Two DOC officers back on payroll after battery charges are dropped


Published: Tuesday, January 31, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 31, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
Battery charges were dropped Monday against two high-ranking Department of Corrections officers who had been accused of beating a man at an April softball banquet.
Richard Frye and James Bowen are expected to be back on the prison system payroll today, but have not been cleared to return to work.
Frye, 36, had been a colonel and Bowen, 33, a major at Apalachee Correctional Institution when the banquet was held April 1 at the Leon County National Guard Armory in Tallahassee. Frye, Bowen and a third man, Allen "A. C." Clark - who was then regional director of prisons in the Panhandle - were arrested in November and charged with felony battery following investigations by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Tallahassee Police.
Investigators determined that late in the evening, former correctional officer James Edward O'Bryan accidentally slipped in a puddle of beer and vomit, knocking down a woman who worked for Clark. The investigators also determined that Clark straddled O'Bryan and punched him and that Bowen and Frye joined the melee, punching and kicking O'Bryan.
Bowen and Frye were initially placed on paid leave following their arrests, but moved to unpaid leave about a week later and were subsequently directed to move out of their state-owned homes at the prison.
Clark had resigned from the department in August amidst FBI and FDLE investigations into allegations of steroid use, embezzlement, improper use of state inmate labor and prison materials at the prisons where Clark had worked, and the hiring of people solely to play on prison athletic teams.
Investigators also seized items from the state homes where Clark and Bowen had been living as well as items from other prison employees' homes.
On Dec. 21, the 2nd Judicial Circuit State Attorney's Office reduced the charges in the softball banquet case from felonies to misdemeanors. On Monday, the state attorney filed a "no information" in the case, which means the case will not be prosecuted.
In the no information, Assistant State Attorney Phil Smith wrote that after "examining hundreds of pages of evidence and testimony, the state is unable to determine beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt whether the defendants' actions were accidental, intentional or even occurred."
Smith also said that "the conduct by these Department of Corrections employees is an embarrassment to all state of Florida employees." Further, according to Smith, the alleged victim had indicated he never wanted the cases prosecuted.
Frye's attorney, Gloria Fletcher of Gainesville, said the decision to file a no information "speaks volumes because the state attorney is saying they can't determine that any criminal acts went on."
Because of their rank, both Frye and Bowen are considered select service employees, which means they serve at the pleasure of the prison secretary and their jobs are not protected under a union contract.
Late Monday, prisons' spokesman Robby Cunningham said Frye and Bowen are expected to be returned to the payroll today but a decision on whether they will be allowed to return to their jobs will not likely be made until an investigation by the state Inspector General's office has been completed. Cunningham did not have a target date for the investigation to be done.
If Frye and Bowen are allowed to return to jobs in the prison system, it is unlikely they will return to their old positions.
On Jan. 4, Assistant Secretary of Institutions George Sapp sent out an e-mail announcing that Frye's job had gone to Winfred Warren, who had previously worked at Walton Correctional Institution as a colonel, and Bowen's job had been assigned to Tim Holmes, who had previously been a captain at New River Correctional Institution.
Karen Voyles can be reached at (352) 486-5058 or voylesk@gvillesun.com.

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