The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office arrested, and quickly terminated, former deputy Eric Ireland and charged him with Official Misconduct and Perjury. The police reports have been released, and the allegations are even crazier than the charges indicated.
According to reports, a man who turned out to be the husband of the woman Eric Ireland was having an affair with was arrested for drug possession in Fort Myers on August 13. On August 20, the woman, Sara*, contacted the Charlotte County Sheriff’s office to say that she believed that then-deputy Ireland had planted drugs on her husband, leading to the arrest, and CCSO quickly began an investigation. When they contacted detectives in Fort Myers, red flags went up pretty quickly.
Fort Myers detectives stopped and searched the husband based on information they received from Deputy Ireland, which he had claimed came from a confidential informant. But Detectives thought it was weird when he called them back asking that his name be kept out of the paperwork.
CCSO investigators kept digging, and more and more holes appeared in the story. First, Ireland denied being present for the investigation; claiming to be in Charlotte County. But FMPD Detectives saw a black Mercedes circling the area of the stop, and saw the driver of the car laughing in a child-like manner (that’s what the report says… I picture peals of maniacal laughter). Ireland initially denied that he knew anything about the car, but a couple of Fort Myers detectives were able to identify him as the driver.
Ireland also denied knowing who was involved with the stop, and later denied that he know Sara. She told investigators that they started dating a while back, and had had a sexual relationship, and that he exhibited disturbing behavior: showing up where she worked, where her kid went to school, and even making traffic stops on people she knew. She ultimately broke off the relationship because her husband was getting out of prison, and she wanted to try to reestablish her marriage. But Ireland kept up the contact, and even asked to borrow the husband’s truck a few weeks earlier.
Investigators talked to Ireland, and he kept lying about his involvement with teh case. Investigators also made controlled phone calls with the assistance of Sara, wherein he admitted to lying to investigators, and told Sara another set of lies to try to make it look like he had nothing to do with the arrest. The husband vehemently and consistently denied any knowledge of the drugs when he was arrested. Ireland apparently had the motive, the access to the truck where the drugs were found, and specific knowledge of the location of the drugs, based on the information he gave FMPD.
There is substantial evidence suggesting that he planted the drugs, but probably not enough to prove it in court. However, once the information became known, prosecutors dropped the charges against the husband, though he had already spent 10 days in jail at that point. It will be tough for Ireland to be charged with anything else related to the drugs will make it tough for drug charges to be filed, though he could potentially face a civil rights charge like former LCSO deputy Michael Ronga. Also disturbing is a report that another woman has complained that Ireland was stalking her while he was on duty.
I do commend the CCSO office for taking quick, decisive action to try to make right the fact that one of their own was breaking the law, and to get the wrongly arrested man out of jail as quickly as possible. Public trust in law enforcement is at an historical low, and high-profile local cases, such as the FMPD police chief’s dishonesty and the Ronga case further decay our trust in law enforcement. That’s why accountability and transparency are paramount to rebuild the trust.
*We decided not to publish her, or her husband’s, last name