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Former Pasco deputy arrested, accused of keeping drug evidence

NEW PORT RICHEY — When asked why he had marijuana, prescription pills and drug paraphernalia in his patrol car, former Pasco deputy Marshall Todd DeBerry told investigators:

"All I can say is I'm a disorganized moron," a report states.

DeBerry, 45, was arrested Wednesday and is accused of not turning in drugs and paraphernalia from 10 of his cases during his tenure at the Sheriff's Office. He declined an interview request with the Times Wednesday.

He told investigators it was negligence that caused the delay in turning in evidence, not anything sinister. But some evidence might still be missing.

"We're still matching up the drugs with his cases," said Pasco Sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll.

Court records show DeBerry was involved with about 300 cases during his tenure with the Sheriff's Office.

"Whether or not any cases may be affected by this remains to be seen," Doll said.

J. Larry Hart, a former state and federal prosecutor not connected to this case, said this is a serious matter.

"Certainly it could bring in questions of credibility to the extent that his conduct deviated from the standard operating procedures," Hart said.

DeBerry's former investigations could be questioned just at the accusations lobbied at him. The former deputy doesn't need to be convicted to cast a shadow of doubt on his cases.

"The fact one is under inquiry is a legitimate area for consideration," Hart said.

DeBerry is charged with tampering with or fabricating physical evidence, marking a swift fall from the decorated deputy's status mere months ago when he won the agency's Medal of Valor Lifesaving Award in January.

DeBerry resigned from the Sheriff's Office in February after he became ensnared in a criminal investigation. Authorities then would not provide any details about the allegations.

His arrest report, released Wednesday, says DeBerry failed to turn over drugs and drug paraphernalia from 10 arrests he made between February 2010 and December 2010.

Doll said the investigation began after the agency got a tip about DeBerry's failure to turn in evidence.

Investigators confronted DeBerry about the issue on Feb. 23, 2011, and took an inventory of his patrol car, according to the report. The search "located numerous items of drug paraphernalia as well as controlled substances" in the patrol car, the report said.

Doll said the substances were marijuana and prescription pills. He would not say what type of pills.

But not all of the missing drug evidence was accounted for. DeBerry told investigators some of the items might have "fallen out" of his vehicle.

DeBerry said he hadn't had the time to submit the items to the Sheriff's Office property evidence department.

DeBerry had worked for 15 years as an optician before going into law enforcement in 2003, when he was hired by the Sheriff's Office. He rose to the rank of corporal until 2008, when he was reassigned to patrol deputy and suspended two days without pay for warning an informant of an impending raid, according to a report in his personnel file.

He and another deputy shot an unstable man in 2007 who refused to show them what he had behind his back, even after the man was twice jolted with a Taser. The man lived and both deputies were cleared in the shooting.

DeBerry's performance reviews were largely positive, painting him as hard-working, sincere and earnest. He had been the class president and graduated top of his class at Pasco-Hernando Community College's law enforcement academy.

Prior to his resignation, he had been working with the Tampa Bay Regional Gang Task Force, a multi-agency unit focused on reducing gang crime.

"I am a very ethical, loyal and trustworthy person," he wrote in his 2003 job application. "The people skills I possess and the abilities that would make me an excellent deputy, makes the Pasco County Sheriff's Office a great choice for me and my future employment."

DeBerry, of Hudson, was released from the Pasco jail Wednesday afternoon on $5,000 bail.

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy and staff writer Molly Moorhead contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6229.

Former Pasco deputy arrested, accused of keeping drug evidence 08/31/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 8:03pm]
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