was assigned desk duty at the Palm Coast Precinct, Jonathan Freshcorn, whose duties are unchanged, and Jeffrey Puritis, who has twice been disciplined since November and was re-assigned, a few weeks ago, to road patrol. He had been assigned to Judge Dennis Craig. (© FlaglerLive)

Three of the Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies assigned to courthouse duty that were named in internal inquiries, and that led to a shake-up at the courthouse: from left, Sgt. John Bray, who lost his position as a supervisor of courthouse bailiffs and was assigned desk duty at the Palm Coast Precinct, Jonathan Freshcorn, whose duties are unchanged, and Jeffrey Puritis, who has twice been disciplined since November and was re-assigned, a few weeks ago, to road patrol. He had been assigned to Judge Dennis Craig. (© FlaglerLive)

It’s the last thing judges want to hear about taking place anywhere near their chambers: racial, homophobic and sexual improprieties involving their staff and their bailiffs, who are there to protect them and not only reflect the judges’ own sense of order and decorum in the courtroom, but enforce it: not so much as a ballcap kept on one’s head is tolerated in the courtroom, let alone any kind of misbehavior, perceived or actual. Bailiffs make sure of it. They are even more strict with defendants.  


Then came allegations of a sexually-oriented image being texted by a deputy to court staff, of allegations of “child porn” on a deputy’s phone, of vile and bigoted statements by two deputies about blacks, of foul language directed at a staffer, and of a general atmosphere of intimidation and disrespect by uniformed personnel against court staffers.

What had developed as an “untenable work environment for the staff” at the Flagler County courthouse, as the administrative services director of the circuit headlined her memo on the affair prompted the intervention of three judges, including Raul Zambrano, the chief judge of the entire circuit (which includes Flagler, St. Johns, Putnam and Volusia counties). Zambrano has zero tolerance for improprieties, even when they involve a fellow-judge.

After internal affairs investigations by the Sheriff’s Office, two bailiffs have been disciplined and reassigned out of the courthouse, bailiffs have a new supervisor, and one judge’s administrative assistant lost her job as his assistant. Sgt. John Bray, who had been the bailiffs’ supervisor and was recognized by the sheriff a few months ago for his 25 years of service, was assigned a desk job at the Palm Coast precinct, without supervisory authority. (The position was previously held by an unranked deputy.)

For a courthouse already in turmoil over the ongoing disciplinary action that has resulted in the suspension of Circuit Judge Scott DuPont—and his indefinite expulsion from all courthouses in the circuit—the issue with staff and deputies has further complicated an administration wrestling with reassigning a slew of cases from DuPont’s dockets to other judges and their support staff while further blotting the reputation of this part of the circuit, which until the DuPont case had been spotless.

Judges depend on bailiffs to protect them and not only reflect the judges’ own sense of order and decorum in the courtroom, but enforce it. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Judges depend on bailiffs to protect them and not only reflect the judges’ own sense of order and decorum in the courtroom, but enforce it. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

It started last Nov. 29 when Circuit Judge Dennis Craig, the senior judge in Flagler, summoned Cmdr. Brian Pasquariello to his office. Pasquariello oversees detention and courthouse deputies. Craig proceeded to relate an incident brought to his attention by Circuit Judge R. Lee Smith regarding Craig’s own assigned bailiff, Jeff Puritis. (Every judge is assigned a specific bailiff for his or her protection. The bailiff escorts the judge everywhere the judge goes while on the clock.)

Puritis, Craig told the commander, in September had texted the image of a woman visibly naked beneath lingerie to Smith’s judicial assistant, Kenley Matejka. Smith confirmed it to Craig: he’d seen the picture. Matejka confirmed it with the commander, who considered the image inappropriate. (“The picture was of a woman sitting on a couch wearing see-through negligee where her breasts and nipples could be seen,” Pasquariello noted in a memo that became part of a sheriff’s disciplinary report.)

Puritis explained the matter this way in a rebuttal memo: it was lunchtime in the breakroom and “a friendly conversation was started in regards to a specific women’s [sic.] apparel ‘lingerie,’” he wrote. “Those present were other Deputies and court staff. Upon the completion of lunch, Kenley, who was one of the biggest participants in the conversation, said to everyone that if they could ever find a picture of the specific lingerie, to send it or show it to her. An image was later texted to me of a woman wearing the mentioned apparel. I later forwarded the image to Kenley, who advised while laughing, that it was exactly what she was talking about earlier. There was never any indication that Kenley was uncomfortable about this topic and in fact, she was more encouraging about it than anything. Many conversations of similar nature have taken place in the past with Kenley and others. After discussing this with my supervisor, I will avoid these situations in the future.”

Matejka didn’t want Puritis fired nor did she want to make a formal complaint, but Pasquariello reported she’d been offended by the picture. Puritis’s action was in violation of sheriff’s policy on conduct. He was issued a written reprimand. Craig agreed with what was considered a resolution of the issue. Puritis was reprimanded formally on Dec. 15. He carried on as Craig’s assigned bailiff. (Puritis has been at the Sheriff’s Office since 2011. His only disciplinary action until then had been a 2013 written reprimand following complaints of “horseplay” on the police radio.)

Circuit Judge Judge R. Lee Smith

Circuit Judge Judge R. Lee Smith. (© FlaglerLive)

Five days later, Undersheriff Jack Bisland was driving on U.S. 1 south of the Bunnell city limits when he saw Puritis passing him in his department-issued patrol car at 85 mph—20 miles in excess of the posted limit. Puritis was not responding to an emergency. According to a memo Bisland wrote on the incident, he caught up with Puritis and told him to slow down, then had a phone conversation with him on “the necessity to operate your marked patrol car within the speed limit for safety as well as public perception,” he wrote. “Essentially, you advised you were on route to work and not focused on your speed.”

The memo was written on Dec. 29. By then Bisland learned from Staly that the sheriff himself had had a similar experience with Puritis, on U.S. 1, and had followed up with a call to Puritis to express similar concerns. Puritis had told the sheriff he’d been driving home for lunch and to care for his dog. Since his encounter with Bisland had actually been a second offense, and what Bisland called “your disregard for your first warning,” his privileges of driving a department-issued patrol car were suspended for 20 working days in January. “It is my sincere hope that this suspension serves to illustrate the gravity of your actions and the need to operate your issued vehicle in a safe and lawful manner,” Bisland told him.

As with Bisland discovering that the speeding he witnessed was not the only instance of that problem, so did Pasquariello and others at the Sherioff’s Office discover after yet another internal-affairs investigation in mid-February naming Puritis, Bray and John Freshcorn, that the lingerie-picture incident was not the whole story. By then Anne Landolfa, the administrative services director for the seventh judicial circuit, who works out of an office in Daytona Beach, had authored a December memo to Mark Weinberg, the circuit’s court administrator, outlining numerous, disturbing allegations and recommending reassignments.

Landolfa had not been aware of the lingerie incident. In December, Weinberg asked her to meet with two of the court staffers at the Flagler courthouse, Antoinette Arcuri and Matejka, the employee who had been the recipient of the lingerie picture Puritis texted. But Weinberg was only relaying the concern of Zambrano, the chief judge, who by then “was aware of allegations of inappropriate behavior occurring at the Flagler County Courthouse that warranted inquiry,”  according to the sheriff’s internal affairs investigation.

Circuit Judge Dennis Craig. (© FlaglerLive)

Circuit Judge Dennis Craig. (© FlaglerLive)

Most of the allegations were made by Arcuri, who claimed that Puritis and Freshcorn had discussed the existence of “child porn” on another deputy’s phone, that Bray and Puritis had made racist statements about blacks, that Puritis had gotten oil for the car of a drug-court participant and told her he could get fired and get divorced over the matter, that Puritis had sent Arcuri a text asking for for a “boob shot,” that there’d been a Puritis temper tantrum with vulgarities and thrown furniture at the office, and that Bray had had his own temper issues directed at staff.

According to allegations provided the investigator by Landolfa, Puritis asked Arcuri why she listened to “nigger music,” told her that she is sick if she were to date a black man, and advised her to tell her daughter to leave her boyfriend “so I can teach her what a real man is.” Bray, Landolfa reported by way of Arcuri, returned from a trip to the mountains and said the air was clean there because there are “no niggers there.” Arcuri reported that Bray once lost his temper with her on a day when she was looking for a bailiff to escort a visiting judge. “Don’t tell us how to do our fucking jobs,” she reported Bray telling her, at which point she asked him to step into the hallway and asked him if he had a problem with her. “Ya,” she said he replied, “I have a problem with your fucking mouth, your [sic.] always running your fucking mouth.” She said the exchange took place in front of Pasquariello, who said he saw them obviously upset but “could not be exactly certain what was exactly said but it was something similar or close to what Ms. Arcuri offered in her statement.”

Bray asked Pasquariello: “Do you wanna tell her what’s gonna happen to her?,” implying a threat to her job.

Deputies had apparently learned that Arcuri’s days at the courthouse were numbered, or that they’d have a meeting about her and speak to Craig. The judge spoke with Arcuri about the issue. She told him she did not want to make a formal complaint, according to the investigation, but that she thought what the deputies were doing was wrong.

The inquiry was not as thorough as previous internal affairs investigations have been: the deputy who was accused of having “child porn” on his phone, for example, was not interviewed, telling the investigator he did not want to be part of the inquiry because he works with the deputies involved every day. It’s not clear why it was up to a deputy rather than the investigator to decide who would be part of the inquiry, even though the deputy, according to Arcuri, reported to her that “the whole group were conspiring against her just like they did to him.” The investigation notes that the deputies involved eventually apologized to Arcuri, but she did not consider the apology sincere.

Circuit Judge Raul Zambrano. (© FlaglerLive)

Circuit Judge Raul Zambrano. (© FlaglerLive)

Arcuri concluded her interview with the investigator by saying that she and Matejka “no longer feel safe at work,” with deputies creating “a very uncomfortable workplace” for them both. She broke down and cried, saying “she has always been very pro law enforcement but the interaction she has had to endure with these officers has made her very concerned and hurt, ultimately changing her overall outlook.”

Matejka was to be interviewed the same day. She did not show up. After numerous attempts to contact her, the investigator finally met with her on Feb. 9, only for Matejka to say she would not participate. “What’s done is done,” she said. In essence, that left the investigator without independent corroboration of several of Arcuri’s claims, though Pasquariello had in the main corroborated the exchange with Bray.

Bray in his interview with the investigator denied ever using racist foul language, though in another apparent investigative lapse, the investigator never asked about the racist comment Bray is alleged to have made. He acknowledged speaking firmly to Arcuri, but only by saying, “No, I don’t have a problem, it’s your mouth.” In Bray’s view, Arcuri was “pitting” deputies against each other and creating problems for them.

By the time the investigator, Randall Doyle, concluded the inquiry on Feb. 15, Bray had been transferred to the Palm Coast precinct, Puritis had been transferred to road patrol, and Arcuri was being replaced as Craig’s judicial assistant effective Feb. 28. Puritis hasn’t in fact had his first day of patrol yet, having had a medical issue in early March. It’s not clear if Arcuri has been merely transferred or has lost her job, and under what circumstances, from court administration’s perspective. (A court administration official said an answer would be forthcoming later Friday afternoon.)

“We could not substantiate a disciplinary charge,” Chief Mark Strobridge of the Sheriff’s Office said—aside from the reprimand Puritis was served in the earlier incident—but what we do know is there was too much familiarity in the courthouse and the environment had to change.”

Sgt. Kim Davis, who had formerly been an internal affairs investigator, is now the supervisor of the courthouse deputies.

 

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28 Responses for “Shake-Up in Chambers: At Flagler Courthouse, 3 Judges Intervene Over Allegations of Deputies’ Sexual and Racial Improprieties”

  1. Just the truth says:

    This should never happen in a work place especially in a county court house.

  2. Dave says:

    Racist, Crooked, Flagler County Cops, BIG SUPRISE, The court system and police in Flagler County has been crooked and corrupt for years.

  3. Figures says:

    This incident is beyond comprehending that not one Deputy was terminated only merely reassigned to continue to be allowed to interact with the community .so it’s totally cool with sheriff Staly to allow racially insensitive and sexually suggestive to that they disregard professional standards of the office of the sheriff to continue to interact with the public they are charged to protect . This is not okay by any means regardless of what was said by who. These deputies were probably useless on the road before and moved into the court system and now have become the vile subjects they are .. so the sheriff response is to move one to desk duty the other to a patrol squad to continue to respond to diverse calls dealing with blacks / gays/ women and everything else and no punishment for the other idiot !!! You can make all the glorified media stunts about your green roof inn and your zero tolerance but you are showing g the public that you condone racial antics from your patrol deputies !!!!!! Good job sir !!!

  4. Big Mouth says:

    These aren’t the only undercover bigots and chauvinist in the department theirs a whole click of them and they ain’t from the south! I hope they continue to turn on each-other and really start spilling secrets. Cops like control and when they can’t control someone with the same background they lose it and resort to all sorts dirty retaliations.

  5. Pat Patterson says:

    I would think the deputies would be out of a job. A lawsuit may be forthcoming from the female that may, or may not, have lost her job. Sheriff Staly needs to not let this mess destroy his positve image by trying to save deputies that bring discord and embarrassment to his organization. He has done too much good to keep folks like this on the payroll.

  6. Anonymous says:

    It has always amazed me how law enforcement won’t even follow the laws they are supposed to be enforcing. They must think they are above the law.

  7. Fedup says:

    Im about Staley taking car of business. Butt hese guys need to be fired just kind of like his Friday video of convicts . Let see if he has the balls like Chitwood.

  8. Richard says:

    No one is above the law no matter who you are or what your responsibility is at ANY job. Those that think you are then maybe some time in prison to think it over will convince you otherwise. Start holding people accountable for their actions with stiff consequences then and only then will you see a remarkable change in their behavior.

  9. Figures says:

    And please help us understand how randy Doyle (ex Flagler beach cop) ignored #1 the racial allegations … didn’t even ask the SGT about it …#2 the accusation about child pornography on another deputies phone has gone unchallenged it doesn’t take mcgruff the crime dog with a wet whistle in his mouth to alert something there !!!!! One would assume the deputy in question also works at the court house to which one would also assume that deputy is also a baliff who stands in the court while a judge issued oh Ishmael t for sexual assault and other allegations to include child porn however THAT DEPUTY WAS ALLOWED TO SAY GE DID D NIT WANT TO BE INVOLVED !!!!!! And Doyle allowed that to happen …. this is about as disturbing as it can be but yet the agency is posting mess about st patty day speeding with a goofy leprechaun on palm coast parkway …..

  10. Mark says:

    Good move; put the racist guy on road patrol. I keep saying it; our justice system is broke!

  11. Kendall says:

    Let me get this straight. The offending deputies kept their jobs, salaries, tenure and benefits. One of the victims of their harassment (which included threats to her job) has lost her position and possibly her job?

    Racism. Sexism. Hostile workplace. Pornography and sexual innuendo in the workplace. Deputies cohorting with drug court participants. And victim blaming are all acceptable at the FCSO?

    My enthusiasm for the Staly administration was in vain. I’m disgusted.

  12. Linze says:

    Come on Staley clean house
    I have been passed by speeding officers a lot of times not emergencies

  13. Vincent Reeves says:

    I think the Deputy Sheriffs do an excellent job inside the courthouse. I have observed them on numerous occasions since I came here in 2015. They are courteous to the public and extremely protective of the judges they are assigned to and their administrative staffs. Sometimes familiarity breeds contempt especially in the workplace where office politics and hyperbole often overrides rational thought. Everybody should take a deep breath and remember you all are the good guys and gals.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Feel safe st work, really, when investigations are done internally???!!! Maybe Staly should get off his soap box and stop tooting his horn and run his agency. Clean your own house before trying to clean anything else! It is a joke and such a waste of our tax dollars that Judges have escorts while on the clock with all the courthouse security and the fact that they can carry a weapon and protect themselves. If judges want this individual protection they should be paying for it out of their pocket. Seems like more and more we learn if dirty cops in Flagler and they are never prosecuted. Something is terribly wrong here!!! This is discrimination and selective prosecution.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Craig supported Scott DuPont though he knew of his inactions and now this in Craig’s play ground!!! Seems to me Craig needs to go and doesn’t have good judgment himself. He has the reputation of being the hanging judge yet he isn’t fair and ethical across the board. Shame, shame, shame!!

  16. smarterthanmost says:

    The clown show in the Sheriff’s office. Will it continue, or will Staly step up and fire these officers.

  17. AfricanAmericanAlert says:

    I like that we are draining the swamp but please don’t drain it into Palm Coast. And that alleged racism should be resolved before Puritis is allowed to “keep the peace” while armed crusing down the road at 95 per and alert to the threat of rap music.

  18. Pogo says:

    @In this part of Florida, traditional values die hard

    Willis V. McCall
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willis_V._McCall

  19. Anonymous says:

    Sexual harassment has been going on in the agency for years. Sadly, when you mix males and females together in a workplace this is what happens. There is no mutual respect. It’s up to the Sheriff to implement zero tolerance policies.

  20. Kathy says:

    This is Staly, good to see you shinning through so others can see who you really are! What do you expect from employees when the Grand Poobah is the epitome of disrespect, disregard, disgrace?

    Folks, do not be surprised. Be surprised if he publicly calls them scumbags & criminals pre fair trial. Be surprised if he posts a public video of himself giggling while pulling a ball with a badge number on it to see who he is going to fire and who he will invite as a guest into his Green Roof Inn.

    Be surprised if FCSO is perceived as respectful law-abiding branch in the future.

    I think we’ll see more unveiling of the truth behind Staly and his department….I’m getting popcorn for this.

  21. Dave says:

    So the racist, sexist, child porn having officer gets to keep his Job? Is this really what Flagler County has to offer to protect its citizens? Flagler County sounds like a scary place to be if you arent a White adult male in uniform.

  22. God Don't like ugly says:

    There are a few balifs in Flager counry that I know are very racist and they use the badge to show it. These cops think that just becausee they have a badge they can do whatever they want and get away with it. When people file complaints with the sheriffs office, they always side with the officer. Its like they can do no wrong. Folks are always talking shit about inmate, whom some are innocent and arw still treated like shit and here touvhave cops that are breaking the law, get caught and all they get is a slap on the wrist. Sad, rhe wprld we live in today. I pray all that are involved are delt with accordingly. Laws apply to everyone….. Having a badge doea not make you any better than the next person.

  23. Linda Matthews says:

    I do not comprehend how Sheriff Staly justifies putting a known racist on road patrol.
    There should be a zero tolerance policy in the agency.
    The deputies should be terminated from their positions.

  24. Figures says:

    yet he says bray has no supervisory position …the man sits inside the palm coast sub station which he will come in contact with citizens and make recommendations as a law enforcement officer . The only thing a citizen sees when they walk in the door is a ranking SGT sitting at desk so they will assume he is a person In charge !!! Yeah big punishment there …

  25. Anonymous says:

    Because these officers were not immediately fired we citizens now know that they are still employed by the agency and in some form or another they impact us citizens with their inability to not be racist and suffer from poor judgment! If the Sheriff does not act responsibility and immediately terminate these violators he should be removed from office for condoning and supporting improper and racist behaviors. It is time for an external investigation on this agency.

  26. Vincent Reeves says:

    Fortunately we have highly trained judges and attorneys surpervising the daily operations of the courthouse. They are bound under rules of professional responsibility to insure there is no discrimination against any courthouse employee based upon their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. And I guarantee you they will not tolerate it, if it is happening. If it was happening, heads would roll!
    That is why I am so confident it is not happening.
    Hyperventilating obnoxious innuendo regarding elected officials who perform their work in a highly competent, professional manner, in this comment section, will not make it so. You should be grateful though for your right to free speech; and, the incredibly high bar public officials must surmount in order to prevail in a libel action when venomous dispersions are written and published them. Counterintuitively, they fight to uphold the constitutional rights that you use to tar and feather them. May God Bless America!

  27. Jason B says:

    Once again, police get away with it, in any other job they would have be terminated for this type of behavior. I thought those that are entrusted to enforce the law should be held to a higher standard, was I wrong about that?

  28. Bc. says:

    Staly you need to fire them ASAP. What a digrace to you and your department. I back you as sheriff but you really need to step up on this one. Set a example that crap like this won’t be tolerated

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