• Clay Co. sheriff's investigators suspended, demoted for wrongful arrest

    By: Kristy Wolski


    CLAY COUNTY, Fla. - Four members of the Clay County Sheriff’s Office are being disciplined for their involvement in the wrongful arrest of Louisiana resident Ashley Nicole Chiasson.

    Lt. Dan Mahla, Sgt. Robert Curry and Detectives Mark Maertz and William Roberts are currently suspended without pay and will be demoted to patrol duty upon their return.

    A 31-page administrative inquiry, released by the Sheriff’s Office Wednesday, details exactly what led them to wrongly arrest Ashley Nicole Chiasson.

    It also provides some information about prior disciplinary action against two of them by the Sheriff’s Office.

    Action News obtained further reports on those two CCSO members, Mahla and Curry.

    The administrative inquiry into Mahla, from 2005, shows he crossed into Duval County during an investigation with his sheriff’s office partner. The two engaged in a conversation with a woman “suspected of being a prostitute.”

    According to the documents, the conversation included “prices for sexual favors” and Mahla and his partner agreeing to “engage in oral sex for monetary consideration.”

    They then drove away from the believed prostitute in the opposite direction from which she had pointed.

    They were arrested shortly after the conversation and learned the woman was an undercover officer from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

    A subsequent investigation revealed Mahla and his partner had no criminal intent and were "following up on leads in ongoing criminal investigations." However, supervisors said Mahla did commit several violations of the Sheriff’s Office Code of Conduct.  The documents said “a direct order was given to Sergeant Mahla not to go into Duval County and conduct an investigation without receiving supervisory approval.”

    In 1995, Curry also had an administrative inquiry for going to the wrong address on a domestic violence call. The investigation revealed the mistake was “preventable, however there is no evidence of willful negligence or incompetence in any of these mistakes.”  

    Curry received on-the-job counseling on the mistake.

    The four law enforcement officers have more than 60 years combined service to the Clay County Sheriff’s Office.

    Sheriff Rick Beseler said, “The four CCSO members involved in this unfortunate situation are good law enforcement officers. Each has many years of dedicated service and excellent work records. However, due to what I view as complacency and lack of attention to detail, they committed a very serious breach of the public’s trust.”

    Attorney Andrew Bonderud, who represents Ashley Nicole Chiasson, said the sheriff has made a public apology, but has yet to contact him or his client. He said she is working to put her life back together in Louisiana following her wrongful arrest in Clay County.

    “She takes no satisfaction in anyone’s suffering, humiliation or financial hardship as a result of demotion and suspension,” he said. “Nevertheless she thinks it’s a step in the right direction.”

    The real suspect, Ashley Odessa Chiasson, has since been arrested and remains in the Clay County Jail.

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