Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Suspended Hillsborough detention deputy was accused before

By Kevin Graham, Times Staff Writer

Published Thursday, February 5, 2009


TAMPA — A year ago, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office defended detention Deputy Milton Fassett when an inmate said he broke her arm.

The woman's attorney watched with interest this week as the Sheriff's Office announced it suspended Fassett for five days for using unnecessary force with a different female inmate.

Attorney Luke Lirot said Wednesday that the Sheriff's Office is discussing a settlement with former inmate Charlana Irving, who threatened to sue the agency over her broken arm.

This week, the Sheriff's Office announced it had punished Fassett for using excessive force while transferring Katiria Baez from one jail to another. Baez, 23, never complained. But a routine review triggered the internal affairs investigation that led to Fassett's suspension.

Lirot said news of Fassett's most recent actions bolsters his client's claims of mistreatment by the deputy. Irving, 29, is permanently disfigured because of her injuries, Lirot said. Her arms are no longer the same length.

Jail video showed Fassett twisting Irving's arm behind her back inside a booking cell in May 2007. An X-ray later revealed that the arm was broken.

The Sheriff's Office said at the time that it was impossible to determine whether Irving broke her arm before or after contact with law enforcement. Fassett was cleared of wrongdoing.

Irving's was one of a string of allegations of jail abuse against Hillsborough deputies that spilled out after a deputy dumped a quadriplegic from his wheelchair.

An independent panel spent six months reviewing the county's jails and called the wheelchair incident an anomaly. Nevertheless, the committee recommended improvements.

Sheriff's officials plan to send Fassett to additional training before allowing him to resume contact with inmates.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this story

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