Jeffery Beasley, who was accused of covering up and thwarting investigations into human rights abuses in the Florida prison system, has resigned, the Miami Herald has learned.
Beasley, the former inspector general for the Florida Department of Corrections, has accepted a post as chief of investigations for the Leon County Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff Walt McNeil confirmed Wednesday.
“As is often the case in state government, in particular positions, sometimes you have to carry a burden for higher levels of state government,’’ McNeil said. “I make no excuses for him, but I believe his background and experience and the level of professionalism he displayed throughout his career speaks volumes.’’
McNeil said Beasley will start Jan. 3.
Beasley’s departure comes a little more than a year after he stepped down from his top cop post at the embattled agency. He was given a new title, director of investigations, despite months of widespread criticism and allegations that he and others in his office failed to investigate and — in some instances — even derailed cases involving the abuse of inmates, some of it deadly.
Earlier this month, the state paid $800,000 to end a retaliation lawsuit brought by several of his former employees, all inspectors whose reputations and careers were damaged after they tried to expose wrongdoing by corrections officers in the agency. Beasley placed them under internal investigation, warning them to stop pursuing evidence in the case of a 27-year-old inmate who was gassed to death by corrections officers in 2010.
In an interview with the Miami Herald last year, Beasley, 42, declined to the address the allegations, which were still being litigated at the time. However, he contended that he inherited an outdated and understaffed department that handled some 600,000 complaints a year with just 110 inspectors.
Michelle Glady, FDC spokeswoman, said Beasley’s resignation is not yet official — but she confirmed that he is “leaving for a new opportunity.’’
She added that his decision was voluntarily and not related to the retaliation lawsuit.
Doug Glisson, a former FDC senior investigator who was targeted by Beasley, questioned whether McNeil had thoroughly vetted Beasley. As the sheriff’s top investigator, he will oversee most of the criminal cases in Leon County, but not in Tallahassee, which has its own police force.
“The person in that position would need to be above approach and Jeff Beasley showed a complete lack of ethics in the Department of Corrections,’’ said Glisson, one of three inspectors who will share the $800,000 state settlement.
The Miami Herald reached out to Beasley through the prisons agency but he did not respond Wednesday night.
As FDC’s inspector general, Beasley’s mission was to “protect and promote public integrity” and root out corruption in the department.
But an investigation by the Miami Herald in 2015 revealed that Beasley had a history of dismissing allegations and avoiding prosecutions of suspicious inmate deaths, as well as abuse and official corruption.
Beasley’s troubles started in 2013, when two of his investigators, inspectors Aubrey Land and John Ulm, told him that they had found a pattern of corruption in the agency: corrections officers lying and falsifying reports; fellow inspectors who had sabotaged cases and mislead FDLE investigators; inmate deaths that were the result of abuse or intentional medical neglect.
The inspectors alleged that Beasley told them to stick to the “low lying fruit,’’ and not try to tackle anything that would tarnish the agency. The inspectors complained to Gov. Scott’s chief inspector general, Melinda Miguel, who launched an investigation that eventually cleared Beasley.
As more suspicious inmate deaths and abuses were uncovered by the Herald in 2014 and 2015, pressure mounted against the agency. The senate Criminal Justice Committee began hearings in February 2015. Ulm, Glisson and Land testified under oath that Beasley had directed them to back off investigating the death of Randall Jordan Aparo at Franklin Correctional Institution.
Jordan Aparo, who suffered from a genetic blood disorder, was repeatedly sprayed by officers with toxic gas, despite the fact that he had done nothing more than demand that nurses treat him for breathing problems that flared up as a result of his disease.
A day after Beasley was grilled by the Senate Committee, Glisson was hit with six internal affairs complaints. In June, a law enforcement panel ruled that Beasley had violated Glisson’s rights, breached its own protocol and allowed for harassing behavior. But they stopped short of ruling the acts were criminal, since they found no “overwhelming intent’’ by the agency to violate Glisson’s rights.
Still, the trio of inspectors brought a civil lawsuit against the agency, which was settled by the state earlier this month.
Beasley, once an officer in Escambia, Ala., began his career in Florida with FDLE, monitoring slot machines and gaming applications in Broward County. He then moved to Tallahassee to become a special agent supervisor.
He was hired by then-FDC Secretary Ken Tucker in 2011 to head up the prison agency’s inspector general’s office.
McNeil, who was secretary for the Department of Corrections 2008-2010, was elected sheriff for Leon County in November. He said he formerly worked with Beasley while they were both with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
“I’ve known him directly for a number of years and I know his reputation as an investigator,’’ McNeil said. “He has done a lot of intelligence work and I know the good work he’s done and the good work he can do.’’