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Two deputies disciplined

Published Sep. 16, 2005

(ran SS edition of METRO & STATE)

A Pinellas County detention sergeant was demoted for inefficiency in the case of an inmate who later died, and a fellow deputy was fired after investigations of separate misconduct allegations.

Daniel Cassaday, a sheriff's employee for 15 years, is appealing his demotion from sergeant to detention deputy. According to sheriff's records, Cassaday was suspended for seven days earlier this year for his role in the escape of an inmate.

A disciplinary board demoted Cassaday, 42, last month after reviewing an investigation into his actions when inmate Melony Bird became ill April 2. Bird, 23, of Clearwater, died at a hospital the next day about 2:30 p.m. from heart failure.

According to the investigation, Bird told deputies she was too weak to walk to the jail clinic for a scheduled blood test shortly before midnight April 2. A jail nurse told deputies that Bird, who weighed about 260 pounds, would not fit in a wheelchair.

The nurse wanted a deputy to sign that Bird refused medical treatment, but the deputy would not. Instead, the deputy went to Cassaday and told him about the situation.

The board determined that Cassaday did not try to get Bird to the clinic or to get the nurse to go to the inmate's cell. He told investigators he did not have the authority to order medical procedures and that the situation was not life-threatening.

"She was breathing," Cassaday said in his statement. "She was talking. She was ambulatory."

However, a short time later, Bird was unconscious on the floor of her cell. Nurses went to her cell, did EKGs and found she could be having a heart attack.

The jail doctor refused to allow nurses to call 911. When he arrived about 13 hours after she became ill, he called 911. Bird died several hours after being hospitalized.

In other action, newly hired detention deputy Christopher E. Graham was fired July 15 for fighting. Hired in October, Graham was still on job probation when the incident happened.

The investigation found that Graham, 25, went to his girlfriend's house in St. Petersburg on June 10, found another man there and beat him up. Police issued Graham a notice to appear in court on a battery charge.

In other disciplinary board action:

Emergency operator/complaint writer Edward J. Talerico was suspended for two days in June for what the board described as inappropriate demeanor with citizens who called the sheriff's communication center.

In March, Talerico was rude to a Dunedin woman who called for help when two German shepherds were mauling her neighbor, according to the investigation. The woman had to call back 25 minutes later because no deputy was sent to help.

Detention deputy Elena L. Pierce was suspended for a day in June for conducting personal business on duty and using the national crime computer to get privileged information. The board determined that Pierce, a deputy for three years, called Tampa police while at work to complain about the arrest of her daughter's fiance.

She had checked computer records to determine the fiance's criminal background.