1. Breaking News

Attempts to humiliate Pinellas County inmates lead to suspension of two deputies

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri shares crime statistics while attending a recent meeting (4/4/19) of the Sheriff's Advisory Board at the Sheriff's Office headquarters in Largo. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times
Published Jul. 13

Two Pinellas County Sheriff's deputies have been suspended 21 work days for intending to "degrade and humiliate" inmates at Pinellas County Jail, according to internal agency reports.

Deputies Willie Jordan Jr. and Kenneth Rowe helped tape "derogatory and demeaning" signs on the backs of inmates ordered to stand with their foreheads against a wall for 11 minutes in early January, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office's Professional Standards Bureau determined after an investigation. Deputies instructed other inmates to read the signs out loud.

Both Jordan and Rowe told investigators that they did this to "humiliate" and "degrade" the inmates in front of other inmates. They will be suspended 240 hours without pay.

"I started to think, 'Oh crap, I'm losing my mind for a second here because I forgot that I'm not in the Army right now. I'm at the Sheriff's Office,'" Rowe said, according to the July 2 internal report.

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said the suspensions were harsh and signify the officers were close to being fired. That didn't happen, however, because both were previously well-regarded with spotless records, Gualtieri said.

Rowe told investigators his actions were "inappropriate" while Jordan said his were "totally unacceptable." Rowe and Jordan could not be reached in time for publication.

The suspensions are just the latest from a series of January incidents at the jail, including one that got another deputy, James Moran, fired and charged with simple battery in April. According to an internal inquiry, Moran kicked an inmate after he became tired from doing pushups as punishment for feeding a bird.

Another deputy, Matthew O'Neil, was also investigated for the pushup incident after not intervening or reporting it, according to Gualtieri. He resigned in May. Both O'Neil and Moran were involved in the Jan. 13 incident involving the degrading signs, Gualtieri said. Moran and O'Neil could not be reached.

Gualtieri said no changes are being made to jail policies or procedures, which he described as "solid". He said that the jail has a high level of accountability, noting that there are cameras throughout.

"We have the procedural safeguards in place," Gualtieri said. "You can't address stupid. This is just stupid."

Contact Ben Leonard at or (727) 893-8421. Follow @Ben___Leonard.


  1. Hillsborough County Tax Collector Doug Belden told employees Wednesday morning that health problems have forced him to step down at the end of his fifth term, in January 2021.
    After 21 years in the job, Belden plans to retire when his term ends Jan. 3, 2021
  2. Less than a month after being fired, former St. Petersburg Housing Authority CEO Tony Love wants the agency to give him a job running its development nonprofit at the same $157,000 salary. That offer, part of ongoing negotiations over his severance, was rejected by the agency's board.
    Tony Love’s attorney tells the agency that fired him he wants full salary and benefits through 2020. The board rejects his offer.
  3. Pasco firefighter Hunter Garcia, his wife Kayla and their 5-month-old daughter Clara were injured in a four-vehicle collision Friday afternoon. The baby died from her injuries Sunday; Garcia has been released from the hospital while his wife is still recovering. Pasco County Fire Rescue
    Clara Garcia, 5 months old, was secured in her car seat at the time of the four-vehicle crash. Her parents are recovering from their injuries.
  4. Tampa police found Donta Allen, 33, in the area of E Palifox Street near N 44th Street at about 9 p.m. Sunday. He was suffering from upper body trauma and died later in a hospital. [TAMPA POLICE DEPARTMENT]  |  Tampa Police Department
    Police are seeking information from anyone who may have seen Donta Allen, 33, on Sunday night near the Tampa office center.
  5. Alex Hiscock, 25, left, and Derrick Beers, 23, were riding in a pickup truck Sept. 8 after a night out when it crashed into a tree. Beers died from his injuries. Hiscock was taken to a hospital in serious condition. He was later released with a neck brace and arm cast. [COURTESY OF ALEX HISCOCK]  |  Alex Hiscock
    One man died and his best friend was seriously injured. A week later, troopers are trying to determine who was at the wheel.
  6. Josh Hensley was known for dressing as Jack Sparrow. Facebook
    Joshua Hensley, 43, was found dead Monday morning. He went missing after setting out on a paddle board Saturday.
  7. Frank Joseph Fischer, 35, was arrested early Monday after he plowed into the back of a motorcyclist on Interstate 75 in Gibsonton, then kept driving, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. The motorcyclist, a 23-year-old Riverview man whose name was not immediately released, died at the scene. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office] Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office
    Frank Joseph Fischer, 35, was charged with DUI manslaughter and leaving the scene after driving his pickup into the back of the motorcycle, troopers said.
  8. Danielle Harris of Pinellas Park leans against a large photo of Terri Schiavo and her mother, Mary Schindler, during a vigil outside the Woodside Hospice Villas in 2003. Associated Press
    “Terri Schiavo is now a martyr,” one then-state representative said upon learning of her death.
  9. Check for the latest breaking news and updates.
    Charges in the accident are pending.
  10. Taylor Bland-Ball, 22, posted this photo and open letter to Judge Thomas Palermo to her Instagram account on September 10, the day after she lost custody of her 4-year-old son Noah McAdams. The boy's parents wanted to treat his leukemia with natural health care remedies instead of chemotherapy. [Instagram] ANASTASIA DAWSON  |  Instagram
    The couple refused chemotherapy for their son, instead seeking alternative treatments including dietary plans, alkaline water and THC and CBD oil treatments