Fla. deputy in wheelchair incident resigns
The Associated Press
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By Josh Poltilove
The Tampa Tribune
TAMPA - Charlette Marshall-Jones, the detention deputy who dropped a quadriplegic man out of a wheelchair last month, has resigned, Hillsborough County deputies say.
Sheriff David Gee accepted her resignation today, but an Internal Affairs investigation is still ongoing, a sheriff's office news release says.
On Jan. 29, video cameras recorded Marshall-Jones raising the back of a wheelchair and sending Brian Sterner to the floor. Sterner, 32, of Riverview, was taken to the jail on a warrant stemming from a traffic violation.
Marshall-Jones, 44, submitted her resignation Friday and turned herself in at Orient Road Jail on Saturday morning. Deputies arrested her on a charge of abuse of a disabled person, records show.
"She didn't want to get fired, which was inevitable. It's as simple as that," said her attorney, Norman Cannella Sr. "With all the furor that was caused over this and the position the sheriff and staff have taken, you've got to be a complete idiot to think that she wouldn't be fired."
Gee first saw her resignation e-mail today, according to the sheriff's office.
The 22-year veteran will receive retirement benefits, Cannella said.
The Department of Management Services, which handles the Florida Retirement System, still has her listed as a current employee, said Linda McDonald, a spokeswoman with the department. Marshall-Jones or the sheriff's office has to request an audit through the department to learn how much her current retirement benefit will be.
If she had stayed employed until March 2011, her lifetime retirement benefits would have been more than $4,100 a month, McDonald said.
Soon after learning about the wheelchair incident, Cannella said defending Marshall-Jones in court wouldn't be easy. But after meeting with her and hearing her story, he said defending her was clearly the right thing to do.
"She came and talked to me, and after I listened to her, I became interested and encouraged," he said.
Cannella, who has represented other law enforcement officers charged with crimes, wouldn't talk in specifics about what happened or was said prior to the wheelchair incident.
He said in trial, though, they will piece together the things that were said that weren't recorded.
"This is a picture, a video, that needs a thousand words," he said. "The thousand words are missing."
Sterner's attorney, John Trevena, said his client denies provoking Marshall-Jones prior to the incident.
But even if there had been provocation, Trevena said, it wouldn't matter.
"Verbal provocation is never a legal defense to battering an individual or abusing an individual," he said. "It's not legally relevant to the acts of a detention deputy."
Cannella said his client would not speak to the media.
"Everybody is giving her an opportunity, and we've declined everyone," he said.
A former prosecutor, Cannella has handled a number of high-profile cases. He has represented former
Tampa police Chief Bennie Holder on a sexual harassment complaint and Bubba the Love Sponge Clem on an animal cruelty charge.
Sterner said Friday that Marshall-Jones tried to make him stand even though he couldn't and that he was working hard to control his emotions and his actions throughout the incident.
Sterner and Trevena have said there is a second incident of abuse involving him at the jail that involved Marshall-Jones and another person. They would not elaborate on the incident, which occurred while Sterner was being fingerprinted and wasn't caught on camera.
Cannella said today that he wasn't familiar with a second incident.
Marshall-Jones, who was released from jail Saturday, is a good person, Cannella said.
"She's as concerned as any human being would be in a situation like this," Cannella said. "She's heartbroken."
Copyright 2008 The Tampa Tribune