Thursday, Jul 31, 2014
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Detectives accused of bar battery

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SPRING HILL - Two Hernando County Sheriff's Office detectives accused of battering a man outside Jersey's Hometown Tavern in May will not face criminal charges.

Investigation details released Wednesday show Detectives Anthony Mazza and Anthony Scarpati will not be prosecuted for the alleged charge of battery on Bryan Silverstone, 28, of Spring Hill.

Mazza and Scarpati were put on paid administrative leave on June 6, according to sheriff's office spokeswoman Denise Moloney, and remain on leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation.

In the early morning of May 26, Silverstone caught the attention of a patrol deputy near Commercial Way and Berkley Manor Boulevard, yelling that he had just been beaten up by Mazza and Scarpati in the parking lot of Jersey's at 4598 Commercial Way.

Deputy William Martinez wrote Silverstone had blood on his face and chest, a swollen nose and ear, scratches and abrasions and two small contusions on the back of his head.

Silverstone said the ordeal started on the evening of May 25 when he was at the Hilltop Lounge in Brooksville. Silverstone said Mazza and Scarpati told him they could not be in the same area of the bar, and the detectives had a bouncer escort him elsewehere.

Silverstone said Mazza later threatened him, and he left for Jersey's to avoid any problems. When he arrived, Silverstone told Jersey's owner Evans Pappas he had been confronted, and Pappas said Mazza "would never hurt him," according to the report.

While speaking with Pappas, Mazza, Scarpati and another individual, whose name is redacted in the investigation, walked into the bar,

Silverstone said Mazza pushed him up against a wall, and later attacked him in the parking lot. Silverstone said after Mazza tackled him, he sprayed him in the face with mace, and was kicked and punched by the detectives and the unnamed individual. Silverstone said they continued to beat him as he got into his car, then he drove off and alerted law enforcement.

Sheriff's office forensics and major case personnel were involved with the battery investigation. The night of May 25 happened differently, according to Mazza and Scarpati, who say that Silverstone was confrontational at the Hilltop Saloon, and was not provoked when he started spraying them and other bar patrons with pepper spray at Jersey's. Other witnesses said an "unknown Hispanic male" had punched Silverstone before he started spraying the mace.

After the incident, law enforcement noted both Mazza and Scarpati had red eyes from the pepper spray, but did not have hand injuries that would have been consistent with punching someone.

A forensic technician wrote in her report, however, that both Mazza and Scarpati refused to provide their shirts as evidence, which both detectives denied.

No camera footage exists of the fight.

Witnesses in the investigation said the original argument between Silverstone and Mazza started online, with Silverstone sending threatening messages to Mazza and Scarpati. In a June interview, Silverstone said he believed Mazza urged his ex-girlfriend to file a restraining order against him, and showed up when deputies stopped him walking along U.S. 19 one night. Silverstone said he had posted negative things about Mazza on Facebook, and believed Mazza was monitoring his social media page.

In an interview with Detective Randy Williamson, Scarpati said he suggested a 27-year-old woman get a restraining order against Silverstone, whom she believed was stalking him.

Williamson noted during his interview Scarpati was answering his questions "intentionally vague," but said he and Mazza did not hit Silverstone that night and he wasn't "covering for anybody."

The investigation also shows Brooksville Police Officer Erwin Evelyn, who previously worked for the sheriff's office, might have accessed the investigation report without authorization.

The State Attorney's Office decided not to file battery charges against Mazza and Scarpati. The investigation shows Assistant State Attorney Ric Ridgway cited inconsistencies in testimonies, evidence and Silverstone's "bias" against the detectives.

When asked to comment on the investigation, Sheriff Al Nienhuis said "I am unable to publicly add anything to the investigation at this time. The criminal investigation will stand on its own."

Hernando Today reviewed Mazza and Scarpati's personnel files via a public records request. Scarpati has been working for the sheriff's office since 1990, and makes $58,491.68 annually. A former school resource officer at D.S. Parrott and Fox Chapel middle schools, Scarpati was named deputy of the quarter in 2002. Scarpati was involved with two internal investigations in 1999, both unfounded.

Mazza's file shows he was first hired by the sheriff's office in March 2000, but fired in November 2001 for violating the agency's excessive force policy. During a traffic stop, Mazza took a 79-year-old man to the ground, who sustained an eye contusion and rib fracture. Mazza appealed his dismissal, and was re-hired the following April.

Last year, Mazza was promoted from deputy to detective. He makes $48,006.66 a year.

Mazza has been involved with seven internal or bureau level investigations at the Hernando County Sheriff's Office. In 2004, Mazza was suspended for two days without pay after he worked an off-duty detail at Central High School without a working radio, and accompanied by his girlfriend. Mazza was suspended for five days around the same time for pulling over a man he believed was driving erratically in Lake County. Mazza was off-duty, with a handgun tucked into the back of his pants, when he pulled over the man. Local law enforcement didn't know Mazza was a deputy, and arrived with their guns drawn.

The detective has been reprimanded for not attending depositions, oversleeping, improper evidence packing and not submitting reports on time.

Accolades from his file include jumping in the water to save a man, and returning a lost puppy.

wbiddlecombe@hernandotoday.com

(352) 544-5283

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