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Pasco deputy justified in punching handcuffed man, agency says

The Pasco County Sheriff's Office has determined one of its deputies was justified in punching an unruly suspect several times in the face, once after the man was handcuffed.

The finding, released this week, came after a use of force investigation that is required anytime a deputy uses force on a suspect.

Deputies responded Feb. 17 to a domestic call at 3133 Dole St. in Holiday and said they found a scared, battered woman, Kaley Price, 25, and her irrational boyfriend, Joseph Liebl, 35. They said Liebl tried to flee, had "super human" strength from narcotics and was in such a crazed rage that it took three deputies to handcuff him.

Deputy Brian Spiegel, who sustained a broken finger after falling with Liebl onto a concrete driveway, said he punched Liebl in the face during the struggle to get him to comply, according to a report. The deputies on scene said Liebl fought them, reached for a knife, threatened to murder them and spit blood in Spiegel's face — then declared he is positive for Hepatitis C.

Spiegel punched Liebl in the face again, even though Liebl was handcuffed. The deputy said he "redirected" Liebl's face away from him as Liebl tried to spit blood on him again.

Liebl is charged with aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer, battery on a law enforcement officer, two counts of resisting arrest with violence and domestic battery. He remains at the Pasco jail in lieu of $65,500 bail.

Spiegel, 40, went on medical leave because of his broken finger but returned to light duty on Feb. 28, said Pasco sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll. Spiegel has been with the agency since 2009 and has no history of disciplinary problems, according to agency records.

Liebl's girlfriend, Price, wrote a statement after the incident saying Liebl slammed her to the ground during an argument and she called 911. A Sheriff's Office report said she thanked deputies after they arrested Liebl. But she told the Times that wasn't true — she never thanked them, and she said the beating of her boyfriend was not justified. She said Liebl didn't fight the deputies. His face is swollen, bruised and bloody in his mug shot.

Spiegel "repeatedly punched him in his face and that was justified?" Price said Friday after hearing of the investigation's findings. She cried.

"This just isn't fair," she said.

Price said a friend who witnessed the scuffle took pictures on her cell phone. Price said the phone was confiscated by deputies. When it was returned, Price said, two photos showing Spiegel punching Liebl in the face had been deleted.

"They knew they were wrong," Price said.

Doll said he hadn't heard any allegations of photos being deleted, but the agency is going to research it.

"She is making an allegation of a serious crime, destruction of evidence, and we will investigate that," Doll said.

Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6229.

Pasco deputy justified in punching handcuffed man, agency says 03/08/13 [Last modified: Friday, March 8, 2013 6:46pm]
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