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Pinellas deputy serves one-day suspension

A Pinellas sheriff's sergeant who pulled over two Pasco deputies, found out they had been drinking and then let them go has been suspended for one day.

Sgt. John Daniels, 50, who has almost 30 years on the force, served the suspension without pay on Saturday, his normal workday.

The incident happened late on the night of Sept. 21, when Daniels was patrolling along Keystone Road in Tarpon Springs. He clocked a Dodge Charger going 98 mph and weaving around cars in a no-passing zone.

When Daniels caught up, the Charger was stopped at an intersection and the passenger was standing outside and urinating, Daniels wrote in his report.

He would come to find out that the driver and the passenger were Pasco sheriff's deputies, and they told him they had been out drinking.

Daniels documented all this in a report. What he didn't do was investigate.

He asked the driver, Jose Berrios, if he would take a breath test, a field test to determine his sobriety. When Berrios declined, Daniels didn't insist.

He did not administer field sobriety exercises or a Breathalyzer, a different test that measures blood alcohol content. He just let the deputies call for a ride home.

Berrios, 25, was first placed on desk duty, then fired in October. A Pasco spokesman said Sheriff Bob White had lost confidence in Berrios' ability to do his job.

The passenger, Kurt Hentschel, 25, returned to regular duty. He is still under investigation by the Pasco Sheriff's Office.

In a Pinellas Sheriff's Office memo, Daniels was found to have violated the sheriff's general order regarding performance of duty.

"Although you reported the odor of alcohol on the driver's breath, that his eyes were glassy, and that he appeared to be under the influence, you chose not to conduct a standard DUI investigation," the memo from Capt. Teresa Dioquino says.

It also says Daniels failed to notify anyone at the Sheriff's Office about the traffic stop for nearly an hour and a half.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

Pinellas deputy serves one-day suspension 12/02/08 [Last modified: Thursday, December 4, 2008 3:52pm]
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