BROOKSVILLE — Two Hernando County sheriff's detectives who resigned last week faced likely termination for their roles in a fight at a Spring Hill bar in May.
Tony Mazza and Anthony Scarpati violated agency policies for truthfulness and code of conduct, according to an internal affairs investigation released Thursday. Mazza violated a third policy requiring employees to conform to laws.
"When you cut through all the smoke and mirrors, it's two senior detectives who made a series of bad decisions," Col. Mike Maurer said. "It's embarrassing for the agency, and we're glad it's behind us."
Maurer said Sgt. Kathleen Reid's findings indicate Mazza was involved in a fight with 28-year-old Bryan Silverstone and that both detectives tried to "deflect responsibility and depart from the truth."
Mazza and Scarpati resigned Nov. 1, before predisciplinary hearings could be held. After the hearings, Maurer would have written a memo to Sheriff Al Nienhuis recommending what, if any, disciplinary action to take.
Based on Reid's findings, Maurer said, "My recommendation would have been termination."
In a statement, Nienhuis said the investigation "had an acceptable outcome for the employees involved, as well as for the public and for the organization."
The review came after a criminal investigation by the Sheriff's Office into allegations by Silverstone that the off-duty detectives beat him outside Jerseys Hometown Tavern on Commercial Way early on the morning of May 26. The State Attorney's Office decided there wasn't enough evidence to bring charges against either man or others implicated that night.
Reid had to wade through the same tangled web of conflicting statements and found "more than a preponderance of evidence" that Scarpati and Mazza violated policy.
Two witnesses reported seeing Mazza hitting Silverstone while Silverstone sat in his car. One witness said Scarpati stood nearby, appearing to act as a lookout, but no one said he hit Silverstone.
Both Mazza and Scarpati denied any wrongdoing.
Mazza could not be reached Thursday. Scarpati's attorney, Jimmy Brown, said his client was proud of 23 years of blemish-free service to the agency and decided it was time to leave "with his head held high."
Silverstone said he encountered Mazza, Scarpati and Scarpati's son, Nick, at the Hilltop Saloon in Brooksville earlier that night. He said Mazza threatened him before he left for Jerseys. Mazza and the Scarpatis then showed up there, too.
Silverstone said he left the bar and that Mazza followed him and pushed him to the ground. Silverstone said he pepper sprayed Mazza, and then Mazza, the Scarpatis, Jerseys owner Evans Pappas and another man beat him. Bruised and bloodied, he drove away and flagged down a deputy.
Silverstone had a history with the detectives. He thought Mazza had dated one of his former girlfriends and that Scarpati had encouraged a woman to get a restraining order against him. He claimed that Mazza had threatened him during a routine stop in Spring Hill, and he admitted sending both detectives nasty messages on Facebook.
Mazza said he got between Nick Scarpati, who works at Jerseys, and Silverstone when they started to argue inside the bar. When the two men started fighting in the parking lot, Mazza said, he tried to break them up. Silverstone's blood was found on Mazza's shirt.
Scarpati said the fight was over by the time he came outside.
Scarpati, 52, was making $58,491.68 as a detective in the detention division.
Mazza, 47, was hired by the Sheriff's Office in March 2000. He was fired in 2001 for using excessive force, then rehired the following year after agreeing to undergo a psychological evaluation and take an anger management course. His salary as a property crimes detective was $48,006.66.
The men will receive all the benefits they are entitled to, but the agency is required to notify the state's Criminal Justice Standards & Training Commission that they resigned while under investigation, Maurer said. The commission could levy its own sanctions against their officer certificates.