Making allegations that the FDLE investigator made the facts fit his own theory of the case in the 2010 suicide of his former girlfriend, Michelle O’Connell; Deputy Sheriff Jeremy H Banks filed a lawsuit against the agency for civil damages in excess of $15,000, and, through his attorney, Mac McLeod, is asking for the decision to be made by a jury.
At issue is the performance of FDLE investigator, Rusty Ray Rodgers, and his supervisor, former Special Agent in Charge of the Jacksonville FDLE Field Office, Dominick Pape; although Pape is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
“I have not changed my opinion that Deputy Banks is innocent; since reading the results from the 152-page report prepared by my investigators,” St Johns County Sheriff David Shoar told Historic City News on Wednesday. “In my entire law enforcement career, I have never hired someone back who I fired — Banks was cleared and has been returned to active duty.”
The complaint alleges that Rodgers, while he was on active duty and investigating this case, falsified information for search warrants and to influence medical authorities, coaching witnesses and sharing his theories and perception of what he believed the evidence showed.
“Rodgers wrongfully acted as the family’s advocate, rather than an objective investigator,” Shoar told local reporters Thursday. Rodgers continues to earn a base salary of $48,814 since being put on paid administrative leave. Banks has returned to duty as a Habitat Conservation Plan deputy earning $39,941 each year.
Shoar, several medical examiners, and a special prosecutor appointed by the governor, all found that the manner of Michelle O’Connell’s death was suicide; and, the cause of death was a self-inflicted gunshot wound, using Bank’s department-issued service pistol.
Both Michelle O’Connell’s mother, Patty, and her brother, Scott, were employed with the Sheriff’s Office at the time of her death. Patty O’Connell has since resigned saying that she doesn’t believe her daughter killed herself and that she could not continue to work in the office and remain silent about her daughter’s suicide. Deputy Scott O’Connell, who nearly lost his job over his reaction to the news that Banks was not going to be prosecuted in the death of his sister, is still employed as a judicial process specialist and earns $37,469 annually. The O’Connell family still maintains a website www.justiceformichelle.com which attempts to rally support for a further, independent investigation into Michelle O’Connell’s death and what they believe to be Banks’ involvement.