JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Despite a wave of “extremely troubling” allegations, prosecutors balked at pursuing criminal cases against three former Clay County corrections deputies accused of making advances toward female inmates because there wasn’t enough proof to bring charges.
Yet the State Attorney’s Office noted in its report summarizing a range of sordid allegations that its investigation did not exonerate former deputies Austin Hatcher, Marcus Beard and Kory Clarida, who were fired after an internal investigation.
In fact, there was enough to the administrative violations that were substantiated for the Clay County Sheriff’s Office to install surveillance cameras inside the jail and add a policy requiring a female deputy to accompany male deputies when they transport inmates.
“This decision should not be construed to mean that the State finds the allegations of the inmates to not be credible,” Assistant State Attorney Joseph Licandro wrote in the 11-page report. “Rather, proving criminal behavior beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt cannot be demonstrated.”
Prosecutors also felt there was cause to add the deputies to the state’s Brady list, which is made up of officers “who have demonstrated dishonest and/or extreme professional misconduct to the extent any courtroom testimony any of them might provide could not ever be considered credible.”
Unproven allegations include claims from individual inmates that they or their peers had sex with some of the deputies at the center of the investigation. Without video or witnesses backing up what they said, their statements were viewed as hearsay.
But authorities substantiated accusations that deputies flirted with female inmates and coaxed them into masturbation. They also found it likely that one of the deputies exposed himself to inmates and another watched inmates while they bathed, according to an integrity report.
One common thread among the inmates’ allegations was a New Year’s Eve celebration in which music was played while the inmates performed strip teases, an episode Klarida acknowledged while speaking with detectives.
Among other substantiated allegations were that deputies brought their personal phones into the facility, a violation of agency policy, that one deputy slept while on the job and another gave a pen and paper to an inmate who was on suicide watch.
Licandro, who said concerns about witness credibility and a lack of evidence would make prosecuting the case challenging, left the door open to continuing the investigation “should new evidence come to light.”
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