Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Corrections Interview Wasn't Private; Investigators Tried to Soothe the Fears of the Witness, but Hadn't Turned the Tape Recorder Off

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Corrections Interview Wasn't Private; Investigators Tried to Soothe the Fears of the Witness, but Hadn't Turned the Tape Recorder Off

Article excerpt

Byline: MATT GALNOR

TALLAHASSEE -- At the end of an April interview, Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigators thought they flipped off the tape recorder for a few minutes.

They explained to James O'Bryan the importance of his coming forward to speak about being beaten by three high-ranking Department of Corrections officials, including Allen Clark, at an April 1 softball banquet.

Authorities were compiling a much larger investigation into Clark, who ran more than a dozen Panhandle prisons. The investigation went higher than Clark, records show, perhaps as high as then-DOC Secretary James Crosby.

Investigators told O'Bryan he was "the first break in the case that we've had." They went on to stress the importance of getting Clark out of the department so others would come forward against him.

The conversation was just among the three of them.

Or so they thought.

Records released Monday detail a thought-to-be private conversation that ended up public because the tape was never turned off.

O'Bryan had been reluctant to come forward, fearing his wife, Cathii, a 20-year veteran of the department, could be transferred by Clark as payback.

When FDLE inspectors Tim Westveer and Travis Lawson interviewed James O'Bryan about two weeks after the incident, they tried to soothe those fears, records show.

"This thing is not recording," Westveer said. "I have it shut off so we can have this brief interlude conversation."

Westveer goes on to tell O'Bryan it would be his decision to file a criminal complaint against Clark, but ". . . we would really, really appreciate your cooperation so we can put this thing to bed. This and several other things."

Lawson adds, "It's not the first time we've heard of Mr. Clark and it's not the first thing we've known."

O'Bryan, who had worked for DOC twice before leaving for good in 2004, talked about others who may be involved in departmental problems. …

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