31-year-old Detention Deputy Maria Guzman was fired yesterday, February 17, 2010, for two sustained allegations of improper conduct (untruthfulness and conduct unbecoming of a member of the Sheriff’s Office). The Sheriff’s Office conducted an administrative investigation that was closed today, February 18, 2010. The investigation found that Guzman wrote five letters to Polk County jail inmate Terrence Barnett and lied to supervisors about the letters.
Inmate Barnett was being housed in the South County Jail while awaiting trial for first degree murder charges out of Highlands County. On August 30, 2009, Barnett battered and shoved Sergeant Ronnie Brown when Brown and other deputies responded to his cell because he was being unruly and had broken the cell’s fire suppression sprinkler. Sergeant Brown later died on September 8th while recuperating from a surgery to treat the serious back injury sustained when he was attacked. On September 22nd, a Polk County Grand Jury indicted Barnett on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer, and resisting an officer with violence related to Brown’s death.
Guzman was hired in November of 2006 as a detention deputy. Her salary at the time of termination was $39,532. Guzman’s address and photo are not available because of F.S. 119 Public Records exemptions.