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Former Florida Prison Guard Sues for Reinstatement Under Whistleblower Act

The Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) has been sued for retaliation under the state’s whistleblower act by a former guard. The suit, filed by lawyers for John Pisciotta, seeks back pay, reinstatement of his job, damages and attorney fees.

Pisciotta’s employment problems began on May 21, 2008. He was one of eight guards involved in the cell extraction of prisoner Kelly Bradley at the Charlotte Correctional Institution (CCI); when the incident was over, one of Bradley’s eyes was hanging from its socket.

Pisciotta was the only prison employee to report that another guard, William Hamilton Wilson, had gouged Bradley’s eye out. Only one other guard even noted in his report that Bradley was injured; the others testified at Wilson’s 2009 federal criminal trial that they didn’t see how the injury occurred.

“It took a lot of courage to come forward in that environment,” said one of Pisciotta’s attorneys, Jason Gunter. “The corruption is pretty shocking. It’s scary that this can happen.”

Only hours after Wilson was sentenced to six years in federal prison and three years supervised release, Pisciotta was fired by the FDOC. His lawsuit details several events that led up to his termination on January 11, 2010.

Following the incident involving Bradley, Pisciotta told the other guards and the prison inspector that he would not be involved in a cover-up. Shortly after Wilson’s arrest in June 2008, fellow guards called Pisciotta a coward and a snitch, and someone spray painted the word “coward” on his home. The FDOC transferred him from CCI to the Fort Myers Work Camp.

Despite having two days of preapproved leave to care for a sick child, Pisciotta received a written reprimand and 10-day suspension for failing to report for emergency duty due to Hurricane Ike in September 2008.

He was also suspended following an allegation in April 2009 that he kneed prisoner Anthony Williams in the face while transporting Williams to the Miami-Dade County Jail. Those allegations were made by guards Brandy Lindsay and Rafael Montes-Lebron, but 13 others who were nearby said they didn’t observe anything unusual and three medical exams failed to find injuries on Williams.

The Florida Commission on Human Relations determined in June 2010 that the FDOC had retaliated against Pisciotta. However, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Criminal Justice Standards & Training Commission – which determines misconduct issues affecting professional licenses for law enforcement – found that there was probable cause the incident involving Williams had occurred.

Pisciotta’s lawyer believes the FDLE will reinstate him after a rehearing. “This guy’s a hero and the evidence against him is weak,” said attorney Bill Amlong. “It shows how morally bankrupt the Department of Corrections is.”

Bradley, who has since been released and is seeking compensation for his eye injury, is supportive of Pisciotta in his retaliation case against the FDOC. See: Pisciotta v. FDOC, Charlotte County Circuit Court (FL), Case No. 11000983CA.


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Related legal case

Pisciotta v. FDOC