MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — A former Manatee County correction deputy who was fired in 2017 for excessive force has been convicted of battery and sentenced to 120 days in jail.
An investigation into Paul Wagner, 32, began on June 26, 2017 after an excessive force complaint was filed against him. The altercation resulted in the inmate suffering broken teeth and a broken nose, according to the sheriff's office.
Three deputies were conducting a "shakedown" search of the dorm while the inmates were in the Exercise Yard, the sheriff's office says. During the shakedown a cache of oranges, which are considered contraband, were confiscated from inmate Andrew Pryce’s bin.
When the inmates were brought back into the dorm, the inmate discovered that his oranges were missing and he became distraught and confrontational with one of the deputies.
Deputy Wagner and one other deputy each took control of an arm, they began to escort Pryce out of the dorm, but Pryce resisted by tensing his muscles. The third deputy then handcuffed the inmate's hands behind his back.
The three deputies then escorted the inmate into the hallway outside the dorm with Deputy Wagner in physical control of the inmate and the other two deputies following. As the inmate turned to speak with one of the deputies, Deputy Wagner placed him chest first against the wall of the hallway.
Deputy Wagner then moved the inmate along the wall to a blacked out window which looked into the dorm.
MCSO reports that words were exchanged between Deputy Wagner and the inmate.
Deputy Wagner then lifted the inmate, spun him around him to their left, and forced him to the floor in a face down, prone, position. The inmate hit the floor face and chest first causing a broken nose and teeth.
A nurse was immediately called to the scene. The inmate was taken to Manatee Memorial for treatment and was later returned to the Medical Unit of the Central Jail.
MCSO determined that based on the testimony of all involved, including Deputy Wagner and Inmate Pryce, that no threat was presented from Pryce to anyone in the hallway.
A press release from the Manatee County Sheriff's Office included the following conclusion:
"It is clear Wagner overreacted to the situation when he took Pryce down face first which caused him injury. Therefore, it appears by a preponderance of the evidence, Deputy Wagner committed Felony Battery when he used unnecessary force to place Inmate Pryce, who was handcuffed behind his back, face down on the floor of the hallway, causing permanent injury to his nose and teeth."
Wagner was fired on July 6, 2017. He was convicted of felony battery in July of this year, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of five years in jail.
Wagner was sentenced to 120 days behind bars followed by 30 days in the work offender program and anger management classes as a condition of two years probation.