In the latest fallout from the Capt. Victor Thomas scandal, a longtime Orange County sheriff's officer is in trouble for soliciting character witnesses for Thomas' upcoming sentencing in federal court.
Cpl. Julian Fuller, a 28-year veteran, is under internal investigation and has been transferred to road patrol from his job coordinating the county's efforts to target and close crack houses.
Thomas, who pleaded guilty in May to attempted possession of cocaine and trafficking in counterfeit merchandise after a federal undercover investigation, is set for sentencing next month. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, but prosecutors have said he is likely to receive five to 15 years.
Repercussions of the investigations that began with Thomas continue to roll through the agency. A week ago, Deputy Reuben Williams was arrested and charged with official misconduct. He was accused of lying about a drug search in which Thomas also took part.
A sheriff's captain and a lieutenant also have resigned after internal investigations about misconduct in which they engaged with Thomas. An Orlando Police Department detective is under internal investigation in a related case.
Fuller's attorney, Mark NeJame, said Fuller was asked by Thomas to approach several people "in the political arena" about writing letters asking Thomas' judge for leniency.
Fuller and Thomas are longtime friends, he said.
NeJame did not identify who was asked to write letters, but for several years Fuller, 55, served as the sheriff's official liaison to the Orange County Commission. He has contacts with numerous political officials and has been active in political campaigns. Thomas also was active politically.
He said Fuller "just asked" for the letters. "He wasn't pushing them, pressuring them or anything."
NeJame charged that the investigation and transfer were "all political" and designed to hurt Fuller for attempting to help Thomas.
Sheriff's Bureau Chief Bryan Margeson, who authorized Fuller's transfer, said it was done because Fuller's position involved working with narcotics officers and targeting drug dealers.
"It's a sensitive assignment," Margeson said, adding that he was "not comfortable" leaving Fuller in the position while the internal investigation is under way.
Fuller was the coordinator for the department's squad that targets nuisance properties, especially those used for drug activities, for criminal and code-enforcement cases.
By law, officials can't discuss details of internal investigations until they are finished.
When notified of the transfer, Fuller began taking vacation time and has not reported for patrol duty.
In a meeting with sheriff's officials Friday, NeJame said, he told them Fuller had done nothing wrong and hopes to be reinstated.
Source: Orlando Sentinel