NEWS RELEASE #: 17-021 - JANUARY 30, 2017
The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office continues to investigate allegations of harassment made by an elderly citizen which led to the arrest of sheriff's office employee Frankie Eugene Bybee, on January 23, 2017.
Bybee's actions were first called into question on December 20, 2016, and amidst a thorough investigation by sheriff's office detectives, led to the filing of several felony charges including Attempted Murder, Battery on a Victim 65 Years or Older, Burglary of an Occupied Dwelling, Exploitation of the Elderly, two counts of Grand Theft, Forgery and misdemeanor Petit Theft.
Despite recent conclusions drawn by an opinion writer at a local newspaper, the sheriff's office maintains that Bybee's arrest is in no way related to his lawsuit against Sheriff Tom Knight. The recent article published January 28, incorrectly cites the lawsuit as "still pending" however, on Friday, January 27, the U.S. District Court granted Sheriff Knight's motion for summary judgement and dismissed all counts against the sheriff's office and Sheriff Knight individually.
As outlined by U.S. District Judge Steven D. Merryday in his order, "Bybee spoke as a citizen on a matter of public concern and the First Amendment insulates him from retaliation. But no reasonable jury could conclude, despite Bybee's lying during an internal affairs investigation, that the sheriff disciplined Bybee in retaliation for Bybee's speech." Merryday also writes, "The sheriff persuasively explains that Bybee's purposeful false statement, which destroyed necessary trust, prompted the transfer."
"We are not surprised by the judge's order," said Sheriff Tom Knight. "Bybee showed his untruthfulness as an employee of this agency which broke down public trust and misrepresented the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office. As for the reporter who made incorrect statements, drew incomplete conclusions, vilified the victim, and claimed a lack of evidence while knowing a full release of information would jeopardize an ongoing investigation; I urge him to consider his position as an influencer of public opinion who is entrusted with upholding journalistic integrity."
Based on information gathered since Bybee's arrest on January 23, an additional internal affairs investigation was opened Monday, January 30, to address Bybee's inappropriate conduct both on- and off-duty. The investigation remains open and ongoing.