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State leaves open possible future prosecution over alleged Clay detention deputy misconduct
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State leaves open possible future prosecution over alleged Clay detention deputy misconduct

State leaves open possible future prosecution over alleged Clay detention deputy misconduct
Photo Credit: Action News Jax
Clay County Jail

State leaves open possible future prosecution over alleged Clay detention deputy misconduct

While three Clay County detention deputies were fired as a result of an internal investigation of alleged sexual misconduct at the jail, no criminal charges are being pursued at this time. Now, WOKV is learning more about that decision.

For a year, we’ve been following this investigation, which first started with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office confirming some personnel had been reassigned pending an investigation of alleged sexual misconduct between inmates and detention deputies. Almost two weeks ago, CCSO announced three deputies had been terminated as a result of that investigation, and on Monday, WOKV brought you an in depth look at the allegations that were sustained by Internal Affairs, which included that three deputies would instruct female inmates to expose themselves, would have sexually explicit conversations with them, and more.

With CCSO noting that no criminal charges are being pursued, WOKV asked the State Attorney’s Office why.

An email we obtained from Assistant State Attorney Joseph Licandro to investigators earlier this year shows that he regarded the allegations as “very serious” and detailing “myriad administrative violations”, but he questioned if criminal charges could be supported.

“Proving criminal charges stemming from these administrative violations- beyond and to the exclusion of a reasonable doubt- will be problematic due to witness concerns, insufficient proof that a crime occurred, and a lack of corroborating evidence,” the email says.

Licandro says the decision not to pursue criminal charges could be reconsidered in the future, if new evidence is brought forward. In the meantime, he made it clear that action is expected of CCSO.

“The State Attorney’s Office anticipates that any definitive conclusions reached from the internal investigation will result in appropriate administrative action against any potential offending parties and that critical corrective measures will be taken at the Clay County Detention Center to reduce the possibility of administrative misconduct from occurring again,” he said in the email.

Three deputies were terminated as a result of this investigation- Marcus Beard, Kory Clarida, and Austin Hatcher- with all three found to have instructed or encouraged female inmates to display their breasts and genitalia, engaged in sexually explicit conversations with female inmates, brought personal cell phones in to the detention facility, used a personal cell phone to play music and games while on duty, and failed to log and/or report adverse inmate behavior.

In addition to those five common charges, each had at least one additional allegation sustained against them. Ten of the 13 allegations against Clarida were sustained, which also included that he displayed genitalia to a female inmate, instructed or encouraged female inmates to masturbate, instructed or encouraged female inmates to write sexually explicit notes, provided miscellaneous items to a female inmate assigned to confinement and suicide watch, and slept while on duty. Six of ten allegations against Beard were sustained, which also included that he observed female inmates in the shower. Six of eight complaints against Hatcher were sustained, including that he instructed or encouraged female inmates to masturbate.

In addition to the three terminations, we’ve now confirmed there were two other detention deputies that were disciplined. One deputy was found to have brought a personal cell phone in to the detention facility, used a personal cell phone to play music for inmates while on duty, and failed to log and/or report adverse inmate behavior. CCSO says that deputy was suspended for three days. The other deputy got a level one written reprimand for bringing a personal cell phone in to the detention facility.

In regard to the jail itself, a CCSO spokesperson says they made immediate changes with male deputy operations in female housing areas. WOKV has asked for more information on those specific changes. CCSO also says male deputies are no longer allowed to escort female inmates.

The Internal Affairs report on this matter says there have been two policy changes, although we are waiting for CCSO to confirm if those changes were in direct response to this investigation. Previously, two male detention deputies were allowed to escort a female inmate to the shower if no female deputy was available, but that is no longer the case, according to the report. Additionally, the report says it is now prohibited for male, female, and juvenile inmates to be housed in the same area, like in confinement.

WOKV has again asked the Clay County Sheriff’s Office for an interview to discuss their response to this investigation and what specific changes have taken place to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again. CCSO has not indicated if they will make anyone available.

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