After completing an independent criminal investigation considering allegations of “criminal misconduct” between a Flagler County deputy sheriff and a female inmate, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement presented their findings to the State Attorney for the Seventh Judicial Circuit, R. J. Larizza.
Newly elected Flagler County Sheriff, Rick Staly, reported to Historic City News that he immediately suspended those involved when the January 16th incident was uncovered, pending the outcome of the state investigation. He said that he was expecting to have to do that. What Staly was not expecting to have to do, was to resume the investigation himself after State Attorney Larizza refused to file criminal charges against Deputy Bradley Gilyard acting on the results from the FDLE investigation.
“I was elected to bring strong ethical practices and leadership to the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office,” Staly told local news reporters. “This bad behavior tarnishes the badge and will not be tolerated under my administration.”
Larizza cited “insufficient evidence” to ensure a criminal conviction as the reason he declined to prosecute this case. After Larizza’s office announced their decision, the FDLE investigation was provided to the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, where an internal investigation was commenced.
Staly, and FDLE agents whose investigative reports were released to Historic City News on Friday, indicate that while Gilyard was directly involved in the commission of felony sexual battery against an inmate in his custody and control, there were others who indirectly attempted to protect Gilyard from prosecution.
After a complete and thorough investigation by the FCSO, Deputy Bradley Gilyard “voluntarily” resigned Friday prior to being served with discipline. Deputies Julio Vazquez and Jonathon Vitale also “resigned” during the course of Sheriff Staly’s investigation, before discipline was served.
Through video surveillance at the Flagler County Detention Facility, Deputy Gilyard was observed violating several FCSO General Orders, specifically the misuse of “less lethal” weapons and violating agency standards of conduct.
In one such example, Gilyard is seen on video on January 16th displaying his agency issued Taser at two female inmates in the laundry room without cause.
He was later seen on video carrying his gun belt in his hand while entering the laundry room and moving into a known camera blind-spot. A female inmate follows Deputy Gilyard into the blind spot where they are out of the camera’s view for six minutes. Upon returning into camera view, the female inmate’s jumper is disheveled and unevenly spread across her shoulders.
Sworn statements, conflicting testimony, apparent warning given to Gilyard the morning FDLE agents arrived to interview him, and a disturbing narrative of felony after felony committed by deputies at the Flagler County Detention facility, are included in the three excerpts from the internal investigation.
Because who gets prosecuted and who does not is the responsibility of our elected State Attorney, former deputies Gilyard, Vazquez and Vitale are free to try the system again. Some readers have asked exactly how much evidence is needed to bring charges so that a jury can decide, or, in the alternative, bring the evidence to a grand jury and let them decide if they feel it presents a sufficiently compelling criminal case to prosecute.
Unfortunately, there is not always a clear, bright line for that. But in recent years, at least in St Johns, Putnam, Volusia and Flagler counties that make up the Seventh Judicial Circuit, that line has gotten more and more dim when it comes to certain types of crimes — particularly where they involve law enforcement officers.