Former deputy who says he was fired for being gay loses appeal to win back job

7:51 AM, Oct 10, 2013   |    comments
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Deputy Robert Craig says he was fired from the Manatee County Sheriff's Office because of his sexual orientation.
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Bradenton, Florida -- An appeals panel voted 4-1 to uphold the termination of former Manatee County Sheriff's Deputy Robert Craig.

Craig went before a five-member appeals panel to get his job back. The panel said he violated the code of ethics for his own personal gain when he attempted to buy steroids from a confidential informant.

"The fact is I didn't know they were steroids or illegal. When I found out it was, I did the right thing, said, 'No, thank you.' That is exactly what a deputy should do," said Craig.

But what did Craig know and when did he know it? Craig said at the time he thought he was buying natural supplements, not steroids. Even then, Craig said he wasn't interested in the supplements, but in the confidential informant himself for sex. The informant had sent Craig naked pictures.

Craig claims the sheriff's office discriminates against gays.

Internal Affairs Sergeant Monique DeCesare told the panel, "Poor decision on his part. Regardless of the motivation, he still engaged in illegal activity."

Hidden behind a screen, the confidential informant, Jack Choate, told the panel Craig knew what he was buying.

Choate said, "I told them I can show where and how to inject, give a few needles to get started."

A panel member asked the informant if he was clear with Craig he was selling steroids, as opposed to natural supplements. Choate said, "Yes."

In a recorded conversation, Craig wasn't worried about drug testing. Choate said, "You know they don't test you or anything."

Craig answered, "Yeah I'm not worried about that."

Witnesses for Craig confirm his story; he's never used drugs, doesn't drink or smoke, and doesn't know about steroids. He dropped 125 pounds naturally. Craig believes he's been fired for being gay.

Craig said, "The sheriff is long known to be anti-gay, in my opinion. The unequal punishment that is served -- I did nothing criminal."

Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube has said the department does not discriminate based on sexual orientation.

Craig said he will continue to fight for equal rights, and he plans to file a lawsuit against the Manatee County Sheriff's Office. 

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