OKEECHOBEE — A local deputy resigned after an internal investigation detailed his relationship with a woman who was indicted on federal drug charges, and for not revealing he knew the man who headed up a methamphetamine distribution ring.
Paul Jackson, who had been with the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) for 13 years, resigned last week after the internal affairs probe into his relationship with Felicia Michelle Leitner, 28.
The primary impetus for the investigation, however, was Jackson’s lack of honesty with narcotics officers when queried about Steven Lee Oakes, 59, of Davenport. Oakes, also known as Wildman, was at the center of the meth distribution ring that was broken up in August following an 18-month investigation.
When narcotics officer asked Jackson if he knew Oakes, he said nothing, even though the officers had seen Oakes at Leitner’s home on several occasions.
OCSO Special Investigator Dale LaFlam, who did the internal investigation, indicated in his just-completed report that: “… surveillance also revealed that D/S Jackson interacted with Oakes at Leitner’s residence on at least one occasion; surveillance also observed D/S Jackson exit Leitner’s residence after watching Oakes enter and leave the residence.”
“He was a model employee for 13 years,” said Sheriff Paul May of Jackson. “He made a mistake and he’s paid dearly. But, under the circumstances, we did what we had to do.”
Leitner was indicted on federal charges and arrested Aug. 28 at the end of the investigation into the distribution of meth in Okeechobee, Glades, Highlands and Polk counties.
Oakes has also been arrested.
Assistant State Attorney Ashley Albright, who was part of the investigation and will be responsible for prosecuting as many as 25 people on conspiracy to commit racketeering charges, said Oakes would bring meth to Okeechobee County then give it to local people for distribution.
Mr. LaFlam stated it was common knowledge that Jackson and Leitner had lived together at one time as paramours. And, even though they no longer shared the same address, they would still spend the night together on occasion, added the report.
The special investigator also documented his interview with Leitner about her relationship with the former OCSO deputy. Although they smoked Spice together before it became illegal, she said Jackson never used meth and that he “… would not condone her illegal drug use.”
But, about a year ago, he moved out of the home they shared because “… of her using illegal drugs and an innuendo of her cheating on him.”
“The investigation revealed that D/S Jackson did have criminal intelligence information regarding Oakes that he chose not to disclose to members of the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Task Force,” stated Mr. LaFlam.
It should also be pointed out Mr. LaFlam was tasked with opening an internal investigation into another OCSO deputy. But, that probe revealed no wrongdoing by that deputy.
Both Sheriff May and Major Noel Stephen stressed the point that Jackson had no affect on that meth operation that involved law enforcement personnel from the local level, as well as state and federal agencies.
The sheriff said there is no indication Jackson was using or dealt in drugs.
He added the OCSO internal probe will also have no affect on any of Jackson’s outstanding cases.
Maj. Stephen cautioned that just because Jackson resigned last week and the internal probe has been completed, the former deputy could still lose his law enforcement certification.
“The internal (report) will be forwarded to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) for their review and consideration,” he said.
At that point, it will be up the FDLE if Jackson can retain his certification.
Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News