Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Former Tampa Deputy Charlette Marshall-Jones Will Not Be Prosecuted For Dumping Brian Sterner Out Of Wheelchair

Remember the case of the Hillsborough County (FL) Deputy who was caught on video dumping a quadraplegic detainee out of a wheelchair in Tampa, Florida back on January 29th, 2008 because she thought the detainee was "faking" it? You can read my previous post to get more background; this case also discussed at length on the Vanguard News Network Forum.

Well, she's no longer a deputy; she resigned two days after the incident. But she will not be prosecuted, even though a higher standard of conduct is normally required of sworn peace officers. Full story from WTSP Channel 10 in Tampa and the St. Petersburg Times.

Former Hillsborough County detention deputy Charlette Marshall-Jones will not face prosecution for dumping a disabled man from his wheelchair at the Hillsborough County Jail. Jones, 44, has agreed to enter a pretrial intervention program and will not face jail time for her dumping quadriplegic Brian Sterner out of his wheelchair onto the floor. In exchange, a charge of abuse of a disabled adult, a third-degree felony carrying a maximum of five years in prison, will be dropped.

The incident was caught on tape in the booking area of the jail and made national headlines. The incident prompted Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee put together an independent review commission to examine practices and procedures at county jail facilities. Here's the YouTube video that outraged much of the country:

The Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office reportedly offered Marshall-Jones the deal at the urging of quadriplegic Brian Sterner, who reportedly told prosecutors he wanted an end to the case. The pretrial intervention requires Marshall-Jones to perform 100 hours of community service with the disabled and she will not be able to work again in law enforcement. However, Sterner has not ruled out civil action.

Assistant State Attorney Pam Bondi defended the decision by explaining that Marshall-Jones committed "a very serious offense" but qualified for the diversion program because of her lack of a prior arrest history. She received three times the amount of community service hours ordered for most first-time offenders. However, Bondi did not acknowledge that Jones was NOT a typical first-time offender; she was a sworn peace officer from whom a higher standard of conduct would be expected. The Sheriff's Office had no comment on the sentence.

But the case's legacy lives on. The Independent Review Commission on Jails next meets July 11th and plans to issue a final report in September. In its preliminary report last month, the commission suggested more training in stress management and dealing with people with mental health and substance abuse problems for deputies who work in jail booking areas. Though the group will eventually hear a full review of the internal affairs investigation into Marshall-Jones' actions, "we wanted to deal with the bigger picture, not just a single case," said chairman James Sewell. The 29-page preliminary report is available HERE in PDF format, but it's 5.79 MB and takes forever to load (if you have dial-up, don't even bother trying).

Sterner, who has limited use of his arms after a wrestling injury left him paralyzed from the chest down, has still been found competent to stand trial on the criminal charge that initially landed him in jail: fleeing and attempting to elude a police officer. He has notified the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office of his intent to file suit in federal court unless a settlement is reached.

You can read the original WTSP story about the suspension of the deputies, and see the jail video by clicking HERE.

Analysis: Let's compare this with a similar case of cop misbehavior to establish consistency. Here we have a black deputy who clearly abused a detainee, and she voluntarily gives up her job, given community service but is not prosecuted. Compare this to a case in Ohio where some white state troopers appeared in a video in Klan regalia on MLK day, passed the video around, abused NO ONE in the process, but involuntarily lost their jobs. Both equally sanctioned, although only one, the Florida deputy, actually abused someone.

Double standard, anyone? If it had been a white deputy, the deputy would undoubtedly been punished more severely.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think that it is important for this to be cleared up. The person using the wheelchair is not a quadraplegic, he is a paraplegic. What this simply means is that instead of his CNS being severed at the neck it was severed lower on the spinal cord. This means he still has use of his arms, but not anything from the sternum down. I have read this mistake several times in various reports of this event, that Brian is a quadraplegic. I just felt it necessary to straighten this out.
As far as your comparison of the two events and whether it balance out to race, I find your assertions lacking. The deputy who flung this kid out of his chair is, if nothing else, guilty of assault. She should be going to jail for the assualt, the hate crime, among other felonies.
All of this is true, but no where have I heard either from Brian or from the Sheriff's office that there was a racial element in the action. In other words, he didn't call her "nigger" and she didn't call him "cracker".
In the case of the white officers there was an alement of race in their situation. They dressed the way they did for the sole purpose of demeaning the actions of MLK and the esteem in which he is held in the Black community.
So, I guess, if this world were perfect, she would go to jail for 8-12, and lose her job anyway, and the others would lose their jobs.
I know that they didn't do it to be seen in Public and I hear what you are saying about a lack of a victim, but somehow that tape did make it to the public. I always wonder at these things. How many times before has this woman used her badge and gun to abuse and stommp people. Nobody ever asks that. With the cavalier attitude she presented while throwing this basically helpless guy around, what kind of abuse has she inflicted on 'healthy" citizens.