Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Inmate's Claims Drawing State In

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Inmate's Claims Drawing State In

Article excerpt

DESOTO JAIL: FDLE joins inquiry into allegations of beatings at deputies' hands

DESOTO COUNTY

State investigators are now looking into allegations that 43- year-old inmate Jody Holland was beaten by deputies in the DeSoto County Jail, and federal agents could soon join them.

The FBI also confirmed Tuesday that a complaint has been filed. An agency spokesman said the FBI would determine if any federal laws were broken.

Holland says DeSoto deputies beat him on three separate occasions, slamming his head into a concrete wall, punching him in the face and chest and choking him nearly unconscious.

He has since been moved to Hardee County. (A circuit court judge denied a request from his attorney to move Holland to the Sarasota County jail.)

DeSoto sheriff's officials first said they were unaware of the allegations until contacted last week by the Herald-Tribune -- even though much of Holland's head was covered with dark purple bruises. Sheriff's officials denied that any staff member used force on Holland, but started an investigation after being contacted by the newspaper.

After first denying a request to assist in the investigation, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is now helping the Sheriff's Office with its inquiry.

"Generally, FDLE does not investigate these kinds of cases, but we are assisting here because of the potential conflict of interest between the inmate and jail staff," said FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger. "After learning the inmate was the boyfriend of a jail employee, FDLE agreed to assist."

Plessinger confirmed that agents are conducting a criminal investigation, and that the inquiry will be staffed as needed.

"While FDLE has assigned a lead agent to the case, the number of agents working with DeSoto County Sheriff's Office may vary throughout the investigation based on investigative needs," she said.

DeSoto County Sheriff's Maj. Sam Williamson said FDLE special agents "have the latitude and authority to do whatever they feel they need to do."

A Tampa FBI spokesman, Special Agent Dave Couvertier, confirmed Tuesday that his office had received a complaint about Holland's treatment. …

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