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HCSO Deputies Disciplined for Missing Depositions

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Five deputies from the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) have received written reprimands after failing to attend a pair of crucial case depositions. Depositions are taken during a case’s pretrial discovery period by defendants’ lawyers and prosecutors to collect evidence and gather testimonies of those integral to the progression of the case.

According to HCSO Public Relations Manager Denise Moloney, the missed depositions were all connected to a February 2023 manslaughter case in which deputies found Jeffrey Bailey repeatedly stabbed in the chest at the homeless camp in the wooded area behind the Lowe’s Home Improvement store at 4780 Commercial Way in Spring Hill. The incident allegedly took place following a verbal argument between Bailey and 36 year-old Regina Ritter. Bailey was taken to a nearby hospital where he died on Feb. 12, 2023. Subsequently, Ritter was charged with manslaughter.

As the investigation into the case continued, Sheriff Al Nienhuis was notified on Feb. 29 that Deputies M. Vesper, C. Reid, J. Longobardi and C. Milne, along with Detective K. Keiper, had all missed the depositions, Moloney said.

In response, Nienhuis directed their supervisors to investigate the situation in order to determine the reasons why the five missed the depositions and to address any systemic issues inside the agency that may have contributed to their absence.

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At the end of February, the investigation failed to reveal any systemic issues nor other valid reasons for missing the depositions. Subsequently, each of the deputies received a written reprimand.

Nienhuis said that his office is committed to uphold deputies to high professional and accountability standards. “The absence of these deputy sheriffs undermines the integrity of the legal system and impedes the pursuit of justice for the community,” Nienhuis said. “We take this matter seriously and will take appropriate action to ensure that such lapses do not recur in the future.”

Walter Forgie, chief assistant State’s Attorney for the Fifth Judicial Circuit said that despite the reprimands metered out by Nienhuis, deputies are “very responsible” about appearing for depositions. “Of course, given the nature of their jobs, there are times that depositions need to be rescheduled,” he said. “ All the deputies have now given their deposition in this case and the case is moving forward.”

The outcome of the case is pending.

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