After Horrific Death in Florida Prison, Investigator is Denied Whistleblower Protection

The recent uproar of how veterans have died waiting for care at a Phoenix VA facility was brought to light after†two whistleblowers went public with what they knew.†They went through proper channels to report that officials were fabricating data to hide the fact that veterans were waiting upwards of a year for sometimes life saving treatment. When the whistleblowers found out that that the investigation was moving slowly and officials were beginning to destroy evidence, they went the extra step to save the evidence and go to the media with what they knew.

The two employees still have their jobs due to the Whistleblower Protection Act. The law protects federal employees from retaliation after reporting a wrongdoing. Whistleblowers may not be transferred, denied a raise, have their hours reduced, be fired or be punished in any other way because they have exercised any right afforded to them under the law. States also have expanded whistleblowers laws, with varying protections for public and private employees.

Last year an investigator for the Florida Department of Corrections was investigating allegations of prison corruption. He stumbled upon the case of Randall Jordan-Aparo who was serving 18 months for check fraud at Franklin Correctional Institution in Carabelle, Florida. After prison officials ignored his pleas for medical care, they placed him in solitary confinement when he threatened to report them for neglect. Over the next five days, they sprayed gas into his cell with the sole purpose of suffocating him. When he died, officials and medical providers fabricated records and labeled the cause of death as complications from a rare blood disorder.

The Florida DOC investigator, Aubrey Land, has been in his job for 35 years and is a senior law enforcement inspector. There has been little he hasnít seen, but this case shocked him. He proceeded to take the steps to report what was seemingly a high-level criminal cover-up to the chain of command. After reporting the findings to Florida law enforcement and federal authorities, Land, along with three other investigators, met with the Secretary of the Department of Corrections to report their findings in February 2014. The Secretary recommended that they report their findings to the Florida Inspector Generals since their case would appear to qualify them for whistleblower status. The four investigators filed a written request for the status and were subsequently interviewed about their findings.

After a 14 day investigation, the four investigators were denied whistleblower status.

In a lawsuit filed this month, Land and the other plaintiffs allege that the denial of whistleblower status is only the latest in retaliation for reporting the Aparo death the federal authorities. In October 2013, they were subjected to an internal affairs investigation based on what they claim are false and unwarranted complaints. They claim the investigation was in retaliation for having gone to authorities about the inmateís death. The internal affairs complaint remains pending.

In May, the Miami Herald began a series of reports regarding the torture and deaths of inmates in Floridaís prison system. In addition to the Aparo death, they reported on the death of a mentally ill inmate in another facility that was put into a scalding hot shower and later found dead with his skin falling off. In all they have found a total of ten suspicious deaths of inmates while in custody, including three that occurred over the Fourth of July weekend. These reports have caused more problems for Aubrey Land and the other investigators as they are now being accused of providing private information to the Herald. They deny the allegations.

Land and the three investigators are suing for whistleblower protection and an injunction against the Florida DOC. They allege they are suffering retaliation in the form of being denied promotions and transfers, as well as negative reports in their employee files all due to the unfounded internal affairs investigation. Furthermore, without whistleblower status they canít file a claim about the retaliatory measures nor are they able to request a hearing to clear their names. They are basically frozen in time, and their careers are being damaged as a result.

Two years after the death of the mentally ill inmate left in the scalding hot shower, the warden of the Dade Correctional Facility was fired this week. Jerry Cummings had worked in the DOC for 30 years. The firing is the first major action taken since the Florida DOC and Governor Rick Scott promised a full investigation into the allegations brought to light by the Herald reports. Mike Crews, the same Secretary of the DOC that Aubrey Land reported his findings to, said the firing of Jerry Cummings was to send a message and restore integrity to the system.



Jim Ven
Jim Ven8 months ago

thanks for the article.

Darren Woolsey
Darren Woolsey2 years ago

There's no point in being a whistle blower, if you're then treated as if you're a criminal.

Marcia Geiger
Marcia Geiger2 years ago

Support all the whistleblowers. Prosecute the officials and guards that were involved.
If it wasn't for whistleblowers, we wouldn't know of all the cruelty to animals and humans.

Dale O.

Whistleblowers certainly need to be protected.

Agreed Aurea W, certainly an insightful comment on your part.

It is appalling that a man had gas sprayed into his cell, not to mention another with his skin partly burned off. Those responsible should face murder charges when people are killed.

So, in the end, Randall Jordan-Aparo served time for cheque fraud and instead, ended up getting a version of capital punishment enforced by the guards, enabled by the warden.

One has to wonder about just how many other prison deaths occur in this fashion, the ones that we never find out about. Possibly, a lot more than we think, when some guards become Judge, Jury and Executioner, in some of the more extreme cases. As more prisons are privatized, certainly it will be easier to cover up these sorts of crimes by the guards.

Dale O.

Steven Gregory D, you do have a fair and legitimate question and to answer your query about the odd comment presented by the person saying that "Florida is up there with Canada!! You people suck!!"

Well, it's easy, once you realize that Florida did not drift north and attach itself to New Brunswick. You have to understand where she is 'coming' from. It's not exactly all that logical, but here it is, in a nutshell:

Dale O.

Steven Gregory D, she objects to the seal hunt, so a number of times, no matter what an article is about, there are times when she feels some bizarre need to link some off topic article to her burning hatred of all Canadians over the seal hunt. This way she can then say a few more hostile words lobbed in Canada's direction, including, on occasion, whomever else she can then throw into the mix. Perhaps, in this instance, she felt that Canada was lonely as the sole object of her loathing and had to include Florida. We can certainly borrow their warmer winters.

Since only a handful of the Canadian population even takes part in the seal hunt and the fact that the majority of Canadians oppose the seal hunt, has not come to her attention. It is rather odd that she has to endlessly drag Canada into subjects that have nothing to do with the topic at hand. But, some are warmed and find true comfort when wrapped in their own blind hatred of others. Does that explain it, at least a bit?

Steven Gregory Davis

@Pop M.
You claim that The warden didn't do it.He enabled it to happen. Fire the creeps that carried out the evil deeds,and lock them up....
I beg to differ, if people like this warden didn't ENABLE their employees to "GAS" a prisoner fo death, for writing bad checks, then these sorts of horrible transgressions against humanity would not be possible...Did you feel that HITLER wasn't to blame, simply because he didn't actually "throw the switch"????

Steven Gregory Davis

@Tricia H. you wrote, and I quote: "Florida is up there with Canada!! You people suck!!"
I've seen some brilliant remarks on Care2 articles, but yours is certainly one of the most profound!!! What do you mean by claiming that Florida is up there with Canada???...As far as I could tell, there was no mention of Canada in the article!!!...And when you claim that you people suck, just exactly whom do you mean...All the members of Care2, everyone living in Florida and/or Canada, or simply those of us who are literate enough to actually read and understand articles such as this one???

Steven Gregory Davis

@Justin K. Thanks for explaining the word punishment, and that it was derived from the Latin Poena, which does indeed translate as PAIN, but what is your point?...Do you feel that the prison guards should inflict as much mental and physical abuse as possible upon the inmates, or should they instead show a little compassion??

Steven Gregory Davis

@Pop M.
You claim that The warden didn't do it.He enabled it to happen. Fire the creeps that carried out the evil deeds,and lock them up....
I beg to differ, if people like this warden didn't ENABLE their employees to "GAS" a prisoner fo death, for writing bad checks, then these sorts of horrible transgressions against humanity would not be possible...Did you feel that HITLER wasn't to blame, simply because he didn't actually "throw the switch"????