Probe: No policy violation at Fla. county jail when photo of victim placed in defendant's cell
The inmate has been charged with the 2016 murder of former jail officer Ronnie Charles Damon
By Austin L. Miller
OCALA, Fla. — Shortly after his arrest last month, Marquee Dashawn Williams alleged he was mistreated at the Marion County Jail. Specifically, he said pictures of the man he's accused of killing, former jail officer Ronnie Charles Damon, were plastered on his wall in his cell.
Sheriff Billy Woods ordered an internal investigation, which has now concluded. It found that Williams was not ill-treated at the jail, but confirmed that small business card-size calendars, which include Damon's image, were placed in his cell.
"For several years, these handouts have been used as an investigative tool and have been provided to inmates in the Marion County Jail as a matter of course, as well as inmates at certain correctional institutions," sheriff's Capt. Brian Spivey wrote in his administrative review of the probe.
Damon was killed in 2016, and no arrest was made until last month. The handouts were part of the investigative strategy as detectives sought to solve the crime.
Spivey wrote: "Investigators believe these handouts played a substantial role in helping solve this cold case homicide by causing persons with information about the crime to come forward and share what they knew. This investigative tool was a continuing and longstanding feature of the investigation for the past several years."
Williams is charged with first-degree murder with a firearm in the death of Damon, 29. During his first appearance hearing, Williams denied pulling the trigger.
Spivey wrote: "Employees at the jail reasonably believed that the continued placement of these photographs in Defendant Williams' cell and his housing section was part of a continuing investigative plan or tactic, and therefore carried out the distribution of the cards in an effort to further the investigation, not to threaten or intimidate Defendant Williams."
During his first appearance hearing, Williams said he feared for his safety and didn't want to remain at the Marion jail.
Authorities said Williams is in a cell by himself in Alpha Pod, which is home to some of the most violent offenders. The captain said in his report that from the time Williams arrived at the jail, "he has been under close supervision, including video surveillance within his section of the jail."
Williams, according to the report, was not deprived of food, a charge he made at his court appearance. Williams also said he was taken from his cell to an area where pictures were taken of him. But Spivey said Williams was removed from his cell for a legitimate reason: so officials could photograph is tattoos.
The tattoos, the report notes, "are relevant to the ongoing prosecution, and it was necessary they be thoroughly documented."
The report states Williams was returned to his pod, and did not spend much time away from his cell.
Spivey said the information left in Williams' cell did not violate jail policy, but the calendars have been removed from the cell and that entire section of the jail.
"In conclusion, it is recognized with the benefit of hindsight that the placement of the calendars in Defendant Williams' cell following his arrest could have been avoided; however, placing them there was not a willful violation of any policy," Spivey wrote.
As of Wednesday, Williams was still being held without bail at the jail. He has a court appearance scheduled for later this month. Williams is represented by the Public Defender's Office.
(c)2021 the Ocala Star-Banner (Ocala, Fla.)