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SURGEON WHO SWIPED EVIDENCE KEEPS JOB

He is suspended from his $485,000 job for 10 days without pay.

The Tampa General Hospital surgeon accused of keeping as a souvenir a bullet that he removed from the body of a fugitive has been suspended for 10 days without pay, but will keep his position as trauma chief.

Dr. David J. Ciesla's employers at the University of South Florida medical school also want him to give a lecture to doctors-in-training on the role of physicians in securing medical evidence for law enforcement.

The talk would count toward the 100 community service hours that Ciesla, 43, agreed to perform in a plea deal last month with the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office. He is serving two years of probation after pleading no contest to two misdemeanor charges.

The university's discipline follows its review of accusations as bizarre as they were serious.

Ciesla operated April 21 on a murder suspect who had been shot twice by a deputy U.S. marshal trying to take him into custody. Two Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents were waiting inside the operating room to take the bullets into evidence, according to court documents.

But Ciesla, who earns more than $485,000 per year, reportedly hid one of the bullets inside his rubber glove, telling the agents it was stuck in the suspect's body.

The episode was witnessed by Dr. Sergio Alvarez, then a first-year medical resident in plastic surgery, who was assisting with the surgery. He reported what happened to his supervisors.

Ciesla returned the bullet after being confronted by university officials. He has apologized for his behavior.

"Your actions on April 21 demonstrated a clear lack of judgment and were inconsistent with the ethical and professional obligations of your role as a clinical member of the USF faculty and director of the trauma surgery program," said Dr. Stephen Klasko, the medical school dean, in a letter of discipline delivered to Ciesla late last week.

Klasko noted that incident appeared isolated. "We have been impressed by your subsequent professionalism with respect to the residents who witnessed the incident," he wrote, observing that Ciesla has "openly expressed extreme remorse."

Ciesla, who previously has declined to take questions from reporters, did not return a phone call Monday for further comment.

His medical license remained clear and active, according to the Florida Department of Health. USF further proposes that Ciesla spend his remaining community service hours providing surgical and followup care for law enforcement officers and emergency responders injured in the line of duty.

Letitia Stein can be reached at (813) 226-3322 or lstein@sptimes.com.

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