Is that a gator in your pants, or are you just happy to see me?
A couple in Charlotte County were pulled over when they failed to come to a complete stop at a stop sign in the wee hours of the morning. The deputy gave them a warning for the sign and asked where they were coming from. They told him they’d been collecting frogs and snakes. The deputy then asked them if he could see what they caught, to make sure they were complying with the rules. The woman opened a backpack to reveal 42 small turtles; one softshell and the rest three-striped mud turtles. The deputy then asked her if she had anything else, and she pulled a foot long alligator out of her yoga pants!
More inmates died in Florida prisons last year than any year in history.
The death rate spiked 20 percent.
Charlotte Correctional Institute has had a spate of questionable inmate deaths, most recently Brodrick Campbell.
Yesterday, reporter Sarah Blaskey at the Miami Herald published an in-depth exposé on the recent spike in prison deaths among inmates of Florida’s Department of Corrections (DOC). More inmates died last year while incarcerated in Florida’s prison than any year on record. The increase in deaths is particularly shocking, in that Florida’s crime and incarceration rates have been on the decline for several years. Charlotte Correctional Institute (CCI), just south of Punta Gorda, has been one of the leading facilities for inmate deaths.
There are not answers for the increased death rate, and many of the deaths are still under investigation- or the results have not been published. One possible explanation proposed by DOC that many of the deaths are caused by drug overdoses in prison. Drugs and contraband in prison have always been a problem, and addiction and overdoses have been on the rise outside of prison, as well. Unfortunately, there are few rehabilitation programs in jail, and drug addiction frequently goes untreated, though drugs are quite often a factor in the underlying crime that lead to incarceration.
One of the cases discussed was the death of Brodrick Campbell, an inmate we’ve discussed here. This young man was found dead under curious circumstances at Charlotte Correctional last year. The case is still under investigation, and the official word is that he committed suicide, which immediately struck me as odd for such a young man. A review of his case discovered that he was only sentenced to prison for three years, was a minimum security inmate, and had less than two years remaining. His family has since described a family man, who had young children who would often visit him. The explanation of suicide doesn’t make sense, and his relatives certainly don’t believe it. Based on previous history, there is a real fear that this or other deaths have come at the hands of guards.
Answers for this crisis are difficult, as it is for the problems at Juvenile Justice. DOC guards are underpaid, and for that reason retention is low. That means DOC trains them, but the good ones don’t stay, and often leave for other job: often better paying jobs in county jails, and DOC has to start all over with new hires. Accountability needs to increase as well: investigations need to lead to consequences, unlike the infamous Matthew Walker situation at CCI. It’s troubling to hear that video surveillance ends up missing, and investigations drag on for years without satisfactory explanation. Kudos to Ms. Blaskey, the Miami Herald,, and the Charlotte Sun, who has also had award-winning coverage of the issue.
Yet another inmate has died at Charlotte Correctional Institute. The News-Press reports this is the fifth inmate death this year, several of which are still apparently under investigation. That’s on top of three more last year, and several more in recent years. One of the earlier deaths was ruled a homicide at the hands of the guards, but no charges were brought. This raises yet more questions, still with few answers.
Reports indicate the latest death was a local man, Broderick Campbell, from Fort Myers. He was serving only a 3-year sentence for Burglary and Theft from a conviction last year in Lee County, and DOC records indicate he was a minimum security inmate. His sentencing Scoresheet did not indicate any criminal history other than this charge. He initially was placed on probation, but got violated and ultimately sent to prison where he had less than two years remaining until his release.
A spate of troublesome deaths has continued this year at Charlotte Correctional Institute. Most recently, it was just revealed that inmate Antonio Kirkland was reported dead on July 10, 2017. The report was released Thursday, with no details on how he died. News-Press reporter Melissa Montoya was able to extract a telling quote from FDLE spokesperson Jessica Cary, who pointedly stated, “We don’t normally investigate deaths of natural causes.” Kirkland was serving life in prison for armed robbery, in addition to attempted murder and other charges in Pinellas.
Kirkland’s death is the second to be investigated this year at CCI. In May, a 37-year-old inmate named Cesar Ruano, a.k.a. “El Diablo”, was found dead, and no information was released to date. Ruano was serving life in prison for a first-degree murder out of Miami-Dade. The News-Press article indicates there was an investigation for this death, and as Ms. Cary pointed out, they don’t usually investigate deaths of natural causes. While FDLE and DOC have not released any information, a person claiming to be Ruano’s brother commented on a Facebook post, claiming that he died in solitary confinement, crying for help.
There was another inmate death earlier this year, making Kirkland’s at least the third at CCI this year. 48-year-old Michael Diffenderfer passed away suddenly in April at CCI. He had been serving consecutive life sentences for murder and armed robbery from Palm Beach. The cause of death in his case has been reported to be natural: pulmonary embolism as a result of deep vein thrombosis. That’s according to Diffenderfer’s ex-wife… FDLE did not publicly release any information regarding that death either. We don’t have any suggestion that his death was suspicious, but no official word from FDLE, either.
The News-Press says that FDLE is still investigating three deaths from last year (2016), and another from 2015. Including the two from the last couple months, that’s six troublesome cases that are apparently still under investigation. That doesn’t include the 2014 death of Matthew Walker, who’s death was determined to be a homicide at the hands of correctional officers, but for which the State failed to secure an indictment, due in part to a botched investigation and/or cover-up. That means more than 10 criminal probes in the last few years. Coverage of that case, and others, garnered at Pulitzer Prize for the Charlotte Sun. But even their award-winning writing has not led to answers for the ongoing spate of inmate deaths. Nor has it brought an end to the growing body-count piling up at Charlotte Correctional Institute.
Today, a Charlotte County Jury found David McMannis guilty in the 2001 murder of teenager Tara Sidarovich. It was ten years before he and codefendant Phillip Barr were charged in the case. Barr was previously convicted at trial, and sentenced to life. After trial, the judge sentenced McMannis to life in prison for the crime. This kind of case is extremely difficult for prosecutors, as it was a cold case for several years, but justice has finally been served.
Two veteran deputies were fired this week from the Charlotte County Sheriff’s office, and Sheriff Prummel commented at his press conference that they should have known better in light of their many years on the force. I was talking about the cases today with an associate, and I was reminded that there was also a case not long ago that involved stalking-related allegations.
Former CCSO Deputy Eric Ireland
Just a year ago, CCSO Deputy Eric Ireland was fired after his arrest for Official Misconduct and Perjury. He was accused by his ex-girlfriend of planting drugs on her husband, after several stalking-type behaviors that caused her to break off the affair. The story is really crazy, it’s worth clicking through for the backstory. I checked the system, and it appears that Mr. Ireland accepted a plea deal to misdemeanor perjury charge and avoided a felony conviction.
One of the allegations against against Anthony Nardi involved “potential stalking” of an off-and-on girlfriend: using the DAVID Florida Driver Database to look into men she may have been seeing. They have GPS tracking his whereabouts and the ex ultimately filed a trespass warning to keep him away from her house.
That constitutes a second creepy, stalker-like episode with another CCSO Deputy. Sheriff Prummell decried the “rash of stupid” at the force, but when it’s multiple deputies doing similar things over a period of time, there is concern that it’s not a rash, but a pattern. I commend Sheriff Prummell for acting decisively and terminating each of these troublemakers. The best way to discourage improper behavior is to show, in no uncertain terms, what standards deputies are expected to meet, and that there is no tolerance for lawbreakers.
Sgt. Lance Holden was fired after an investigation for an incident at a Grove City bar where he allegedly pushed another man. Deputy Anthony Nardi was fired for allegations of domestic violence and misuse of the DAVID (Florida Driver) database.
The Sheriff wants to stress that the misdeeds of a couple officers do not equate to problems with the rest of the force. Bad cops do occur. Prummell also said, “In the last several months, I’ve had several deputies do some really stupid crap, but ultimately, what we’ve seen time and time again, that our community has stood behind us.” It’s encouraging that Sheriff Prummell is discouraging misbehavior by calling it out, and holding the subpar deputies accountable.