State - INACTIVE

Florida prison beating caught on camera, posted on YouTube leads to arrests of 3 officers

A leaked group chat shows Department of Corrections personnel discussing the beating.
A leaked group chat shows Department of Corrections personnel discussing the beating.

A Florida prison captain and two correctional officers at Lake Correctional Institution were arrested and fired Wednesday following a beating that was captured earlier this month on a contraband cellphone and uploaded to YouTube.

Capt. Milton Gass, a 12-year veteran, was hit with two charges of felony perjury and three counts of felony solicitation to commit perjury. Despite the arrest affidavit stating that Gass put an inmate in a chokehold, he was not charged with battery.

Officer Hunter Lingo, hired in June 2017, is being charged with principal to malicious battery, a third-degree felony. Officer Joshua Petersilge, hired September 2016, is being charged with one count of the same.

According to an affidavit, Gass’ perjury charges stemmed from submitting a false use-of-force report. Gass also “commanded, encouraged, or requested” four correctional officers to submit false use-of-force reports that he had written for them, according to the document.

Florida Department Secretary Mark Inch said in a statement that the investigation is not over.

“We took immediate action to terminate the employees arrested today following the criminal charges brought against them,” Inch said. “The Florida Department of Corrections will not tolerate inmate abuse at any level.”

All three of the officers arrested on Wednesday were identified by the Florida Times-Union in leaked group chats that appear to show several officers discussing the July 8 incident.

Lingo was identified in the leaked group chat titled “A Shift Creww [sic]” saying ”[Expletive him].” Petersilge was identified saying “Lmfao. All that over a piece of a charger.”

In the chat, Gass directs the officers to meet at his office and gives one officer a phone number to call. The Times-Union called that phone number last week, but the person who answered hung up when a reporter identified himself. A member of the chat whom the Times-Union identified as Officer Joseph James said “I want more lol” in the leaked screenshots. He was identified by investigators as being involved in the use-of-force incident but not charged with a crime in the affidavit.

The affidavit mentions a statement by Gass made in a use-of-force report that he recovered a USB cellphone charger from the inmate’s sock. In a sworn, recorded interview, James “acknowledged he did not witness” Gass finding the charger, according to the document.

The affidavit does not name Otis Miller as the person who was beaten by Gass and others, but Miller was identified by his sister and a state representative.

Gass did not report the fact that Petersilge stomped and kicked the inmate, or that Miller was punched by an unidentified officer “at least 12 times on the ribs,” according to the affidavit. He did not mention that the inmate was struck in the face, “A fact that he knew as evidenced by a social media chat he had with the officers, where he told them: ‘FYI inmate [redacted].’ ”

The investigation, conducted by the department’s Office of Inspector General, was initiated after the Times-Union reported the beating surfacing on YouTube.

Ben Conarck: (904) 359-4103



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