Four ranking Clay County detectives have been suspended, and transferred out of the detective division and into the patrol division after wrongfully arresting the same woman twice.
Detective Mark Maertz and Sgt. William Roberts were suspended for 30 days, Lt. Dan Mahla received a seven-day suspension, and Sgt. Robert Curry was suspended for five days.
"There's nothing more damning that you can do as a law enforcement officer than lock up the wrong person," said Clay County Sheriff Rick Beseler. "We are never going to let something like this happen again."
DOCUMENTS: Administrative inquiry |
Last month, the Clay County Sheriff's Office said it had jailed a Louisiana woman for five weeks for crimes that she didn't commit. That Ashley Chiasson now plans to sue the Sheriff's Office.
"This has been a particularly difficult time for the Sheriff’s Office. This is not representative of the good work hundreds of men and women do day in and day out. We are extremely sorry that this happened," said Sheriff Beseler.
Ashley Odessa Chiasson (pictured below), 31, the correct suspect, was booked into the Clay County jail June 12 and charged with attempting to defraud a financial institution and grand theft.
"Something like this can just ruin a reputation. And we're heartbroken over it quite frankly," Sheriff Beseler told News4Jax Wednesday night.
Detectives said this Chiasson was arrested after she came to the Sheriff's Office Operations Center for questioning in the two financial crimes that occurred in Clay County.
According to the internal investigation report released Wednesday by the Sheriff's Office, the detectives' work as "sloppy" and "complacent."
"In this case, I felt some of the strongest sanctions should be leveled against the officers involved," Sheriff Rick Beseler said. "A lot of people wanted us to fire the deputies, but I have to take into consideration a lot of factors: these officers had never been in trouble before. They had clean records, they had dozens of letters of commendation. One detective had been here 15 years."
According to the report, Maertz was responsible for the initial incorrect identification of Ashley Nicole Chiasson as the suspect in a grand theft case last fall. The report says Maertz never reviewed case evidence and photos, nor conducted follow-up interviews with the victim or witness or even speak to the suspect. Instead, he relied solely on law enforcement databases to find a similarly named suspect and use that information to charge the wrong Ashley Chiasson with the crime.
Beseler also issued a statement, the end of which reads, "This incident is not representative of the hard work and dedication exhibited daily by the hundreds of members of our agency. The swift and decisive results of these internal investigations should reassure Clay County residents that we don’t take lightly our responsibility to do the right thing and to correct mistakes when they occur."
One way to make sure this never happens again is a six-part arrest warrant checklist. Deputies and detectives will now have to complete the paperwork showing they've done everything necessary before turning it in to their supervisor to make an arrest.
According to Chiasson's arrest report, she stole a watch, iPod, phone charger, sunglasses perfume, vanity mirror and prescription medications from a home where she worked as a housekeeper.
The homeowner told detectives that Chiasson was hired after responding to a Craigslist ad for a live-in housekeeper, but when she "developed an attitude and did not do what she was supposed to do," she was asked to pack her bags and leave.
After she was gone items valued at $1,213 were reported missing from the home.
News4Jax reached out to the State Attorney's Office for comment on this case. A spokesperson for the office told News4Jax that because our request was made after hours Wednesday night, they were unable to provide any information on the case. The State Attorney's Office did say, they would provide more information on Thursday after reviewing the case.