BROOKSVILLE — Brooksville Police Chief George Turner said he wasn’t surprised when a local jury took less than 20 minutes to find his second-in-command, Police Capt. Rick Hankins not guilty of misdemeanor battery.
Hankins stood trial last week over an incident in which he was accused of punching Sumter County corrections officer Fred Taclik during a Dec. 22 Christmas party at the home of a Spring Hill physician.
After a two-day trial last week, Hankins was found not guilty.
Turner said this week that he was surprised the case made it to trial.
“I did review everything at the time and had full confidence that at the end of the day, the charges would be dropped, or, if it went to a jury, they’d see the same thing I saw,” Turner said, arguing that the incident was “at most, an affray between two men.”
“It lasted 15 or 20 seconds and neither one sustained injuries. Capt. Hankins followed all department policies by notifying me and putting it all in writing. He cooperated” from the beginning, Turner said.
Hankins declined to comment, but his attorney, Ellis Faught Jr., said that the state’s witnesses gave conflicting statements.
“There were 11 witnesses, potentially, not counting law enforcement,” Faught said. “In preparation, I took it upon myself to get a CD made of each recorded statement and had my office transcribe the statements. All 11 witnesses were served with a subpoena, and I provided each with a transcript of their statements and a copy of the CD.
“I sent each (witness) a letter saying that if they disagree with the CD or the transcript, to call me immediately.”
Faught said that he “obviously felt strongly” that the jury would find Hankins not guilty.
When Hernando sheriff’s deputies responded Dec. 22 to a battery complaint at the Spring Hill home, Taclik told them that Hankins battered him during an unprovoked altercation, records show.
The sheriff’s office investigation was completed on Jan. 3, and an arrest warrant was served. Hankins turned himself in that day and was released on $500 bail.
Faught said that he couldn’t say whether or not the situation could have been avoided.
“(Taclik’s wife) said everybody was drinking,” Faught said. “The party started at 8 o’clock and some of them were still there at 5 a.m. This incident happened after 1 a.m., but I wasn’t there. All I can do is use the statements of those under oath, which were contradictory.”
Records show Hankins was hired by the Brooksville Police Department in April 1997.
While his case went through the legal system, Hankins was placed on restricted administrative duties, Turner said.
“We got reaccredited (recently), and Capt. Hankins was an integral part of that,” Turner said. “We’re not seeing any lasting negative repercussions from this. We’re glad it’s over and ready to continue in the course of conduct we’ve maintained.”