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Interim Marion County sheriff explains why he suspended 2 top deputies

News conference held after 2 majors suspended over weekend

MARION COUNTY, Fla. – News 6 asked all day Monday why new interim Sheriff Emery Gainey suddenly suspended two majors without explanation on Saturday morning.

Monday evening, Emery stood behind a podium at the Sheriff's Office headquarters and faced cameras for a second time in three days.

"I simply made the determination not to include those two majors... as I move forward," said Gainey. He would not elaborate but said more personnel changes are possible.

[RELATED: Marion sheriff indicted on perjury charges]

Saturday morning, the Marion County Sheriff's Office issued a news release that said Major Don Maines, who led the Bureau of Professional Standards, and Major Tommy Bibb, who led the Bureau of Special Investigations, had been suspended and put on administrative leave without pay but they are not under investigation. Gainey said he doesn't know how long the suspensions would last.

News 6 examined their personnel files and saw many commendations and positive reviews but no major recent reprimands. Both Maines and Bibb had served under and been promoted by former Sheriff Chris Blair.

Blair was arrested Friday and charged with perjury and official misconduct after he was indicted by a grand jury as part of a larger excessive force investigation. The indictment said Blair lied when asked about whether he saw injuries to a suspect's face during an arrest. Blair said he did not; the indictment said the suspect was walked so close to Blair that he had to step back.

"This is a much more difficult perjury chase," said News 6 legal analyst Steven Kramer. "This is about whether he saw injuries on a particular suspect. The allegations are he is so close he should have seen injuries there, how do you prove that? How do you prove he wasn't distracted, looking down at his phone, or he just didn't see it? That's a much more subjective case and makes it a lot tougher to prove. And that's where you ask that question: Why would the state attorney push these type of charges that are not slam dunk charges, why?"

Kramer said either the motivation for the arrest was political or the State Attorney's Office has additional information that it is not revealing.

"What it really reveals is there's some serious dysfunction between the sheriff and the State Attorney's Office and there's some serious mistrust there," said Kramer. "Normally what you see is they work in tandem, they have to have each others' backs. The state attorney prosecutes the cases that the sheriff brings forward."

When asked about Blair's arrests, State Attorney's Office spokesman Rick Ridgway said he has no comment because of an ongoing investigation.

Blair, a Republican, is running for re-election in the fall against two Republicans and two Democrats.
 


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