Florida deputy fired, arrested for kicking inmate who gave cookie to bird

Around the South
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LARGO, Fla. (WFLA) – A detention deputy for the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office in Florida is off the job after an incident in jail.

Deputies say the deputy was terminated and arrested for battery on an inmate at the Pinellas County Jail.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri says Deputy James Moran was terminated after telling an inmate to drop and do push-ups, then kicking the inmate as he was doing the push-ups. The incident was caught on a camera that was inside the jail. Sheriff Gualtieri released that video during a news conference Tuesday.

Gualtieri says the inmate was booked into jail last July for disorderly conduct, resisting arrest with violence and resisting arrest without violence. He was later sentenced to 364 days. In October, the man signed up for inmate worker status and was on a work crew assigned to the kitchen area.

On Jan. 11, the inmate was working in the kitchen and taking food that had been thrown away out to a dumpster. When they got out to the loading dock, Gualtieri says the inmate took a cookie and tossed it to a bird that was landing on top of the dumpster.

“For most people – anyone who’s got any dose of common sense, reality, perspective – it’s no big deal. Whatever. The inmate fed a cookie that was going into the dumpster to a bird,” Gualtieri said. “But apparently all those things I just described, Deputy James Moran doesn’t have. So he called out and used profanity, asking the inmate workers who had tossed the cookie to the bird.”

When the inmate who did it came forward, Gualtieri says Moran used profanity again and ordered the inmate to come over and “drop and give him 50.”

“So he was going to punish the inmate for feeding the cookie to the bird by making him do 50 push-ups,” Gualtieri said.

Video shows the inmate get down and start doing push-ups. Gualtieri says the inmate was “simply exhausted” after doing more than 20 of them and stopped, putting himself in a plank position.

That’s when the sheriff says Moran kicked the inmate in the side. 

“So he’s punishing him for not continuing these push-ups. We don’t do that,” Gualtieri said. “We don’t have inmates do physical labor or punishment for violation of the rules, which this was none of the above anyway.”

Gualtieri says the inmate came forward about the incident after being released from jail last week. He told deputies he didn’t say anything while he was in jail because he was afraid of retaliation.

Moran was arrested Tuesday morning and charged with one count of simple battery. He was immediately terminated.

Gualtieri says another deputy who was there when it happened is now the subject of an internal affairs investigation.

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