Report: Broward County Sheriff accused of lying on initial police application about felony drug use

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BROWARD COUNTY, FL – Earlier this month, Law Enforcement Today reported on a Florida sheriff who had not disclosed his self-defense killing of a man when he was a teenager before applying to be a police officer.

Now, we have discovered that there are even more layers to the Sheriff’s questionable applications.

Sheriff Gregory Tony was forced to shoot and kill a home invader when he was 14 years old. It was quickly ruled that the shooting was in self-defense and completely justified. However, the now-Sheriff did not feel the need to disclose the incident on any of his law enforcement applications.

More on that incident in the second half of this article.

Last week, it was revealed that Tony did not disclose LSD drug use on his application for the first department he worked for, Coral Springs Police Department. 

The Sun-Sentinel reported that Tony was rejected from the Tallahassee Police Department for his self-reported, one-time LSD use. He appealed the decision but the department stood firm saying that any felony drug use was a disqualifier for employment, which is true at many police departments.

With that information in mind, the Sun-Sentinel also reported that Tony withheld the information from the next applications he turned in.

Specifically, he answered “no” to the question asking if he had ever used hallucinogens or ever handled that type of drug in some way.

In a radio interview last Wednesday on “First News with Jimmy Cefalo,” Tony said that he’s been targeted on a “smear campaign” and “political slandering.”

There are 11 candidates in total running for Broward County Sheriff for the 2020 election.

He alleged that the smearing is due to his race.

“I hate to say this, but for every time there is a minority candidate for any position of power, the first thing they want to do is portray you as having a gun in your hand, or needle in your arm, or some financial problems.”

The Sun-Sentinel reported:

“In November 2003, he applied to the Tallahassee Police Department and admitted using LSD in 1995 and marijuana in 1995 and 1996 on his application…

“When Tony applied for his job at Coral Springs, he left out his admitted LSD use, according to application forms submitted to that agency.

“His application said he had used marijuana in the early 1990s. He also wrote ‘no’ when asked specifically in two questions about hallucinogen use. One question asked, ‘Have you ever handled any other drugs (Ecstasy, prescriptions, etc.)? If yes, was it job related?’ He replied, ‘No.’

“Tony also provided the department with the names of agencies that he had sought jobs with. But he left out that he had applied to Tallahassee police and that the department had rejected him, the Coral Springs police records show.”

The Sun-Sentinel also reported that Tony didn’t disclose having written a bad check on the Coral Springs application either.

However, with regards to the check, Tony wrote a letter to then-Chief Duncan Foster to apologize and say that he was unaware of the offense until the background check. Tony said he was trying to buy school books for college at the time the check was written.

For whatever reason, Foster told the newspaper that he wouldn’t have hired him if he had known not about the shooting incident Tony was involved in, despite the fact that Tony shot in defense of himself and his brother and that the person he shot was an intruder in his home.

Sheriff Tony was appointed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to replace former Sheriff Scott Israel, who allegedly mishandled both the 2017 Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport mass shooting and the Parkland High School mass shooting in 2018.

An investigation is now open regarding Sheriff Tony and the possibility of him lying on official paperwork.

Another update is that a lawsuit against Tony by one of his deputies, who is also the president of the BSO Deputies’ Association, Jeff Bell, has been dismissed.

Bell had spoken out against the Sheriff and the department’s lack of PPE and was subsequently suspended. Bell sued Tony saying that he retaliated against him.

The judge in the case ruled that Bell was unable to prove that he suffered “an adverse employment action” because of the suspension. 

A statement from the union said, in part:

“The sheriff shut down the union’s pleas to work together by threatening to discipline President Bell. The court found that threat was not enough to support the lawsuit at this point. But in the court’s order, the union has been given the green light to speak without fear of job discipline.”

After the judge dismissed the case, a BSO spokesperson issued a statement, which read, in part:

“The federal court agreed with the position of the Broward Sheriff’s Office that Deputy Jeff Bell has not suffered any adverse employment action as a result of his suspension with pay while he is investigated for charges related to truthfulness, corrupt practices, employee statements, conduct unbecoming an employee and discretion.”

Here’s the original story brought to you by LET.

It’s unbelievable how dirty politics can get… and that appears to be the case with a new report leaked out about Florida Sheriff Gregory Tony.

It just came to light that when he was 14 years old, he shot and killed a man in self-defense.  At the time, his family was living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

“When it enters your home, when it is feet away from you and someone is trying to kill you, that’s when it really resonated I have to do something to get out of this community,” Gregory told NBC Miami.

It came to light through the online watchdog publication Floridabulldog.org. 

The publication reported that the shooting took place back in 1993 and came after a “verbal altercation” between Tony and a man named Hector Rodriguez.

“Hector was out in the community, a verbal argument occurred and he pulled a gun from his waistband and threatened to shoot and kill both of us and I was 14 and my brother couldn’t have been 15, 16 years of age we were frightened to death,” Tony told the media.

He said it was an incredibly traumatic incident.  He also said he had no choice but to act in self-defense to protect his own life and that of his brother.

“Took off we ran into a house, he followed us into the home, I grabbed my father’s gun, and fortunately I was able to shoot him before he shot us,” Tony said. 

Right after the shooting, his father took him to the police station.  The shooting was quickly determined to be justified.

A reporter from NBC 6 asked Tony if he disclosed it on his application with the Coral Springs Police Department.  That’s where he started his law enforcement career. 

He pointed out there was no need to.

“It asked me had I been arrested and the reality of what it is I checked no because I have never been arrested.

This process that took place in Pennsylvania under the juvenile justice system, there is a matter of determining if I did anything wrong,” Tony said. 

Early last year, Tony was appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis as Broward County Sheriff.  He replaced embattled Sheriff Scott Israel. 

And while he said it didn’t come up during his interview for the position of Sheriff, he and the governor have since discussed it.

“The Governor understood. He said, ‘look, from a legal standpoint you did what you had to do to survive,’ and he encouraged me to stay focused on doing the right thing for this community and not letting political opposition and slandering keep me from safeguarding the nearly 2 million people here,” said Tony. 

The sheriff is of the believe that the incident came up for political reasons. 

There are a total of 11 candidates running for BSO sheriff in the 2020 election.

It’s not the first headache he’s been dealing with.

He came under fire in April after a sheriff’s deputy, who serves as the local union president, was suspended with pay on April 10th by the sheriff himself.

The deputy’s attorney says this is a whistleblower retaliation; while the sheriff claims the deputy tried to politicize the passing of a deputy who died from COVID-19.

Deputy Jeff Bell from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office is at the center of this controversial clash. Deputy Bell isn’t just a deputy for the BCSO, he’s the president of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association.

The deputy had recently cited concerns publicly regarding the accessibility of PPE within the BCSO. Namely, his concerns pointed toward the BCSO’s Sheriff Gregory Tony. It would be hard not to make the connection of sorts, as to critique a sheriff’s office is essentially critiquing the sheriff.

Sheriff Tony did not take the criticism lightly. On April 7th, Sheriff Tony addressed the press and referred to Deputy Bell’s criticism as damaging to internal relations:

“It has impacted the confidence in the community as to whether or not we are prepared. It has also impacted the nature of the camaraderie within this agency and this has been sparked off by a member who is supposed to represent the very best of our organization, which is our law enforcement personnel, who put their lives on the frontline.”

Sheriff Tony went as far as to describe Deputy Bell as a “rogue” employee, and that he was trying to politicize the recent passing of Deputy Shannon Bennett who recently died from COVID-19.

With the BCSO handling the suspension, and internal affairs getting involved, Deputy Bell isn’t able to comment any further on the suspension. What was cited as the reasoning for the Sheriff suspending Deputy Bell with pay was as follows:

  • Truthfulness
  • Corrupt Practices
  • Employee Statements
  • Conduct Unbecoming
  • Discretion

Yet, does merely questioning the level of preparedness of the BCSO with regard to PPE and COVID-19 really require such a response?

Deputy Bell’s attorney, Eric T. Schwartzreich, tends to think the suspension was over the top:

“Jeff Bell was suspended with pay because he was trying to make sure our deputies have personal protection equipment.”

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Murdered officer's grave desecrated before headstone even placed

Not only does Schwartzreich find the suspension to be unwarranted, he claims that it’s a violation of law for the sheriff to do so:

“To suspend someone when they are looking out for first responders is against the law, reprehensible and actionable. Jeff was exercising his first amendment rights as a whistleblower. He was acting in the best interest of his deputies, first responders and the community as a whole.”

When looking into some of the controversial commentary provided by Deputy Bell, prior to his suspension, he made a handful of statements like the following:

“If you look at 5,500 employees [of the BCSO] with 25,000 N95 masks, that means you are looking at four to five masks per person in the agency since February. Is that enough masks in your mind?

Days after Deputy Bell made those comments, Sheriff Tony got before news cameras to show him dispersing PPE to sheriff’s office personnel.

It seems that the press display enacted by Sheriff Tony hasn’t resonated well with the community. Some are even implying he’s guilty of the very things he suspended Deputy Bell over.

One Facebook user commented:

“Over two months after the pandemic started and congratulations on two firsts today Sheriff Tony, the first Sheriff in the State of Florida to have a press conference and photo op while handling out masks to his deputies and the first Sheriff in the History of Florida to suspend a Union President for voicing safety concerns for the deputies the union represents, this too will backfire on you….”

So, who is right and who is wrong here?

Is Sheriff Tony seemingly retaliating for having criticism directed toward him internally, or was Deputy Bell out of line by speculating on the BCSO’s level of preparedness?

Time will tell as this unfolds. 

_

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