FL deputy forces push-ups, kicks inmate who tossed cookie
A brief moment of generosity turned into an abusive and unlawful punishment for one inmate at a Florida jail.
The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office announced that it has terminated deputy James Moran, 57, for his involvement in the incident. The six-year veteran was caught on video kicking an inmate he had ordered to do push-ups as punishment for tossing a cookie to a bird.
“We have an absolute responsibility to these inmates as to their care, custody and control of their well-being,” said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who held a press conference to address “one of the stupidest things (he’s) ever seen” Tuesday.
According to a news release, the incident occurred on Jan. 11 at the Pinellas County Jail, but the inmate didn’t make a complaint until he completed his sentence and was released from jail on April 16, fearing further retaliation from Moran.
In the video, the victim is seen along with two other inmates dumping trash into a larger receptacle when one of them tosses a cookie to a bird that landed nearby.
“For most people and anybody that’s got any dose of common sense, reality or perspective, it’s not a big deal. Whatever. The inmate fed a cookie that was going into the dumpster to a bird,” said Gualtieri. “But apparently all of those things that I just described, Deputy Moran doesn’t have.”
What happened next is what cost Moran his job and landed him behind bars. The footage depicts Moran asking who threw the cookie and forcing them “to drop and give him 50.” The inmate complies and does more than 20 push-ups, but when he struggles to go any further, Moran kicks him in the side.
“We don’t do that. No. 1, is we don’t have any inmates do any form of physical labor, physical punishment,” Gualtieri said. “There was nothing to punish him for and even if there was a rule violation, there are policies and procedures to go through in the jail for disciplinary review for inmates that violate the rules — it goes through a process.”
“I’m kind of speechless on it because it’s so ridiculous. It is so outside the bounds,” he continued. “It is such misconduct. Anybody and everybody out there knows that we don’t treat people this way.”
Moran was arrested Tuesday morning and charged with one count of simple battery. According to jail records, he posted his $500 bond and was released later that afternoon.
Another deputy who was also supervising the inmates and present during the incident is now the subject of an internal affairs investigation, Gualtieri announced.