UPDATED: Judge rules against Sheriff Watson in deputies' lawsuits
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Sheriff Clovis Watson, Jr., has reversed all disciplinary actions taken against three deputies instead of holding the compliance review hearings ordered last week by Judge Donna Keim.

The judge found that the investigations into alleged misconduct by the deputies did not follow Alachua County Sheriff’s Office policies and that the deputies were entitled to compliance review hearings to determine whether the investigators intentionally violated the deputies’ rights.

Instead of holding the compliance review hearings, Watson’s office contacted the deputies’ lawyer, Bobi Frank, and entered into settlement agreements with the deputies.

Captain Rebecca Butscher’s agreement states that she will receive back pay for her two days of unpaid suspension and her disciplinary probation will be voided.

Sergeant Kevin Davis’ agreement states that his suspension will be ended, and he will return to the same rank, same shift, and same team; his agency vehicle must also be delivered to his house with a full tank of gas before his first shift, and all uniforms and equipment provided to him prior to his suspensions must be returned to him.

Sergeant William “Frank” Williams, who was fired as a result of an investigation into a social media post, will be reinstated with back pay to March 23, along with vacation, sick leave, special event, and holiday leave hours. He will also return to the same rank, same shift, and same team, his agency vehicle must also be delivered to his house with a full tank of gas before his first shift, and all uniforms and equipment provided to him prior to his termination must be returned to him.

In addition, all investigative files and disciplinary actions for the deputies will be marked void, and they will not be subject to any retaliatory action.

All parties will pay their own attorneys’ fees and costs. The agreements do not prohibit the deputies from taking other legal action against the Sheriff, and Davis’ federal lawsuit is still pending.

Sheriff Watson’s statement

Alachua County Sheriff’s Office released a written statement today that said after the Sheriff received the order from Judge Keim, he reviewed the investigation against each deputy: “Sheriff Watson’s thought process behind this request was simple; he stated, ‘if we were not one hundred percent correct in the manner in which the members of our agency conducted this investigation, then we must remedy the issue above and beyond the order imposed by Judge Keim.’”

 The statement goes on, “Sheriff Watson believed that mistakes were made with each incident and that the only way to remedy the situation would be to rescind and void the respective investigations, as well as the imposed discipline against each Deputy Sheriff.”

Major Lance Yaeger, who has quickly risen from Deputy to Major and Chief of Staff since Watson was elected, was the complainant and investigator in Butscher’s case.

Watson wrote, “I remain committed to the men and women of the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, and it is my belief that the only fair and equitable way to ensure that Captain Butscher, Sgt. Williams, and Sgt. Davis were provided with the rights that they so justly deserve, was to rescind any punitive discipline that took place as a result of investigations that I do not believe were completed in a manner that was free from mistakes.”

Statement from deputies’ attorney

Bobi Frank sent the following statement, “The terms of the Agreements underscore the enormity of what these Law Enforcement Officers almost permanently lost without a shred of due process. That is about as un-American as you can get. Repeatedly, the Sheriff puts his emotional immaturity and ego before the mandates of the law and the needs of the Agency and of the community.

“The battle that these three Law Enforcement Officers fought is not for the faint at heart, and they should be celebrated for their strength and courage during a time at that Agency when strength and courage almost always result in career decimation.

“To those who think these Law Enforcement Officers deserved to be treated the way that they were-remember, today it is them, tomorrow IT WILL BE YOU!

“In response to Clovis Watson’s previous statement that a mistake ‘may’ have been made, I say this- ONCE is a mistake. THREE times is a deliberate attempt to get away with breaking the law. This behavior cannot, and will not, be tolerated or go unaddressed.”

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