No Recovery for Sullied, Former Palm Beach County Deputies
In sifting through the news items and judicial decisions from the past few weeks, a set of two Florida cases, caught my attention that didn't seem to get much by the media: Thaeter v. Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office and Maxwell v. Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office (The two cases were decided in one trial as they dealt with the same circumstances).
The case involves three Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office (PBCSO) deputies; Ronald Thaeter, Timothy Moran, and Jack Maxwell who were invited by the wife of deputy Maxwell to join her, along with their own wives, in the photographing and filming of group sex acts for display on the internet. The shoot also included a PBSCO police car. The three officers participated and got caught. Maxwell resigned when the internal investigation began. Thaeter and Moran brought a lawsuit when they were fired.
The decision on the case turned on the issues of whether the deputies properly reported their outside "employment" pursuant to regulations governing the Sheriff's office, and whether the deputies acts were protected by free speech. The trial judge in the case and the 11th Circuit panel handled the issues well and concluded that the firing was valid as it followed the regulations guiding the PBCSO and was not impermissibly restrictive of the officers' right to free speech.
But that's not what caught my attention, rather, it was the discussion in this article about the violation of the officers' pledge, including the line, "I will keep my private life unsullied as an example to all." One attorney involved with the case, Richard Rosenbaum of Fort Lauderdale admitted "I've tried as best as I can to figure what [unsullied] means, and if I don't know, I don't know how a regular police officer can be put on notice about what he can and can't do."
Honesty, I'd have a hard time giving you a legal definition of "sullied" as well, but I would not hesitate to say that three police officers participating in group sex acts for distribution over the internet falls well within the borders of leading a "sullied" private life as well as substantially short of serving as an "example to all."