Prosecutors turn focus to
Timothy O'Hara STAFF WRITER
(MANATEE COUNTY, Fla.) -- Federal prosecutors are continuing their investigation into the Manatee County sheriff's Delta unit, turning their attention to a former sergeant.
Several sheriff's officials recently went before the federal grand jury in Tampa and were asked questions about former Delta Sgt. David Livingston, sources close to the investigation said.
Shortly after the grand jury met, Livingston quit his job at the sheriff's jail farm near Port Manatee. He was accused at the time of driving his sheriff-issued vehicle out of the county, in violation of department rules.
It was the latest in a series of acts that violated sheriff's policies, officials said.
The federal prosecutors' two-year investigation into the sheriff's anti- drug unit appears to be slowing down. Some sheriff's officials believe that the allegations against Livingston will be hard to prove and that federal prosecutors are putting pressure on Livingston in a last-ditch effort to uncover any corruption that hasn't already surfaced.
The federal investigation so far has led to six former deputies accepting pleas in federal court on various charges of civil rights violations, evidence planting and theft. Five of the deputies have been sentenced to federal prison, and one is awaiting sentencing.
Sheriff's officials who went before the federal grand jury shortly before Thanksgiving were asked about Livingston's actions while he was a drug investigations supervisor for the Delta unit.
A 1998 internal investigation by sheriff's officials revealed that Livingston allowed a Bradenton prostitute to fondle him while he was on duty. The investigation also found that he illegally taped telephone conversations his wife made, because he thought she was having an affair, records show.
However, new allegations have surfaced that Livingston repeatedly received oral sex from the prostitute, Violet Petralia, sources said.
Sheriff's Office internal affairs investigator Ed Judy was called before the federal grand jury and asked about the relationship between Livingston and Petralia. He also was asked if Petralia ever told investigators that she engaged in oral sex with Livingston, sources said.
Petralia never told Judy or any other internal investigators that she engaged in oral sex with Livingston, records show.
Sheriff's Maj. Brad Steube, who conducted the internal investigation of Livingston, was questioned in front of the grand jury about the taped conversations Livingston made, sources said.
If the allegations made by federal authorities are true, Livingston could be charged with illegal wire tapping and civil rights violations, including abuse of power.
Livingston did not return repeated phone calls last week. His attorney, John Fitzgibbons, would not comment on the case.
After the 1998 internal investigation, Livingston was demoted to his job at the jail, where he lost the power to make arrests and participate in investigations.
Investigators brought the charges of illegal wire tapping to the State Attorney's Office, but Livingston's wife, Margaret, declined to press charges.
Livingston started as a complaint taker with the Sheriff's Office in 1978. He worked as a correction's deputy and then a patrol deputy.
He worked on three separate occasions in the sheriff's Delta unit, the last time as a sergeant in the mid-level investigations unit.
The federal investigation into the Delta unit was sparked by the 1998 beating of suspected drug dealer Larren Wade. Since then, Lance Carpenter, Christopher Wilson, Paul Maass, Thomas Wooten and Wayne Wyckoff have pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy, drug and civil rights violations. Former road deputy Christopher L. Moore pleaded guilty to conspiracy and civil rights violations.
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