Sheriff Donald F Eslinger
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LIES, RUMORS & HONOR STOLEN

How does an innocent man get his reputation back? Can this ever be done? Will the same news media and Law Enforcement Officers that went out of their way to destroy a man’s name devote the same amount of time, energy and resources to admit they were all wrong and try to set the record straight and restore his stolen honor.

What happens when a "RUMOR" gets out of control and those within the Law Enforcement Community take illegal actions based on these rumors. In this article we will attempt to reveal the ugly truth about how one local narcotics officer with the Altamonte Springs Police Department responded to this rumor.

Before we expose the actions of several members of our law enforcement community we thought that each of you needed to read the facts before we share with you the lies. As such we have provided you with the PRESENTMENT of the Grand Jury  for the Fall Term of 1990. Please note the Grand Juries statements concerning what they believed was their first duty.

"In light of all the evidence we have gathered, we believe that it is our first duty to declare that beyond all doubt Officer Ralph Taylor is totally innocent of the charges brought against him. We know that the ordeal he suffered has brought him hardship and heartbreak which can never be totally undone. Yet our intent today is to restore to him on behalf of all the citizens of Seminole County an apology for the terrible injustice done to him. Throughout our investigation, we heard much discussion about integrity. We would simply state that Officer Taylor is a man of integrity." (Page 8-9 CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS)

In the following weeks we will publish the remainder of this article. Unlike the actions of those public servants who tried to destroy this man, we believe that even they should be afforded the chance to tell their side of the story. As such we will provide them with a copy of our article and should they desire, we will publish their unedited replies.

LIES, RUMORS & HONOR STOLEN

The rest of the story:

Hopefully you have had the time and been able to read the introduction to this story and the PRESENTMENT by the Grand Jury for the Fall Term 1990.

Prior to publishing this article a draft copy was provided to the Altamonte Springs Police Department and the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office. We extended the courtesy for their comments and offered to publish their unedited replies.

Our question is still out there, How does an innocent man get his reputation back? What happens when a "Rumor" gets out of control and those within the Law Enforcement Community take illegal actions based on rumors? In the following pages we will reveal the ugly truth about how one local narcotics officer with the Altamonte Springs Police Department responded to a rumor.

Prior to publishing this article, people asked me why should we care about something that happened twenty-one years ago? Well, some of these same officers are still in office and you or I or maybe a friend or loved one could be next. It is because of their ability to keep this in the dark, that they have continued in their professions and effect each of our lives. This is why we believe that each of us should care. The truth is still the truth and facts are what they are.

In the article, "ABUSE OF POWER, ADULTERY & SEXUAL HARASSMENT", the story of Oviedo Police Officer Ralph Eugene (Gene) Taylor was presented. Agent Taylor while assigned to the City, County, Investigative Bureau (CCIB) under the direct command of then Lt. Donald Francis Eslinger, was unlawfully arrested.

On October 4, 1990 Agent Taylor was arrested and booked into the Seminole County Jail by Lt. Greg Barnett under the orders of Major Eslinger. Agent Taylor was required to post bond and for several days he hid from the news media which had declared him to be a dirty cop. How exactly the News media was tipped off will probably never be revealed. On October 13, 1990, nine days after Agent Taylor was arrested his father passed away. Mr. Taylor to this day lives with the fact that his father never would see his sons name cleared and never would know the truth discovered by the Grand Jury. On October 16, 1990, Leo Serrano from Wuesthoff hospital contacted Chief of Police Dennis Peterson Oviedo P.D. and fourteen days after the arrest of Agent Taylor all charges were dropped by the State Attorneys’ office.

So how did we stumble on this story? While reading through depositions in reference to the Federal law suit filed by Ralph Eugene Taylor against the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office we came upon the sworn deposition of Sheriff Donald Francis Eslinger.  On page 90 we discovered an incident involving the illegal wire tape recording of a telephone conversation between Officer Taylor and Altamonte Springs Police Narcotics Detective Allen Weber.

Inspector Mark Zadra with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) was assigned to investigate the unlawful arrest of Agent Taylor. Insp. Zadra requested Officer Taylor attempt to make contact with Taylor’s former partner in the CCIB. The partners name was Rick Homan who was employed by the Altamonte Springs Police Department (ASPD) but assigned to the CCIB in the same manner as Officer Taylor was employed by the Oviedo Police Department (OPD). Insp. Zadra informed Officer Taylor that Zadra did not want to contact Agent Homan through normal channels for fear that the information would get back to the subjects of his investigation.

Officer Taylor at this time had been removed from the CCIB and was working uniformed patrol at Oviedo PD. Officer Taylor complies with Insp. Zadra’s request and on March 8, 1991 at approximately 6:00 p.m. Officer Taylor calls the Altamonte Springs Police Department communications center. Officer Taylor is on duty and requests that ASPD dispatch leave a message for Narcotics Detective ALLEN WEBER. Det. Weber then calls the Oviedo Police Department at which time he is advised that Officer Taylor is on a call. Approximately fifteen minutes later Officer Taylor calls Det. Weber back and asked Det. Weber if he is on a secure telephone line? Det. Weber advises that he is not but that Weber would call Officer Taylor back on a secure line.

Det. Weber takes an entire 2-3 minutes to devise his plan. Does he call his immediate supervisor, Sgt. Jack Fowler, for instruction, advise, direction or opinion? NO! Does Det. Weber call his Commander Jim Murphy for instruction, advise, direction or opinion? NO! Does Det. Weber even take into consideration that Officer Taylor is not calling Weber while off duty but is contacting Det. Weber through police department communication centers while on duty? NO! So just what does this highly trained law enforcement officer do? Det. Weber comes up with a plan to tape record the conversation which he is about to have with Officer Taylor without informing Officer Taylor that their conversation was being recorded.

Was there some life threatening situation which was time sensitive which did not afford Det. Weber the time to seek advice from his superiors? NO! Now here is the problem. To tape record a telephone conversation in Florida without both parties having knowledge of the recording is illegal. There are exemptions to this law, such as a court order and a few other lawful reasons. None of these exemptions applied in this case. Det. Allen would later admit that he did not tell Officer Taylor that their telephone conversation was being recorded. Det. Allen would later admit that he was tape recording the conversation to "CYA" (Cover His Ass).

So why did Det. Weber feel that he needed to cover his ass? On March 12, 1991, Det. Weber stated under oath to Insp. Zadra, that his "gut instinct was that Taylor was going to ask him to do something that was unethical or questionable or that Taylor would twist around the conversation and use it to his benefit."

To borrow an old saying, "is this not the pot calling the kettle black." Det. Weber’s "gut instinct" is that Officer Taylor might do something unethical or questionable, so Weber decides to do something which is illegal. During this unlawful recording Officer Taylor tells Det. Weber that Insp. Zadra wants Agent Homan to be provided with Insp. Zadra’s pager number in order that Insp. Zadra can interview Agent Homan.

Now we will see how a rumor can destroy a man’s reputation. During this unlawful recording Officer Taylor asked Det. Weber what does Weber know about Taylors arrest back in October 1990? Det. Weber then tells Officer Taylor that Weber had heard that there were two piss tests and that one tested positive and one tested negative. Officer Taylor corrects this rumor and informs Det. Weber that none of the tests were positive. With this one little rumor Det. Weber devised his plan to cover his ass, or so we are to believe. Det. Weber then informed Officer Taylor that before Weber could contact Agent Homan, Weber would have to call Sgt. Fowler and leave the matter in Sgt. Fowler’s hands.

After the unlawfully tape recorded conversation, Det. Weber calls Sgt. Fowler, Sgt. Fowler then calls Sheriff Eslinger. Sheriff Eslinger then calls Det. Weber. Now this is exactly what Insp. Zadra tried to avoid. Sheriff Eslinger was a subject of the FDLE investigation and now Sheriff Eslinger knew who Insp. Zadra wanted to interview. Det. Weber asked Sheriff Eslinger if the Sheriff wanted to meet with Weber in order to hear the tape recorded conversation. Sheriff Eslinger declines the meeting. So was Det. Weber "covering his ass" or was Det. Weber trying to kiss someone’s ass?

The tape was recovered by Insp. Zadra who then made contact with State Attorney Hill and Assistant State Attorney Thullbury. State Attorney Hill stated in the FDLE report case number EI-91-25-002/54:

"that the conversation was of no consequence to the Grand Jury inquiry and there was nothing in the jury secrecy requirements on the part of Officer Taylor. State Attorney Hill was aware that Inspector Zadra had simply asked Officer Taylor if he had or could obtain a home telephone number for Agent Homan so that Inspector Zadra could contact Agent Homan discreetly, away from the CCIB office."

Inspector Zadra does his job, he forwards his report to the Office of State Attorney Norman Wolfinger who declines to prosecute Det. Weber for the unlawful tape recording. Altamonte Springs Police Department conducts an internal investigation  which is "NOT SUSTAINED". Det. Weber continues on with his career and is back at his old job at the Altamonte Springs Police Department.

In conclusion we see how a simple rumor compelled Detective Allen Weber to break the law which continued to affect the life and career of an honest Police officer. We see how the good old boy system within the law enforcement community and the prosecutor’s office covered up a crime. It would require a Federal law suit, a Grand Jury investigation and a forced letter from Sheriff Eslinger to attempt to repair the reputation of one honest Police Officer.

The only person in this entire story who was physically, financially and emotionally harmed was an innocent man. His fellow officers would never truly trust Officer Taylor, there would always be that doubt. Officer Taylor would learn that he could no longer trust his fellow officers, they had proved they could not be trusted. Even the Sheriff would refuse to allow Officer Taylor to return to his position at CCIB. After all, the Sheriff made sure that his face was broadcasted over the local news stations.

Those that harmed this man and his reputation continue to profit in their careers and soon retirements. These people continue on as fine, honorable law abiding public servants or at least this is what they would have us to believe. Some have retired.

We are grateful to LEO SERRANO, CHIEF DENNIS PETERSON (retired), the GRAND JURY and FDLE Assistant Commissioner MARK ZADRA for their efforts to right this miscarriage of justice. An extensive article was published by KATE SANTICH on November 29, 1992 in the Florida section of The Orlando Sentinel.

As for the rest of us who reside, work in, drive through or visit Seminole County Florida, pray that you never get in the cross hairs of fine, upstanding, law abiding public servants, men of integrity, as identified in this article, who act upon rumors instead of facts.

As to the answer to our question, How does an innocent man get his reputation back?

The sad truth is that he does not.

RUMORS MAKE SURE OF THAT.