Deputy reprimanded for using badge to intimidate former son-in-law

A Collier County deputy and his former son-in-law are at odds after an internal investigation found the deputy used his position to intervene in a family dispute.

In a complaint filed in November 2011, James Potter Jr. alleged Cpl. John Bartis threatened him and used his Sheriff's Office colleagues to harass, follow and intimidate him. Potter and Bartis' daughter ended their marriage with a rough-and-tumble divorce and custody battle in June 2011.

Bartis, a 13-year veteran of the Sheriff's Office, was found negligent or in noncompliance of agency rules and regulations. He received a final warning and six months of probation in an internal affairs case that was closed in September.

Among the allegations listed in his formal complaint, Potter said Bartis:

Threatened him with his "million-dollar zipper stick," a reference to his baton and how it could be used to hit victims in the head so they would require staples lined up like a zipper.

Attended a court hearing between James Potter and Bartis' daughter, during which Bartis wore a gun holster to show he was a law enforcement officer and to intimidate those giving testimony.

Had two colleagues respond to a call placed by Potter in April 2011. Potter said the deputies dismissed his complaint and told him "you're going (expletive) down."

Drove to his gated neighborhood while on duty and sat in front of his house slouched in his patrol car.

Sheriff's Office officials said Bartis appeared "concerned for his daughter's welfare" but that his actions went beyond helping and inappropriately influenced a family dispute.

The internal investigation found Bartis did wear his gun holster to a court hearing and was on duty while driving through Potter's neighborhood, according to Sheriff's Office documents. One of Bartis' colleagues, Cpl. Scott Weigand, denied telling Potter he was "going (expletive) down" but said he did tell Potter "you're done" to end Potter's "rambling" during a conversation.

Bartis denied calling his baton a "zipper stick," but said he was involved in a lawsuit about 30 years ago involving excessive force. Bartis said Potter "probably heard stories" about his law enforcement career, but said they were not meant to threaten Potter.

"I was never convicted of any violations," Bartis said. "Any cop that does his job has complaints."

Both men see themselves as victims. Bartis dismissed the complaint as "loaded with lies" and said seven deputies who interacted with Potter told investigators that Bartis had no influence on those interactions.

Bartis accuses Potter of unscrupulous behavior and calls the state of affairs a "big, terrible domestic situation."

"I'm a victim of just trying to keep peace in the family," he said. "I did what every father would do."

Potter, on the other hand, is unsatisfied with the ruling and upset Bartis' colleagues weren't also investigated. A Sheriff's Office spokeswoman said Potter's complaint form listed Bartis as the involved member and the other deputies only as witnesses.

Potter added that he is not done fighting the alleged harassment, which he said has severed his relationship with his children. Bartis said Potter's lack of contact with the children was voluntary.

Bartis' probation began in May and ends Nov. 21. Bartis filed an appeal to the professional responsibility bureau that was later denied.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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