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Deputy will return after evaluations, new training

Tony Mazza told the Sheriff's Office on Monday that he wants his badge back.

Mazza agreed to undergo physical and psychological evaluations and to take an anger management course as part of a deal to reclaim his job as a patrol deputy in Hernando County, said Lt. Joe Paez.

Sheriff Richard Nugent fired Deputy Mazza in November for using excessive force. Mazza gave a 79-year-old former state senator, Joseph Johnston Jr. of Brooksville, a black eye and a fractured rib during a traffic stop on Oct. 28.

Mazza appealed his firing to a volunteer civilian panel last week and a majority said he did not violate the department's excessive force policy and deserved his job back.

Nugent abided by the board's decision and said Mazza could return if he successfully passed a psychological exam and updated his training in defensive tactics. He also put Mazza on probation for a year and said he would not offer back pay for Mazza's four months off the job.

Mazza's attorney tried to negotiate with the Sheriff's Office for back pay, but Nugent stood by his original offer, Paez said.

Paez said he is not certain how long it will take Mazza to complete his testing and when he could return to the force.

Mazza's attorney did not return calls for comment Monday, and Mazza could not be reached.

_ Jamie Jones covers law enforcement and courts in Hernando County and can be reached at 754-6114. Send e-mail to jjonessptimes.com.

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