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Three deputies lose jobs over jail's dumping of man from wheelchair

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct information published online in an earlier version. Please see the correction note at the bottom of the story for a full explanation.

TAMPA — Two deputies resigned and a third was fired over the dumping of quadriplegic jail inmate Brian Sterner from his wheelchair, according to reports the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office released Tuesday.

In all, an internal investigation found nine deputies violated Sheriff's Office procedures.

In January, jail videocameras captured Charlette Marshall-Jones, then a detention deputy, hurling Sterner from his wheelchair to the floor during his booking at the Orient Road Jail. Marshall-Jones, a 22-year veteran of the Sheriff's Office, resigned and was arrested on one felony count of abuse of a disabled adult.

Tuesday's report revealed that Marshall-Jones wasn't the only deputy to lose her job over the incident. Cpl. Decondra Williams, who had been on paid administrative leave after video footage surfaced in February, was dismissed. Dawn Thomas, an intake deputy at Orient Road Jail, resigned.

Three other deputies were suspended three days without pay.

Deputies Keith Ralston, Ryan Dance and Howard Owens took Sterner from the Orient Road Jail to the infirmary at the Falkenburg Road Jail in a standard van instead of a handicap-equipped one. They placed him on the van's floor for the nearly 4-mile trip.

The investigators say witnesses to the booking described Sterner as loud, vulgar and uncooperative, but they concluded that Marshall-Jones deliberately dumped him out of his wheelchair "for no apparent reason other than his verbal disobliging behavior."

Williams and Thomas were among four deputies who "witnessed all or portions of the incident involving Sterner," the report says. One other, Detective Charles Alexander was suspended. Cpl. Steven Dickey was originally recommended for suspension, but Chief Deputy Jose Docobo found charges against Dickey to be unfounded and reversed that recommended discipline. Sgt. Gary Hinson, in charge of booking that night, received a written reprimand.

Williams didn't question Marshall-Jones' actions, check on Sterner's well-being or notify superiors of the wheelchair toss, said Detective Allan O'Keefe, who authored the report.

"She never recognized the incident as a use of force, thus never ensured proper procedure was followed or documentation of the incident was initiated," he wrote.

Thomas "went back to work" after Sterner hit the floor and did not alert any supervisors because two of them, Williams and Dickey, were present and aware of the situation.

"The incident was not as important as it has grown to be," Thomas said. "It was not that important to me at the time.

"It still doesn't have anything to do with me."

Rodney Thrash can be reached at rthrash@sptimes.com or (813) 269-5303.

Correction: An earlier version of this story inaccurately stated disciplinary action against Cpl. Steven Dickey. Dickey was cleared of any wrongdoing by Chief Deputy Jose Docobo and therefore was not disciplined.

Three deputies lose jobs over jail's dumping of man from wheelchair 08/12/08 [Last modified: Friday, August 15, 2008 10:49am]
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