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Deputy, cleared by sheriff's inquiry, is returned to job

STORY BY EILEEN KELLEY, (Week of April 25, 2013)
Photo: Sgt. Milo Thornton

An Indian River County Sheriff’s Office sergeant put on a stringent administrative leave last month has returned to work after an internal affairs investigation cleared him of allegations of harassing and intimidating a female deputy.

Deputy Jamie Potts claimed in a complaint that Sgt. Milo Thornton appeared preoccupied with her personal life and showed her undue attention that he did not give other deputies.

Det. Justin Knott – in a 13-page investigative report based on interviews with Potts; her boyfriend, also a deputy; Thornton and others in the sheriff’s office – said he could not back up any of Potts’ allegations.

The Sheriff’s Office on Monday had no explanation for why it took three weeks to clear the name of a deputy who last year was named Officer of the Year.  Sgt. Thom Raulen, the sheriff’s public information officer, said the time required for internal affairs investigations varies depending on the case and availability of witnesses.

Knott said that when he interviewed Thornton, the sergeant specifically outlined his position, didn’t waiver in his testimony, denied all the allegations and offered specifics that backed up his story.

“When Sergeant Thornton is confronted in his interview about the actions which occurred on the morning of March 16, he stays on topic and succinctly accounts the dialogue which occurred,” Knotts wrote.  “Sergeant Thornton offers specific events described in a timeframe that is reiterated in a linear timeline and can be recounted as a forward and backward event suggesting veracity and a basis of fact.”  

That wasn’t the case with Potts’ boyfriend, Deputy Duane Lanning, who alleged that Thornton had offered him a different job he wanted if he would get Potts to stop pursuing her complaint, according to Knott.

“Conversely, when Deputy Lanning is discussing the allegations surrounding Sergeant Thornton offering him a position in Traffic Section, Deputy Lanning’s replies are not cohesive statements,” Knott wrote.  “They neither: 1) follow a linear timeline; or 2) articulate any substantive statements relating to the precursor events.”

Thornton returned to work April 17 after being cleared of wrong-doing. He is also the freshman football coach at Vero Beach High School.