Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly has ordered an inquiry into the alleged behavior of several courthouse bailiffs reopened, and a more thorough internal affairs investigation conducted.
Staly issued the order to Undersheriff Jack Bisland in a memo on Monday, three days after a FlaglerLive story detailed allegations of racial and sexual improprieties involving courthouse deputies and courthouse staff.
The allegations, which got the attention of three circuit judges, including Raul Zambrano, chief judge of the Seventh Judicial Circuit, led to two limited sheriff’s inquiries late last year and again in February. They resulted in the the disciplining of two bailiffs, both of whom were moved out of their positions at the courthouse, including Sgt. John Bray, who had been the bailiffs’ supervisor. He was not officially punished or written up, but his transfer to a desk job at the Palm Coast precinct, without significant supervisory responsibilities, was little different from a demotion. Deputy Jeffrey Puritis was moved to road patrol. A new bailiffs’ supervisor was assigned. Judge Dennis Craig’s assistant, Antoinette Arcuri, resigned, but appears to have been essentially pushed out: she was given a few weeks to find a job.
Much of the case against the deputies rested on Arcuri’s claims, which were either only partially corroborated or not corroborated at all, as some deputies declined to take part in the inquiry and a colleague of Arcuri’s declined to be interviewed by the sheriff’s investigator. If that doesn’t change in the more thorough internal investigation, the investigation will be more thorough in name only, as the investigator may not force anyone to be interviewed: it’s not a criminal investigation. But the sheriff’s action reflects a serious concern about the allegations and the previous inquiries on his part, about which he had only been verbally briefed previously.
“What he received verbally wasn’t a complete picture of the entire case,” Chief Mark Strobridge said today. “So therefore he directed the undersheriff to re-open it, as a full internal investigation, and leave no stone unturned.” Staly had been out of town Thursday and Friday, Strobridge said, but read the inquiries on Monday. The inquiries had left several troubling questions unanswered and the involvement of additional bailiffs in questionable exchanges largely unexplored, including the claim that a deputy had “child porn” on his phone–a claim that appeared to have been made in jest to cause discomfort for the deputy, who in turn declined to take part in the inquiry, implying a fear of retaliation from his colleagues. That in itself underscored another level of dysfunction among courthouse bailiffs that reverberated through the inquiries.
“Upon my review of the inquiry on Sergeant Bray and Deputy Jeffrey Puritis that was completed on February 15, 2018,” Staly wrote in Monday’s memo, “I am directing that this inquiry be re-opened and a thorough and in depth internal investigation be conducted on all allegations including these deputies along with Deputy John Freshcorn and other FCSO employees that may be implicated during the internal investigation.”
An inquiry is different from an internal affairs investigation. “The full investigation brings in all the contractual and legal guidelines regarding the law enforcement dnd correctional officers’ rights,” Strobridge said, referring to due process procedures that include the right to review all allegations and documents and face accusers. “An inquiry is more to find out if there is something there that’s actionable. It’s like a preliminary look at an investigation.” Internal Affairs investigations are not unusual but not frequent, either.
Arcuri in a list of allegations she made available to the circuit’s court administration (the Seventh Judicial Circuit includes Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns and Volusia counties) described a work environment that had grown uncomfortable, with deputies texting sexually explicit images, making racist statements about blacks, acting in intimidating manners toward court staff, and more specifically, in one case using demeaning profanities and in another making homophobic and sexually impertinent statements.
“There are certainly some very, very strong racial slurs in there, there are significant sexual connotations in the process,” Strobridge said regarding the allegations, “certainly some foul language being spoken in a hallway in a public forum. That’s just not going to happen. I know this personally, the sheriff is going to do everything he can do to fire a racist out of his organization.”
But Randy Doyle, the sheriff’s accreditation and internal affairs manager, who conducted the previous inquiries and will be conducting the internal affairs investigation, will have to weigh the crudity of the alleged behavior against the fact that the allegations were made by an employee who resigned and was known to have been on her way out–much as Arcuri was acting in hopes of preventing the continuation of that behavior there. (Arcuri had worked with Craig for years, going back to his days at the State Attorney’s Office and on his election campaign).
The investigation will rest largely on whether Doyle can find corroboration on the record, or compel employees who have not yet spoken up to do so–if indeed the allegations are true (though texts have already corroborated some of them, and ambient courtroom recordings, which may or may not have been on at the time of the incidents, may have picked up some of the exchanges in question.)
“We cannot compel people who do not work for the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office to provide testimony,” Strobridge said. “All we can do is ask. But there’s a lot of things here that really need to be cleared up and the sheriff wants to make sure that they are cleared up, so we’re going to encourage anybody who has direct knowledge as a witness in this particular case, we’re going to strongly encourage them to speak to us, because it’s about the finding of the truth.”
All sheriff’s employees named in the inquiries, including those who have been disciplined or shifted from their positions, “are currently at status quo,” Strobridge said. “They will not be moved or changed, they will continue in their current position until such time as the investigation is completed.”
Nobody wants to corroborate the claims by Arcuri other than partial and certain deputies did not want to be involved in the inquiry?? When it comes to blowing the whistle against law enforcement you must realize your life will never be the same and also the fact that you may very well face some dangerous encounters down the road that is when the deputies that did not want to be involved will get involved!
One obviously needs to be terminated!
No Offence to Sheriff Staly, but it’s time to have FDLE come in and investigate as it would be a signal of transparency to our citizenry of what is, and what isn’t going on in his department.
“The truth will set you free”
Credit to the Sheriff, not easy to admit your own department’s investigation wasn’t thorough enough.
@ mark I count 3 . From reading previous memos in last story it seems that these 3 were the “it” crew and they roamed around tossing their egos and vile ways on others ….plain and some puritis should not be working on the road in any capacity….he should have limited contact with public …I don’t know freshcorn fellow was not moved but he should not be in courthouse as well regardless of how involved he was. He is in fact part of an atmosphere that was created …it seems to be that when you mess up your fall spot is patrol where you are gonna have the most contact with everyday citizens who look to you for protection fairness and transparency … my wonder is how does it look to the minority’s that are employed there to include women feel at that agency with a deputy who allegedly made those comments !! Let’s be hopeful that this internal process provides more peace and resolve to a few bad apples
Kudos to the Sheriff for reopening the . Now, let’s get to the bottom of this.
Concerned Citizen says
We also need to see if judges are involved in any of this. And if so they need to be held accountable also. Don’t just focus on the baliffs who are “smaller fish”. A lot of these judges have been on the bench awhile and have to know or be part of what’s going on.
Hopefully if they corroborate the child porn accusation that deputy is terminated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Thanks Flagler Live for keeping up the pressure.
Josh Davis says
Bray, Puritis and Freshcorn are top notch deputies as well as human beings. They’ve protected me for many years in my capacity as an attorney in Flagler County. It’s sad when a criminal defense attorney is the only one who will stand up for law enforcement. I know these men. This is becoming a witch hunt.
@ figures, probably so but the one with the racist views should not be on the street, he has a serious problem.
This is what calling in the FDLE will get us!! https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2015/3/5/1368917/-Rick-Scott-s-New-FDLE-Chief-Won-t-Investigate-Corrupt-Cops
Time for terminations to be handed down and Staly to get off his ass and fill the green roof in with some of his own!!!
@ mark I definitely agree sir !…. & josh Davis ? Come on man just because they quote protect you does not mean that they don’t themselves have flaws obviously as a defense attorney as you state it is your directive to defend your client being that’s the end result however a lot of times you defend a client with a personal knowing that they may have committed said crime … this is not about them protecting you that’s their job and it is also their job to be fair and without predijuce and disdain…. nobody is perfect we are accepting that but we also want them held to the same standards as every citizen would be handle under their authority to police our population as well as protect us ….
Just because they were pleasant to your face doesn’t mean they weren’t nasty to others. Maybe if you weren’t white, you wouldn’t feel compelled to stand up for these bigots.
I’ve known officer bray 20+yrs the guy was my football coach and I got nothing but respect and admiration for that dude.. Officer puritis I’ve known 12+yrs I got nothing but admiration and colossal respect for this guy tbh.. those two guys I will back them in all honesty PERIODT!!!! And I’m a “Blackman”
Josh-they can’t be too fine of men to have exhibited the actions and behaviors they have. Police officers are to be held to a higher standard and to do what has been done here they should be fired and held accountable. I am deeply concerned that Sheriff Staly thought it was appropriate and a good idea to reassign these men. They should be fired and prosecuted! We put a trust in them and they broke that trust. It is far too often that we learn of dirty cops who go unpunished and then sadly we hear about them doing more inappropriate and/or illegal behaviors. We don’t need this in Flagler County. If the Judge(s) knee of this and did nothing they should be fired as well!!
Anybody ever think the sheriff wants to investigate to clear his deputies names. Just bc one person is angry and makes up lies when they are getting fired, they shouldnt be aloud to ruin 3 other peoples careers!
I worked with Bray as well as Freshcorn. As a minority, they both have always been professional. Good guys in my opinion. I think tho if people aren’t willing to come forward then It’s all hearsay.
Scooby Don't says
It was brought to my attention a few months ago that one of the court deputies was acting inappropriately to young ladies in drug court. I would have filed a anonymous complaint but unfortunately I didn’t know his name, but now I do. The picture is of Deputy Freshcorn. These young women in drug court are very vulnerable and scared and are trying to get their lives back on track. I’m sickened the way people could take advantage of the situation knowing they would never say anything to possibly jeopardize their progress in drug court.