By Lee Williams
Published: Monday, October 28, 2013 at 5:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 28, 2013 at 5:34 p.m.DESOTO COUNTY – Ray Kugler, the former sheriff’s captain in charge of the DeSoto County jail, has agreed to plead guilty to lying to FBI agents — a federal felony.
According to court documents, an FBI special agent and an agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement interviewed Kugler June 24 as part of the agencies’ investigation into allegations of abuse and civil rights violations in the jail made by Jody Holland, a former inmate.
Holland, 43, says DeSoto deputies beat him on three occasions, slamming his head into a concrete wall, punching him in the face and chest and choking him nearly unconscious.
Sheriff’s officials — including Kugler — initially denied that any staff member used force on Holland, but the Sheriff’s Office started an investigation after being contacted by the Herald-Tribune.
The FBI, FDLE and Sheriff’s Office internal affairs detectives started several investigations. Kugler retired while being investigated. Three other jail staffers were fired. One other was disciplined.
According to the federal plea agreement, the agents asked Kugler about a request to transport Holland to a local hospital — a request Holland and others say Kugler denied.
“The questions asked, and the responses provided by Mr. Kugler, were material to the investigation of whether DeSoto County jail staff, including Mr. Kugler, were willfully and deliberately indifferent to the serious medical needs of inmate J.H. (Holland),” the plea agreement states.
Kugler denied knowledge of the conversations during which he allegedly refused medical care — assertions that investigators claimed “were false.”
“In fact, Mr. Kugler was aware of the request to transport inmate (Holland) to (DeSoto Memorial Hospital) on May 25 2013 and willfully and deliberately denied such knowledge to S/A Roncinske and Agent Walsh,” the plea agreement states.
Kugler’s lawyer, Fort Myers defense attorney Joseph Viacava, said, “Because of his lack of criminal history, the controversy over the charge itself and his numerous years of public service, it is very unlikely he will serve any jail time, which of course is up to the court.”
“The charge is disputed, but the jury could conclude he did mislead, which is unintentional,” Viacava said. “They thought he was the boss in charge of all this, because he had the original dispute with the guy over some remarks, but they found out he had nothing to do with it.”
Viacava would not allow Kugler to be interviewed by the Herald-Tribune while the sentence is pending.
Holland said he expects more indictments in the case, which has been before a grand jury.
“I want the people who smashed my head — who tried to kill me,” he said. “I am glad it is moving forward.”
Holland said he is still suffering the effects of a mild concussion and from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of the beatings.
Deputies arrested Holland on April 21 for allegedly battering his girlfriend, Christine Routson, a nurse who worked at the jail until she resigned while under investigation.
Holland has denied the charges.
He spent the night in jail after that April arrest and was later released subject to a domestic violence injunction that ordered him to stay away from Routson.
She has alleged that Holland violated this court order on at least three occasions.
Holland was arrested May 25 on charges of violating the injunction and taken to the DeSoto jail, where he claims the more serious assaults began.