(AP) – A northeast Ohio sheriff fired a deputy for ordering five jail inmates to dance to a song by Usher in exchange for privileges such as using a phone or microwave, the sheriff’s office said Thursday.
Dominic Martucci was accused of ordering the inmates to dance last month, after they were locked up in a disciplinary area, and then inviting colleagues to watch. The date of the incident was unclear; according to an internal report, various inmates and deputies said it happened on either April 10 or 11.
The Summit County Sheriff’s Office conducted an internal investigation after an inmate reported the incident, and the 35-year-old Martucci was fired this week for violating department policies by mistreating inmates, acting inappropriately and having a cellphone in the jail, apparently used to play the music.
One inmate did the worm as Martucci played Usher’s “Yeah!” while another said he did the robot so that he could use a phone to contact relatives after a family member’s death.
Investigators say several deputies watched the inmates dance after they happen to walk by the cell or were called by Martucci. Some deputies told investigators the dancing only lasted a few seconds. But several inmates say the dancing went on for at least several minutes, and it appeared the deputies were protecting Martucci by being on the lookout for any supervisors.
“The community needs to be assured that all inmates that come through the doors of the Summit County jail will be treated humanely and with respect,” Inspector Bill Holland of the sheriff’s office said Thursday. “All allegations to the contrary will be investigated. We take these matters very seriously, and any member of our agency that does not share this philosophy will be disciplined accordingly.”
The internal report says inmates were asked by Martucci to do a “bump and grind” routine if they wanted a recently removed microwave returned to their unit.
Martucci said in the report he unplugged the inmates’ unit microwave after some ignored his orders to return to their cell for lockup. He said he returned later to tell the inmates they would have to dance for him if they wanted to get out of lockup and get their microwave back.
Investigators said Martucci admitted making a mistake but told them he was only trying to ease tension in the jail. He said his actions were wrong in hindsight, and he had not planned to ask the inmates to dance. He also was cited for conduct unbecoming an officer and failing to properly document why the inmates had been put in the disciplinary area.
One inmate said Martucci told him he had to dance “one full minute to my liking.” He said Martucci later didn’t reward him for the dancing like he had with other inmates, and told him he “messed up, you’ll be going to the hole.”
Another inmate, who reported the incident, told investigators he felt “humiliated” for being forced to dance in front of other inmates.
The deputies who may have observed the dancing remain on the job, but the investigation is ongoing and could lead to further disciplinary measures, Holland said. Some deputies told investigators the inmates had been laughing and appeared to be having a good time during the incident, according to the report.
No public phone number was listed for Martucci, who had been with the department since 2004. A message was left Thursday with a union for law enforcement officers.
There are no blemishes in Martucci’s disciplinary file, which is expunged every 12 months under the deputies’ collective bargaining agreement, Holland said.
Associated Press writer Barbara Rodriguez in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.
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