Pinellas sheriff calls 10 Tampa Bay jail investigation 'embarrassing,' makes changes
In an email containing a link to our investigation, the Pinellas County sheriff called what we found “embarrassing” and increased penalties for distracted deputies.
The Pinellas County Sheriff is making changes because of 10 Investigates’ story last month on distracted detention deputies.
We reported last month that surveillance videos showed four Pinellas County detention deputies watching Netflix, YouTube, TikTok, and Facebook videos and reading “Harry Potter” while on the job.
Since that investigation came out, 10 Investigates has learned about another distracted detention deputy caught on camera in the Pinellas County Jail.
Surveillance video shows Deputy Ryan Tonge watching MMA fight and basketball videos when he was supposed to be monitoring people in the jail on suicide watch.
“I know that what I did was wrong, and I shouldn’t have done that,” Tonge told internal investigators.
Quick recap: What we uncovered at the jail in November:
Let’s recap what we told you about last month before diving into what’s happened since then.
Content warning: This story contains graphic imagery.
In November, we told you four Pinellas County detention deputies got caught on camera distracted on the job.
Surveillance video shows Detention Deputies Dante Ginn-Davis and Zachary McDevitt watching Netflix for what the sheriff’s office described as the “majority” of their shift.
“Ultimately, I knew it was wrong,” McDevitt told investigators with the agency’s Professional Standards Bureau.
McDevitt and Ginn-Davis told internal investigators they did not notice Robert Leutzinger vomiting blood in his cell for hours while they watched “Red Notice.”
Leutzinger told 10 Investigates reporter Jenna Bourne he thought he was going to die.
“Oh my God, these people don’t give a **** about me,” Leutzinger said. “I said, well, this is it.”
The month after Deputies Ginn-Davis and McDevitt got caught, the jail commander sent an email to the whole department.
His email banned accessing “television and movie streaming services while on duty” including “YouTube and other similar websites that host online video sharing…”
But that email didn’t stop the distractions.
The next month, Deputy Adam Vincent was caught on camera reading Harry Potter on his Kindle when he was supposed to be watching people serving jail time while they were cleaning.
“You told [a lieutenant], quote, ‘I thought since we couldn’t stream videos anymore, I would read on my Kindle.’ End quote. Is this an accurate statement?” PCSO Professional Standards Bureau Sergeant Daniel Love asked Deputy Adam Vincent during a recorded interview.
“I believe so, yes,” Vincent replied in the recording.
One month later and right next door at the Pinellas Regional Juvenile Detention Center, surveillance video showed Deputy Conner Davis cutting up garbage bags and taping them over the windows behind a desk, then pulling up YouTube, TikTok, and Facebook videos.
“Yeah, I did, I screwed up,” Davis said during a recorded interview. “It looks really bad, my intentions – I’m not trying to make excuses up. It just looks bad. It does.”
Davis said he’d covered the windows to protect his privacy while on the computer.
All four deputies were suspended for 40 hours.
“The 40-hour suspension, number one, is a significant discipline in the world of corrections,” Florida jail expert Chief Cornita Riley said.
She’s the former Chief of Orange County Corrections and was awarded Jail Administrator of the Year in 2018 by the American Jail Association.
“Normally, unless you have repeat offenses for something, you don’t get to a 40-hour suspension – unless the initial incident is so egregious that you have to do that level of discipline,” Riley said.
Now the sheriff is making changes:
On Dec. 3, about two weeks after our investigation came out, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri sent an email to all Department of Detention and Corrections employees, increasing penalties.
We got it through a public records request.
Sheriff Gualtieri’s email includes a link to our story and says, “…from today forward anyone who engages in this type of misconduct that is substantiated as a Level 5 policy violation will receive an automatic 160-hour (basically one month) suspension as [a] minimum discipline.”
That’s four times the discipline the deputies 10 Investigates reported on in November got.
The sheriff also calls our story “embarrassing” and says, “I am beyond frustrated by this because we have said don’t do it and taken steps to ensure it won’t occur only to have deputies do it anyway.”
Sheriff Gualtieri has turned down our requests for interviews with him for this story and for last month’s story, as well.
"That's something that I did that's wrong":
Since our investigation came out, 10 Investigates has learned about a new case where a Pinellas County detention deputy was caught watching videos on the job.
Surveillance video from the jail shows Deputy Ryan Tonge watching MMA fight and basketball videos in August.
He was supposed to be watching people who need constant supervision, including people on suicide watch.
“If you knew that it was wrong, why would you continue to play the videos?” PCSO Professional Standards Bureau Sergeant Kirstie Cantelmo asked Deputy Tonge during a recorded interview.
“There's no answer for that, to be honest with you. That's something that I did that's wrong. And I accept my punishment for it,” Tonge replied.
Sheriff’s Office records say Tonge “voluntarily resigned” while under investigation a week and a half before our story came out last month.
His resignation memo says he “refused” to sign it.
That memo also says Tonge resigned less than three hours after his Professional Standards Bureau interview began, during which he gave no indication he wanted to resign.
A spokesperson at the sheriff’s office told 10 Investigates that Tonge’s resignation was voluntary and that he just refused to sign the paperwork.
Tonge told reporter Jenna Bourne he did not want to comment on whether his resignation was voluntary.