Saturday, March 22, 2008

Sheriff Gee calls for independent jail investigation

By: Mike Deeson

Tampa, Florida — New developments regarding abuse allegations at the hands of Hillsborough Detention Deputies.

Late this morning, Sheriff David Gee announced the creation of an Independent Review Commission to examine the policies, practices and procedures in the Orient Road and Falkenburg Road jails.

The announcement comes as a result of Tampa Bay's 10 broadcasting several videos showing questionable actions by Hillsborough Detention Deputies.

"That's humiliating to treat him this way."

That's how paraplegic Benjamin Rayburn's mother, Vivian, describes this latest wheel chair dumping at the Orient Road Jail. In this incident from October of 2006, four deputies dumped Rayburn onto the floor. They let him lie there, took away his wheel chair and then did nothing as he tried to get up and fell back to the floor.

Vivian Rayburn says it's heartbreaking. She says she is outraged.

Hillsborough Chief Deputy Joe Docobo says in this particular case the circumstances that resulted in this gentleman being taken to the ground were absolutely warranted by the deputies.

Docobo, who was contrite after we discovered the first wheel chair dumping incident with Brian Sterner, said at the time it was an aberration and not the way they did business.

We asked if the sheriff's office should have shared that another person was taken to ground, but Docobo says they weren't aware.

Critics say top brass should have been aware this time because, unlike the Sterner case, there was an incident report filed about this wheel chair dumping. It says Rayburn, who wanted to go to the infirmary, became extremely agitated as he was told he would have to stay in his cell. The report says he screamed profanities, made a swiping motion with an unknown object and then threw it at the deputy.

Docobo says this is a case where the deputies deliberately took him to the ground for just cause; he presented an immediate danger to the deputy.

But Attorney John Trevena, who is handling both cases, says it is incredibly hard to believe that those who run the sheriff's office weren't aware of another wheel chair dumping and he says it is indefensible.

Trevena says the testimony of the deputies contradicts what's seen on the video.

And Rayburn's mother says she will not let the sheriff's office off the hook. She says she will be asking for justice.

But unless some other agency investigates the incident, the sheriff's office contends Rayburn got justice when he was dumped out his wheel chair onto the floor.

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