St Johns County deputy sheriff Anthony J Deleo, Jr hit Christopher Butler 19-times with his baton and kicked him in the head twice while Butler was unarmed; and Historic City News readers know this because it was captured on video taken by an alert citizen using his smartphone. The technology for police to create their own video using body cameras has been a possibility since the early-2000’s.
Deleo’s boss, lame-duck sheriff David Shoar, withdrew Deleo’s commission today, ending his employment with the sheriff’s office. Shoar also filed a criminal complaint with the State Attorney of the 7th Judicial Circuit who will review the case and decide if the charge against Deleo will be prosecuted. Deleo is facing a charge of aggravated battery, a second-degree felony, for his use of force against Christopher Butler during the December 29th traffic stop.
Two other deputies who were involved in the incident, Joseph McGinnis and Patrick Ponticello, were placed on paid administrative leave after the video surfaced. Those deputies will not face criminal charges, according to Shoar; but their actions are still being investigated by internal affairs. The trooper who pulled Butler over and used his Taser on him was not disciplined, according to televised reports from an unnamed spokesman with the Florida Highway Patrol.
Butler’s lawyer, Attorney John Phillips, said he is looking into filing suit against the sheriff’s office, as well as the deputies involved. He claims that the lack of camera, particularly with St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office that refuses body cams, and the lack of video oversight, is an attempt to gain immunity.
In a public statement from Phillips, he said that he hopes more arrests are not coming. “We hope reform is coming. This is the first step towards justice. If you have information or have been abused by the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, please come forward.”
Shoar made a front-page splash recently accompanied by his delegate, St Augustine Beach police chief Robert Hardwick (who is concurrently Robert Hardwick candidate for sheriff). Both men and St Augustine City Police Chief Barry Fox arrogantly proclaimed that body cameras, which monitor an officer’s activity during a shift, invade personal privacy, come at a high cost, and lack sufficient accuracy.
“If we ever have to approach this and come to some conclusion on it, we’ll do it as one, cohesively in our county,” Fox said in the positioning statement. “If body cameras were an option in the future, the homework would be extensive, and all three agencies would be involved.”
Shoar said he would not implement body cameras while he works out the remaining few months of his term. Fox and Hardwick have the same position as Shoar, who refused to comment on the excessive force investigation leading to today’s events. Deleo, who Shoar hired on May 19, 2014, as a traffic deputy, and who was reassigned to a law enforcement deputy in 2018, was paid $48,624.00 annually plus full-time benefits. He is 51 years old.