JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - William Winstead, whose arrest on a charge of organized fraud was announced Thursday, is the 22nd employee of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office to be arrested since July 2015, when Sheriff Mike Williams took office.
The I-TEAM dug into those cases and found that the charges against half of the employees were later dropped by the State Attorneys Office.
- Of the 11 employees who were prosecuted, the most jail time served anyone served was two days.
- Five of those prosecuted pleaded down to lesser charges and most received probation.
- One employee was prosecuted for the original charge and received probation.
- Five of the cases are ongoing.
When asked whether prosecution of law enforcement officers and employees is handled differently than other prosecutions, the State Attorney's Office said it can only comment on how cases have been handled since January 2017, when Melissa Nelson took over as State Attorney for Florida's 4th Judicial Circuit.
"Cases that involve officers who commit offenses unrelated to their duties are treated like any other case," the State Attorney's Office communications director, David Chapman, said in a statement. "When officers violate the law in their official capacity, we have a duty to protect the public trust by ensuring they are appropriately prosecuted."
Chapman pointed to the conviction and sentencing of Neptune Beach Police Officer Christopher Ortiz to six months in jail for petty theft as an example of full prosecution.
Winstead, the facilities manager for the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and a civilian employee of the department for 27 years, was investigated after an internal tipster told the integrity unit last week that Winstead was using the department's purchasing system to buy personal items to build a deck and renovate a house.
JSO said those orders went through the Lowe's home improvement store in the Regency area and included orders for wood, nails, screws, gate supplies and tools. Winstead was charged with a third-degree felony.
Legal experts told News4Jax it's not likely that Winstead will serve any jail time, if he's convicted at all.
The most significant JSO internal arrest that was prosecuted to completion, Officer Clarence Thomas, was accused of having sex with a teenage girl from Westside High School in 2015, pleaded down from a charge of unlawful intercourse with a minor to a reduced charge of child abuse. Two days after his arrest, he was sentenced to time served.
Officer Akenyemi Borisade, who was charged with battery after he was accused of repeatedly beating a handcuffed intoxicated woman at the entrance to the Duval County Jail. The incident was recorded on surveillance camera. Borisade was fired and pleaded down the case to a misdemeanor. He was given probation and his court case was expunged.
Then there was the high-profile case of three detectives charged with tampering with evidence and conspiracy for throwing out beer cans during a undercover operation that ended in the deadly shooting of a suspect. Charges were later dropped against Lance Griffis, Brian Turner and Kyle Kvies. The shooting itself is still under review.
Attorney Gene Nichols, who represents a JSO officer whose case is still being prosecuted, does not believe officers and employees get special treatment.
"I would say, on the contrary, they do not," Nichols said. "You, me or a civilian aren't going to be plastered on the news. A typical civilian is not going through the scrutiny an officer is going through. I would say they aren't being treated differently. If they are, it's more scrutiny because everyone is watching."
Nichols also noted that all of these officers had clean records before they were arrested, and the State Attorneys Office also takes that into account.
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