CLEARWATER, Fla. -- There are more problems in the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office narcotics unit, and several attorneys are calling for an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department. The newest incident involves a man who says he changed his mind about being a confidential informant and says he was beaten by detectives.
Attorney Jordon Tawil says, "It appears they are out of control and the law is not being followed."
Tawil is talking about what happened between his client, Sergio Valdivieso, and members of the of the Pinellas Sheriff's Office Narcotics Unit. Valdivieso had agreed to become an undercover informant after marijuana was discovered in his home last September, but changed his mind.
His girlfriend, Carissa Weaver, says, "He decided he didn't want to be an informant." She says he was discussing the change of heart at a WingHouse on Ulmerton Road. One of the bartenders who overheard the conversation is the wife of a Pinellas narcotics detective. Another of Valdivieso's attorneys, Charlie Britt, says his client was then confronted by narcotics detectives when he walked outside the restaurant.
"When he decided he didn't want to be an informant for them, they took it out on him physically."
One of the narcotics detectives testified in a deposition that Valdivieso "kind of resisted when he was ordered to the ground," so the deputies escorted him to the ground, but witnesses say that is not true. In fact, they say it is a bald-faced lie.
Weaver says, "He was knocked out. When I looked, his nose was on the concrete and they were continually punching him, threatening him."
Scott Reynolds was at the WingHouse and says, "He was already on the ground and they were still getting jabs in, knees in. They were doing what they could to let him know they were there and they were boss."
A picture taken nine hours after the alleged beating shows scars to the face, but Weaver says Valdivieso was punched in the body as detectives were walking the couple off the property to question them. She says, "He's making these noises as if you were to be punched like 'ugh,' 'thud,' this, that, and the other."
She goes on to say, "I'm looking back and they are screaming at him 'We'll kill you.'"
Pinellas Sheriff Bob Guiltieri says, "There are allegations and they are serious and we are investigating them."
However, the sheriff says these investigations take time. "There can't be a rush to judgment and there shouldn't be. If it is determined in the end that there was wrongdoing, they will absolutely be held accountable."
While many people find the alleged conduct shocking, witness Scott Reynolds doesn't. "I was shocked that it happens in front of so many people, but I wasn't shocked. It happens all the time."
And if the Justice Department begins an investigation and finds incidents like this happen all the time, some in law enforcement could end up serving time.