BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis sat behind his sturdy wooden desk Tuesday and faced a barrage of questions about yet another accused bad apple at his agency.
A day earlier, Nienhuis announced the arrest and firing of William Martinez, a veteran deputy accused of battery of a woman in his patrol car and holding her against her will.
It was the fifth sworn employee arrested in as many weeks. Four are accused of the kinds of felonies that the Sheriff's Office makes a priority to investigate.
Each case made headlines. Now the number of arrested employees in such a short time is a headline all its own.
"I could bite a nail in two sometimes, I'm so angry," Nienhuis told reporters. "These are individuals who see every day the result of poor decisions, and you would think they would be able to put that into play in their own life and realize some of the stupid things they're doing. It baffles me."
The ugly streak started two days after Christmas, when Nienhuis announced that a sergeant and a deputy had resigned and been arrested in unrelated cases.
Deputy Michael Glatfelter, a 24-year-employee, was accused of stealing roughly $14,000 from a local Fraternal Order of Police bank account, plus another $1,040 from a fund set up to help the family of Capt. Scott Bierwiler, who was killed in a crash while driving to work in 2009. Glatfelter, 51, was charged with two counts of grand theft and one count of organized fraud.
Sgt. Joseph Reid took, borrowed or otherwise used at least $2,784 from a fund used by the vice and narcotics unit for drug buys and expenses, the sheriff said. Reid, 41, was charged with one count of grand theft.
Detectives say Reid's supervisor, Capt. Tom Garcia, used his own money on at least one occasion to reconcile the money taken by Reid. Garcia remains on paid leave pending an ongoing internal investigation.
Earlier this month, Deputy Joseph Tibor was charged with driving under the influence after he was stopped outside of Brooksville. Tibor, 45, is on paid leave.
What is arguably the most disturbing case came next.
Detectives say detention deputy Cody Lee Marrone, 21, admitted to using a hair dryer to burn the 3-year-old son of his girlfriend on several parts of his body as punishment for not letting Marrone sleep.
Nienhuis said firing Marrone was an easy decision.
So, too, was cutting ties with Martinez.
Martinez, 45, responded along with the Florida Highway patrol to a single-vehicle crash near the intersection of Deltona Boulevard and Founder Road in Spring Hill about 2 a.m. Thursday. Troopers investigated, and Martinez gave the driver a ride home.
Nienhuis said Martinez drove a short distance past the 20-year-old woman's Spring Hill home and persuaded her to engage in a sexual act in the back of the patrol car.
Martinez denied the allegations. The woman, whom the Tampa Bay Times is not naming because of the nature of the case, provided physical evidence that was submitted to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for analysis. The results came back Monday and contradicted Martinez's account.
"The deputy told a version of the story that was found to be totally untruthful, so there was no question there was an integrity issue," Nienhuis said.
He declined to release more details, citing an ongoing investigation. He said the evidence does not support a sexual battery charge, but he noted the State Attorney's Office could amend the charges.
"Suffice it to say she was obviously in a position of vulnerability, and the deputy took advantage of that," Nienhuis said.
Martinez, who could not be reached for comment, is charged with misdemeanor battery and false imprisonment, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
Nienhuis acknowledged the spate of arrests has likely shaken the public's confidence in his 299 sworn employees. It shouldn't, he said. The employees showed no warning signs that could have predicted their alleged actions, he said. He called the streak an unfortunate "anomaly."
"We have good people here," he said. "A small handful of people doing bad things should not be taken to reflect on the whole agency."
News researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.