A local police union is asking Gov. Ron DeSantis to investigate the actions of five law enforcement officials it says broke the law when they investigated a fellow officer.
A four-page letter from Fraternal Order of Police Airport Police Lodge 85 accuses officers from the Jacksonville Aviation Authority Police Department, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the State Attorney’s Office of using subpoena power to investigate and punish an officer for an administrative violation.
The case dates back to 2015, and — like a lot of criminal cases – is rooted in infidelity. According to a police report, a female co-worker of airport police Sgt. Richard Hern claimed he’d threatened her after she told his wife and son they were having an affair.
The woman later backtracked, and her complaint was dismissed. But police investigators used her criminal allegations as a means to subpoena the officer’s phone records — a full year’s worth.
Those phone records were used in a subsequent disciplinary probe. Based in large part on the phone records, the Internal Affairs investigation found the officer violated policy and disobeyed orders.
He was given a three-day suspension, and admitted wrongdoing. But according to the Fraternal Order of Police Airport Police Lodge 85, his constitutional rights were violated when the state used the power of the subpoena for a non-criminal investigation.
Their April 2 letter lists five local law enforcement officers – including a former Assistant State Attorney Rich Mantei and JSO Detective Edwin Cayenne – saying they quote “knew obtaining these records under the false pretense of an criminal investigation was unlawful illegal and official misconduct.”
The letter asks the gov to initiate an independent criminal investigation with an eye to filing criminal charges. First Coast News reached out to the Governor’s Office, but have not yet received a response.
George Hachigian, the FOP General Counsel’s Chief of Staff in Volusia County said the subpoena was a clear example of overreach and “inappropriate use” of subpoena powers. He said he believed criminal charges were warranted.
Local FOP Lodge 85 President Donald Green, who wrote the letter, declined to comment on it.
Now retired Sgt. Hern told First Coast News he feels he was treated unfairly, but wanted to put the matter behind him.
Statewide FOP General Counsel Paul Daragjati and local General Counsel Paul Vogelsang were unfamiliar with the letter and its allegations.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office was not copied on the letter to the governor, and was unaware of the allegations. The State Attorney’s Office has not yet responded for a request for comment.