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Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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Pinellas detention deputy surrenders on battery charge

ST. PETERSBURG - A Pinellas County detention deputy turned himself in today on a charge of simple battery resulting from an investigation of an incident last summer.

Another deputy who witnessed the act was suspended for seven days for downplaying what happened in a written report.

Deputy Joel De Los Reyes, 51, surrendered to authorities on the battery charge and was freed on $500 bond.

De Los Reyes was monitoring a juvenile section of the county jail on Aug. 31 when he got into a heated verbal exchange with inmate Steven Valentin, who was then 15, and "lost it," Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said.

De Los Reyes became violent with Valentin and struck him. Surveillance video shows De Los Reyes forcing Valentin onto a table in what appeared to be a common area.

Detention Deputy Adrian Nenu, 49, witnessed the incident. But in his report, he wrote that De Los Reyes delivered a "custodial touch" to Valentin.

De Los Reyes, according to a department statement, didn't report the use of force to his superior, and "initially stated the inmate was not compliant and that his strike was not excessive."

An investigation into the incident ensued, and video of the incident suggested otherwise.

"The report on De Los Reyes' part was a complete lie, a complete fabrication," Gualtieri said. "The report in Nenu's part was one complete tap dance. And boy he goes right up to the line. If he had lied in this report I would have fired him."

Valentin had been in custody for robbery and was to be tried as an adult. He was waiting for transport to Pasco County.

Internal Affairs, with the robbery and homicide unit, launched an investigation into the deputies' conduct and found probable cause to arrest De Los Reyes, who had resigned while it was underway.

Nenu, meanwhile, was suspended for seven days as a result of the investigation.

De Los Reyes is the fifth detention deputy in Pinellas to leave the force as a result of such an incident.

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