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Former Brooksville police officer takes plea deal

BROOKSVILLE — The legal saga of a disgraced Brooksville police officer has ended quietly with a plea deal.

Bryan Drinkard, 44, pleaded no contest last week to charges of stalking, trespassing, grand theft and violating a dating injunction. He received one year of house arrest followed by three years of probation, and was given credit for 115 days served in jail.

Drinkard also must forfeit his law enforcement and corrections certifications, and he agreed to never reapply for those certifications in Florida.

"If you're out doing things like this, stealing and stalking, you probably shouldn't be a law enforcement officer," said Assistant State Attorney Donald "Sonny" McCathran.

Drinkard, records say, had at different times stalked former girlfriend and co-worker Tiffany Still, taken jewelry and a checkbook from her home and, in one case, arranged for a fellow officer to help him follow her. Still is an administrative assistant at the Brooksville Police Department.

Drinkard was first arrested in March. Later, authorities said, Drinkard sent Still a letter telling her he loved her, a violation of the injunction.

Prior to his first arrest, Drinkard had been suspended after Still reported the incidents to her bosses and they launched an internal affairs investigation. His superiors immediately ordered him to turn in his badge and gun.

On Feb. 28, with his finger on the trigger, Drinkard walked into the Police Department lobby and placed his loaded .45-caliber Glock on the counter, security video showed. Normally, Still sits in the receptionist's chair behind a sheet of glass, on the other side of the counter where Drinkard left his gun. At that moment, she wasn't there.

The former patrolman, authorities said, later acknowledged that he was so drunk he couldn't remember dropping off the firearm.

It sat, unnoticed and unsecured, for more than four minutes.

The day after the incident, Chief George Turner terminated Drinkard for what he called "gross negligence." The officer had worked for the department since 2007.

Drinkard was adjudicated guilty on the misdemeanor charges of stalking, trespassing and violating the injunction. Adjudication was withheld on a felony grand theft charge.

The conviction is Drinkard's first.

As part of his plea agreement, Drinkard must undergo a mental health evaluation and enroll in an outpatient alcohol treatment program. He also owes Still $1,490 in restitution.

McCathran consulted with Still before reaching the deal.

"She was fine with it," McCathran said. "She mainly just wants the guy to leave her alone."

The deal is comparable to what any other defendant would have received, McCathran said.

Drinkard's attorney, Derek Saltsman, disagreed.

As part of an initial plea offer, Saltsman said, prosecutors wanted Drinkard adjudicated guilty on the theft charge, which would have made him a convicted felon.

Even the final plea agreement is harsh for someone without a prior record, Saltsman said. A fairer deal, he said, would have been to acknowledge Drinkard's alcohol problem and offer a pretrial intervention agreement. Such an agreement would have resulted in the dismissal of the charges had Drinkard followed certain stipulations, such as enrolling in a substance abuse program.

"The problem I had all along with this case is he wasn't treated like any other defendant that got arrested," Saltsman said. "Because of him working in law enforcement and it was a hot news story, he was treated as if he had a large prior record."

Drinkard was a heartbroken alcoholic who probably made unwise choices, but he has never harbored ill will toward Still, Saltsman said.

"(Alcoholism) destroyed his career and his reputation," Saltsman said. "It's not an excuse for it, but it came down to that problem.

Drinkard has moved out of the area and is looking for a job so he can pay the restitution, plus fines and court costs that will exceed $1,800, Saltsman said.

Drinkard had a history of problems at other agencies. In 2003, he resigned from the Manatee County Sheriff's Office while being investigated for violating agency policy.

Tony Marrero can be reached at tmarrero@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1431.

Former Brooksville police officer takes plea deal 07/26/12 [Last modified: Thursday, July 26, 2012 7:36pm]
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