Deputy's conduct a crime?
Prosecutors look into Daniel Brock's handling of DUI arrests.
By COLLEEN JENKINS
Published June 19, 2007
TAMPA - The Hillsborough State Attorney's Office is investigating whether a former sheriff's deputy who made questionable drunken driving arrests should face criminal charges.
Daniel Brock earned praise as an aggressive watchdog during his four years on a Hillsborough Sheriff's Office DUI squad. But his tactics led to his firing May 24 after an internal review found that he arrested 58 people with blood-alcohol content below the level at which state law presumes a driver impaired, often without evidence of suspicious driving behavior, positive urine samples or video to back his claims.
In the fall, after reviewing a case where Brock submitted contradictory reports, a high-ranking prosecutor said his actions met "the element of a crime" but recommended that the matter be handled administratively by the Sheriff's Office.
Sheriff's investigators subsequently conducted an internal audit. Prosecutors learned of its findings in the St. Petersburg Times and decided to take a closer look, Assistant State Attorney Pam Bondi said.
"We have asked them to provide us with a copy of this audit as well as any other additional information they now possess that may implicate Deputy Brock in any crime, " Bondi said Monday.
Attorneys for Brock could not be reached on Monday.
The man whose DUI arrest sparked the internal investigation welcomed news that prosecutors were conducting their own review.
"No matter who you are, if you break the law you should be prosecuted, " Kristopher Amos said. "It's only fair."
The scope of potential wrongdoing and its implications for pending DUI cases is unclear. At least 31 of Brock's cases were unresolved as of Oct. 6 when the State Attorney's Office excused him from responding to court subpoenas issued by that office, according to an internal report.
Prosecutors developed concerns about Brock, 38, at least two years ago.
In July 2005, misdemeanor prosecutor Jill Hamel wrote a memo to her supervisor about inconsistencies in Brock's statements regarding his involvement in a DUI investigation, records from the Sheriff's Office internal investigation show.
On Sept. 6, 2006, then-misdemeanor bureau chief Sandra Spoto told internal affairs Detective Bruce Crumpler that she had known of issues with Brock's handling of cases for as long as a year.
She noted a trend: Brock, she said, tended to arrest "a high number of Hispanics" in eastern Hillsborough County on DUI charges. Far too many of those people, Spoto said, had low amounts of alcohol in their systems, alcohol-free urine tests and descriptions of failed sobriety exercises that did not match the videos of those arrests.
Also on Sept. 6, prosecutors provided Crumpler with information about Amos' case.
Previously, in mid August, Brock contacted Assistant State Attorney Jennifer Palacios and told her that the original report he filed for Amos' July 17 arrest was inaccurate.
"The first two pages showed the defendant being more intoxicated than he truly was, " Brock told Palacios, according to records.
He then hand-delivered the State Attorney's Office an amended report. The second report said that Amos properly performed some of the field sobriety tests that Brock's original report said he failed but gave new examples of exercises Amos couldn't perform.
Crumpler reviewed videotape from the arrest and found errors in Brock's amended report, according to internal affairs records.
As a result of the contradictions, the State Attorney's Office dropped the charges against Amos, Palacios said in a letter to Crumpler. In total, prosecutors dropped charges in 65 of the 313 arrests Brock made from October 2005 to October 2006. In those dropped charges, 25 drivers registered well over the 0.08 percent blood-alcohol benchmark at which state law presumes a driver is impaired.
But prosecutors declined to press criminal charges stemming from Brock's handling of Amos' case.
"The facts in this case meet the element of a crime, however, we feel this matter would be better handled in an administrative manner within the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, " Chief Assistant Karen L. Stanley wrote in a Nov. 6 memo to a sheriff's internal affairs detective.
Crumpler began an audit of Brock's cases later that month. In one instance, Brock arrested a driver who registered a 0.01 percent test result.
The Sheriff's Office rejected Brock's appeal of his firing. The internal affairs division is auditing his supervisor, Cpl. Mark Clark, in connection with Brock's activities, Chief Sheriff's Deputy Jose Docobo said Friday.
Citing the pending Brock investigation, Bondi would not comment on what charges he may face.
Amos, 26, said any investigation at all is a good start.
"Just cause he is a cop, " Amos said, "doesn't mean he should just get a slap on his wrist."
Colleen Jenkins can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3337.