Clay sheriff disciplines 4 for 2 wrongful arrests

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Ashley Nicole Chiasson (left) was wrongly arrested by the Clay County Sheriff's Office. Meanwhile, CCSO said Ashley Odessa Chiasson is the correct suspect.

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. - Clay County Sheriff Rick Beseler announced on Wednesday that two detectives and their supervisors have been suspended without pay, effective immediately, for their roles in the two wrongful arrests of Louisiana woman Ashley Nicole Chiasson.

The suspensions come as the result of an internal investigation.

Ashley Odessa Chiasson, who police say is the correct suspect, was arrested in June and charged with grand theft $300-$4,999 and attempt to defraud financial institution by schemes.

Ashley Nicole Chiasson was first arrested on grand theft charges and transferred to the Clay County Jail on Jan. 23. She spent 28 days behind bars and was released on Feb. 19. On May 27 she was arrested again and released on June 4.

The detectives and their supervisors have also been moved from the Detective Division to the Patrol Division. According to a statement from Beseler, they were disciplined as follows:

- General Investigations Section Detective Mark Maertz is suspended for 30 days. He made the initial incorrect identification in the first grand theft arrest of Ashley Nicole Chiasson in fall 2013, Beseler said. Instead of reviewing evidence or conducting follow-up interviews, Maertz used law enforcement databases, which led to the identification of the wrong Ashley Chiasson, Beseler said.

- Maertz's supervisor, General Investigations Section Sgt. Robert Curry, is suspended for five days. Beseler said Curry "did not review the investigative or warrant documents" before Ashley Nicole Chiasson was arrested and "routinely neglected his supervisory duties related to detectives under his command."

- Financial Crimes Detective William Roberts, who made the incorrect identification in the second arrest in May 2014 of Ashley Nicole Chiasson, will be suspended for 30 days. Like Maertz, Roberts obtained a warrant for the arrest of Ashley Nicole Chiasson based off of information found in law enforcement databases, Beseler said.

- Roberts' supervisor, Lt. Dan Mahla, will be suspended for seven days. Mahla did not review Roberts' reports, Beseler said, and "this practice was routinely followed by Mahla because he viewed his staff as experienced, senior detectives with expertise in the area."

"This incident is not representative of the hard work and dedication exhibited daily by the hundreds of members of our agency," Beseler said. "The swift and decisive results of these internal investigations should reassure Clay County residents that we don’t take lightly our responsibility to do the right thing and to correct mistakes when they occur." 

Ashley Nicole Chiasson's attorney, Andrew Bonderud, said it is a step in the right direction.

"We're certainly not ready to do a victory lap. It seems the sheriff has made a step in the right direction and we applaud that," said Bonderud. 

Action News asked Bonderud what he and his client would consider justice.

He said, "Oh that's a question that's hard to answer. How do you put a value on your liberty?" 

Bonderud said he plans to file a lawsuit on his client's behalf against the Clay County Sheriff's Office.