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Sergeant fired from St. Johns County Sheriff's Office

Sheriff's Office says 5 allegations against Catherine Payne sustained

Catherine Payne make a first appearance in a Nassau County courtroom.
Catherine Payne make a first appearance in a Nassau County courtroom.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – St. Johns County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Catherine Payne was terminated Monday after an internal investigation sustained five allegations against her.

Payne, 37, was arrested last week on a charge of interfering with child custody after picking up her 6-year-old son from school and driving to Fernandina Beach. An Amber Alert was briefly issued for Payne's 6-year-old son, Reid Payne.

The allegations sustained against her, according to the Sheriff's Office, were using her position to influence another person to further a personal agenda, failure to obey a lawful order from a superior officer, refusal to obey a lawful order from a superior officer, actions and statements that bring the Sheriff's Office into disrepute or ridicule, and conduct unbecoming.

Neither Payne nor her lawyer appeared at the hearing Monday.

Sheriff David Shoar issued a statement before the termination that reads:

"Approximately two months ago Sergeant Payne experienced symptoms that continue to manifest themselves today, the onset of these symptoms were precipitous. These symptoms resulted in Sergeant Payne receiving treatment for a very serious, progressive and chronic medical condition. The media has already reported that she was recently hospitalized twice for a 'mental health' condition. The truth is in the past month she has been taken into custody (against her will) on three different occasions (in three different counties) under the authority of the state's Baker Act (a danger to herself or others) so that she could receive immediate medical intervention. Sergeant Payne was recently arrested for violating a Judge's court order pertaining to the custody of her elementary school age son. The Sheriff's Office is currently examining the facts surrounding Sergeant Payne's arrest to make a determination about her future employment status with the Sheriff's Office.

"Sergeant Payne has said and done a variety of things since the beginning of the onset of her symptoms; many of which have been bizarre. At one point Sergeant Payne did state that she had been the subject of some inappropriate comments by a fellow co-worker and that complaint is being investigated in the same manner we investigate any complaint.

"It is our belief that in light of Sergeant Payne's current medical state, we should all do the best that we can to help Sergeant Payne to somehow stay focused on addressing her medical condition without distractions, anything less would be regrettable."

Payne said she is planning to file a lawsuit against the Sheriff's Office over alleged sexual harassment, which is the basis of Shoar's comment in the statement.