ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – A St. Johns County Sheriff's deputy appeared distraught in court Saturday morning as he faced second-degree felony charges amid allegations that he fondled a young girl.
Jeffrey Lewis Cook, 51, was arrested and fired in response to the allegations, authorities said Friday.
He could face up to 15 years in prison, if convicted. His bond was set at $150,000.
According to the Sheriff's Office, a criminal complaint was filed against Cook. The 17-year veteran was placed under arrest following an investigation into lewd and lascivious molestation, which is said to have occurred over the course of six years.
The former deputy sat in court in St Johns County with his head bowed, holding his hands tightly.
Investigators say the victim told investigators Cook had sexually assaulted her numerous times over a six-year period.
“In this particular case, it is disheartening, but it’s a harsh reality that it appears at this point in time that someone has stepped out of the bounds of what we hold to be true, in the ethics that we work for every day, and so the appropriate actions are being taken,” said Chuck Mulligan, public information officer with the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office.
Records show this isn’t the first time Cook was fired. In 1994, Cook was responding to a vandalism complaint when he got into an altercation with an African-American man, who had a gun in his waistband.
Cook pepper-sprayed the man, not knowing that he was an off-duty Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent.
The NAACP contacted former Sheriff Neil Perry about the confrontation, and Cook was later fired.
According to documents, Cook sued the Sheriff's Office, claiming he was wrongfully terminated. In 1995, he was reinstated with back pay. He got his job back that year, then resigned and was rehired years later, according to records.
Detectives are still investigating. There were no indications of any other victims, according to investigators, but anyone with information on the case is asked to contact the St. Johns County Sheriffs Office.