Manatee deputy suspended for leaving ‘Obama prayer’ on co-worker’s desk

bburger@bradenton.comJanuary 3, 2011 

MANATEE -- A Manatee County Sheriff’s Office sergeant was suspended without pay for almost 26 hours after he labeled a scripture passage in a Bible as “the Obama prayer” and left it on co-worker’s desk, according to a recently released internal affairs report.

The highlighted scripture was Psalm 109, which reads in part, “Let his days be few, and let another take his office.”

The co-worker, who also is a corrections sergeant and is black, said she was offended when she found the Bible and considered what she saw to be a threat against the president.

Sgt. Matthew Neu, who is assigned to the jail, conceded to investigators that “maybe it was not the smart thing to do, you know.

“I should have been more careful where I left it, or whatever,” Neu said, according to the report.

“In hindsight maybe it was not the smart thing to do, you know, I should have been more careful where I left it, or whatever.

Neu denied that he was threatening the president.

The investigation began on Sept. 30.

In interviews with investigators, Neu said he received an e-mail with the scripture entitled, “The Obama Prayer,” and “he did not know why he circled the verse. He stated his intent was to take the Bible because he thought it was funny even though maybe it was not in good taste,” according to the report.

The sergeant who first discovered the note sticking out of the pages of the Bible told investigators she thought the scripture would be supportive of the president.

After she read the psalm, “she thought whoever left it wanted Obama dead, that the supporting verses underneath verse 8, that was highlighted, confirm that.”

Another sergeant was interviewed about the incident and said Neu said negative things about Obama around election time.

He said he thought someone left the copy on the woman’s desk to, “get under her skin. ... (He) stated if you send something like this to a black person, naturally they are going to think it is racist, because Obama is the first black president. He said if you were trying to express an opinion, then it should be sent to everyone, not just one person,” according to the report.

Neu, who said co-workers left a picture of Obama as a screen saver on his computer during the election said, “It’s not a threat on the president. It was a joke on the Internet that I just happened to circle and go through cause I was gonna show people. ... There’s no racial hate or anything like that involved in it. Do I like Obama as a president? No.”

Neu makes $29.92 per hour and an annual salary of $66,901, according to sheriff’s office records. He was disciplined for violating sheriff’s office guidelines for conduct unbecoming.

The edition of the Bible that Neu used is one that sometimes is distributed to jail inmates.

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