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Crosby tried to halt inquiry, state says

The Corrections Department's ex-chief pressured an employee to try to get his father to stop an investigation, the state says.

Published March 14, 2006

TALLAHASSEE - State investigators say former state Corrections Secretary James V. Crosby tried to halt a criminal investigation into his agency by threatening retaliation against Brad Tunnell, son of Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Guy Tunnell.

According to state documents, the younger Tunnell, who worked as a $40,000-a-year corrections consultant, was told by Crosby that if he didn't persuade his father to conclude an inquiry into the Department of Corrections then Brad Tunnell himself would face scrutiny.

Ultimately, Brad Tunnell was investigated by corrections officials. He resigned last week rather than take a demotion after officials reviewed his role in a brawl following a prison softball game.

According to Brad Tunnell's testimony, Crosby invited him to Clyde's, a popular hangout of the Tallahassee elite, and urged him to intervene. Several witnesses confirmed that Crosby and Tunnell had a private conversation in a booth at the bar on Aug. 22, 2005, but no one has admitted hearing what was said.

Crosby denied to investigators that he threatened Tunnell, insisting that he merely warned Tunnell to "be real careful" and expressed concern that others would think he was getting preferential treatment because of his father.

FDLE investigators have closed the inquiry into the matter after prosecutors declined to pursue a prosecution "at this time."

A few days after the gathering at Clyde's, Brad Tunnell, 31, reported the incident to his father and later gave a sworn statement to FDLE investigators who have been pursuing a criminal investigation into steroid trafficking, theft and misappropriation of state property and other crimes allegedly committed by high-ranking corrections officials.

Crosby denied threatening Tunnell when law enforcement officers questioned him on Nov. 8, but the following day, investigators at the Department of Corrections started a belated investigation of Brad Tunnell over an incident that occurred after a prison softball game in Jacksonville on May 14, 2005.

"It does look like retaliation," said Harry L. Harper, a Panama City lawyer representing Brad Tunnell.

The complaint against Brad Tunnell arose from a scuffle in a motel parking lot involving several corrections officers.

Harper says Tunnell was simply defending himself after another man punched him.

No one investigated the altercation at the time and no one filed a complaint, Harper noted.

Several of the other officers involved in the fight said Tunnell was "wrestling around" with a man who swung at Tunnell first.

That incident is one of two brawls among corrections officers who played on softball teams that have since been eliminated by interim Corrections Secretary James McDonough.

Several of the officers, including Crosby's friend, Allen Clark, were charged with battery last year, but prosecutors dropped the charges after they were unable to determine exactly what happened.

Some of the officers have since been fired or demoted.

In his sworn statement, Crosby told state investigators his agency did not conduct investigations into incidents like the fights, but merely accepted the result of law enforcement investigations. No one called the police after the Jacksonville incident.

Crosby declined to comment when reached late Monday.

--Times staff writer Steve Bousquet contributed to this report.

[Last modified March 14, 2006, 00:54:19]

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