Saturday, September 15, 2007

Judge sends guard to jail

The former jail employee pleaded no contest in the case of two abused inmates.

By JOHN FRANK, Times Staff Writer
Published September 15, 2007

BROOKSVILLE- A fired Hernando County jail guard will go to jail for his role in the abuse of two inmates last year, a judge ruled Friday.

Nick Ferrio, a 41-year-old former Corrections Corporation of American employee, pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor charges of battery, stemming from an incident at the privately run jail on Sept. 6, 2006.

The open plea left his fate with County Judge Donald Scaglione, who sentenced Ferrio to 10 days in county jail, one year of probation and 100 hours of community service. Also, it's likely his license as a corrections officer will get suspended by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which certifies jail guards, said Assistant State Attorney Bill Gladsen.

Prosecutors asked for a tougher punishment - 30 days in jail - but the judge settled in the middle with defense attorney Peyton Hyslop requesting no time behind bars.

Brent Fiddler, an inmate under Ferrio's watch, outlined in court the abuse he suffered in emotional testimony. Court documents say Ferrio held Fiddler down while another jail guard, Chris Pursell, elbowed and kicked him. Then Ferrio allegedly poured a gallon of head lice solution over Fiddler's head. It is typically applied with a spray bottle.

Fiddler left the courtroom upset because he felt the judge went easy on Ferrio, Gladsen said.

Victor Mammano, the other inmate who complained of abuse, did not appear in court. Arrest reports state the guards used the 42-year-old for a twisted game of "football" in which Pursell held Mammano up against the bathroom wall while Ferrio kicked him in the groin.

Both guards were fired shortly after allegations of abuse arose; the charges were filed Oct. 30 after an extensive investigation.

Ferrio could not be reached for comment through his attorney on Friday, but in the past he adamantly argued his innocence. He said he didn't abuse inmates, but if he did, other guards were just as guilty for not doing anything to stop him.

Also, he contends he never kicked an inmate in the groin. When it looked like Mammano was going to spit on Pursell, Ferrio said he put his knee on Mammano's backside to push him against the wall, he told the Hernando Times in 2006.

Pursell, who also faces two charges of misdemeanor battery, is scheduled to go to trial early next week.

But for now, the issue is where Ferrio will serve time. He is scheduled to report to jail at the end of the month. First Gladsen must find him a safe place.

Scaglione said Ferrio could not go to county jails in Sumter or Hernando counties, both former places of employment, and likely not Citrus County because it is also a CCA facility. It's likely he'll go to jail in Marion or Lake counties. He reports Sept. 28.

John Frank can be reached at or 754-6114.

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