Two deputies in the Naples Jail Center lost their jobs and another was placed on probation this fall for what internal investigators called improper conduct, according to newly released documents from the Collier County Sheriff’s Office.
One deputy is accused of touching his genitals and encouraging a female inmate to disrobe, while the other two are accused of having an inappropriate relationship that caused tension and discomfort for other jail employees.
In the first case, a female inmate said Cpl. Jay Cunningham persuaded her to undress while she was held in the jail’s medical ward on March 31.
About 9 that night, Cunningham came into the medical unit, where the cells have windows, to talk with another deputy, according to internal affairs documents. Soon after, he went to the woman’s cell and began grabbing his crotch and rubbing himself, according to surveillance footage.
Video evidence shows him making hand gestures including one that appeared to mimic unzipping his zipper and flapping his hand up and down. He then made sweeping motions across his chest as if to encourage the inmate to remove her Velcro turtle suit, an anti-
suicide vest worn without clothes underneath, according to the documents.
The woman said she flashed Cunningham three times over a 14-minute period following his gestures. She is seen smiling and laughing during the encounters on video footage.
Reached in late November, Cunningham said his hand motions were misunderstood, and described his reaching for his genitals as “adjusting.” He said he often uses his hands while talking and denied his gestures were meant to ask the inmate to strip.
“I still don’t understand how that makes a person get naked,” he said. “I have a girlfriend; she doesn’t disrobe herself when I move my hands.”
Cunningham, who had worked in the jail since 2008, was fired in mid-October, with internal investigators writing his actions were a “flagrant violation of CCSO Jail Division Policy.”
Cunningham believes he was “set up,” saying people getting naked for all to see in the medical ward is “the norm.” He also said it is unfair misbehaving patrol deputies can be reassigned to the jail, while jail deputies have nowhere to be reassigned.
“I feel like you’ve got deputies on the roads getting in car accidents and killing human beings, and they get to go (work) in the jail,” he said, alluding to Cpl. Jesse Todd, who now works as a jail technician after he was involved in two high-speed crashes that killed two drivers.
“I didn’t kill nobody; I didn’t harm nobody; and it’s ‘he said, she said,’ ” Cunningham said.
In a separate internal affairs investigation, deputies Cynthia Jones and Alan Crooks were disciplined for an inappropriate relationship.
After she was approached by a supervisor about improper conduct, Jones stopped talking to those on her shift, according to the documents. Crooks made threats toward Jones’ husband and other jail employees, the documents said.
Internal investigators said Crooks was “less than cooperative” and “untruthful” with them and said there was sufficient evidence he made threats of physical violence toward Jones’ husband and fellow employees. He received a five-day suspension without pay, a letter of final warning and a year of probation.
Attempts to reach Crooks were unsuccessful.
Jones was investigated in three separate cases, according to the documents. She is accused of faking sickness to take off Halloween; leaving an inmate unattended in the booking area; giving Crooks’ phone number to her husband against agency policy; throwing away immigration paperwork that was meant for inmates; and ignoring her co-workers, the documents state.
“Dep. Jones’ actions at work created an atmosphere of tension, discourteousness and incivility which affected her relationship to duty assignments and fellow workers” and “exacerbated an already tense and potentially violent situation,” internal investigators wrote.
Jones said she believes her supervisors and co-workers have had a vendetta against her since her teenage son was battered by bullies in February 2010. Jones believes the attacker was not arrested because he was dating a lieutenant’s daughter. When she complained about the way the case was handled, she was ostracized, she said.
“The bottom line is it all goes back to (my son),” Jones said. “They’ve come up with these stories to try and get me fired. … Had this not happened with my son, I would still be employed there.”
Jones said she and her son have since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. She accuses Crooks of using “the advantage of my weakness as a predator.”
Since the investigations were conducted, Jones said she has filed counter complaints against several deputies she worked within the jail, accusing them of sleeping on the job, selling and buying steroids, completing work for a second job while on duty at the jail, using a Sheriff’s Office database for personal searches and bragging about beating up inmates.
Jones said she and her family are writing to state lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott to get justice for her son.
“This is not going to stop here; we’re taking this as far as I have to go,” she said. “What happened to my son is outright wrong, and what this agency does is outright sickening.”