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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sheriff OKs $400 Theft by Deputy

Sheriff goes easy on former deputy
The Herald Tribune by Tom Lyons - Novemeber 18, 2008

Sarasota, Florida - Sarasota County Sheriff Bill Balk will sees no need to charge a deputy with a crime, though investigators believe the man stole $400 from a prisoner and forged other deputies' names to hide the theft.

I'm amazed at this easygoing attitude that is allowing Deputy Brian Longo to resign without a criminal charge. But, heck, it's a lot of trouble to prosecute cops. The victim was a prisoner, briefly. North Port resident Katherine Davidson was charged with hitting her ex-husband with a belt, in her home. Prosecutors decided not to prosecute. She spent only hours in custody, part of that time in a transport van with other prisoners. The van was driven by Longo. He also had the bag that held cash that Davidson had been allowed to take from her house so no one would steal it while she was in custody. That precaution didn't work so well. When she was released, $400 was missing. Forms signed by two other deputies attesting that the bag held just over $900 had been replaced. The new forms had forged signatures and a figure just over $500. She protested. And after investigators talked to those other cops and to uninvolved prisoners who confirmed that the van had made an unscheduled stop where Longo did paperwork, held the bag and met briefly with someone, investigators soon found probable cause, and lots of it.

Longo and his lawyer soon offered a deal in which he would replace the money and resign, if the sheriff would sign a document saying no crime had taken place. I'm glad to say the sheriff didn't agree to that, but he did agree not to seek charges if Longo resigned and paid back the $400. A few days later, the Sheriff's Office met with Davidson. After a chat, she signed a waiver of prosecution. Balkwill didn't talk to me about this. In his final weeks in office, he's more prone than ever to dodge questions. But Maj. Steve Burns did. He insisted that the important thing is that Longo lost his job and presumably will never again work in law enforcement or corrections. Maybe. But when asked why an alleged crime wouldn't be pursued, Burns said it was because the victim signed that waiver. Oh, come on. Balkwill made that decision, in writing, four days earlier. And besides, the Sheriff's Office is a victim, too. If Balkwill thought going after a dirty cop was important, he'd be nagging witnesses to help. As it is, Davidson is complaining about the lack of prosecution and the sheriff is ignoring her. It is clear the sheriff wanted it this way. Tom Lyons can be contacted at or (941) 361-4964.

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