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Judge sentences former deputy Frank Bybee to 15 years in pri
Sun Nov 12, 2017 01:21
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Judge sentences former deputy Frank Bybee to 15 years in prison

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Judge sentences former deputy Frank Bybee to 15 years in prison
Nov 10 at 9:22 AM
Frank Eugene Bybee, 46, [HERALD-TRIBUNE STAFF PHOTO / CARLOS R. MUNOZ]

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Frank Eugene Bybee, 46, is hugged by his attorney, Ronald Kurpiers, in court Thursday. The former sheriff’s deputy was sentenced to 15 years in prison for kidnapping, exploitation of the elderly, computer fraud and fraudulent use of personal information.[HERALD-TRIBUNE STAFF PHOTO / CARLOS R. MUNOZ]

By Carlos R. Munoz
Staff Writer

Posted Nov 9, 2017 at 12:07 PM
Updated Nov 10, 2017 at 9:22 AM

The former Sarasota County Sheriff’s deputy was convicted in October of kidnapping, exploitation of the elderly, and 11 other felonies.

SARASOTA — A former Sarasota County sheriff’s deputy was sentenced to 15 years in prison for kidnapping and exploiting an elderly woman he helped Baker Act in 2016.

Frank Bybee, 46, was found guilty by a jury Oct. 6 of kidnapping, exploitation of the elderly, three counts of computer fraud and eight counts of fraudulent use of personal information. He could have faced life in prison on just the kidnapping charge, but Charlotte County Judge Donald H. Mason considered Bybee’s honorable military service and clean criminal history prior to his conviction.

Mason, a former law enforcement officer, strayed from his personal rule of not making comments to the defendant before sentencing by telling Bybee that the majority of law enforcement officers take their job to heart.

“Remembrance is the highest compliment you can give a law enforcement officer,” Mason said. “They say he or she is a good cop — no one can say that about you. You’ll forever be known as a bad cop.”

Assistant State Attorney Karen Fraivillig had asked the judge to sentence Bybee to more than 70 years in prison because he “lured” the victim with empty promises of becoming family. The prosecutor said the victim admittedly had few friends, and Bybee took advantage of his personal knowledge of the elderly woman.

The Herald-Tribune has not named the woman because of the newspaper’s policy not to identify victims of certain crimes.

Bybee withdrew money from the victim’s accounts using ATM cards, forged checks for $65,000 and sent them to himself — some written out to his three sons, ages 16, 12 and 3 — according to Fraivillig. He hacked both her AOL and PayPal accounts.

″(The victim) was victimized and re-victimized by him,” Fraivillig told the court. “He gamed the system — the system we work under in this courtroom. His knowledge allowed him to know how Baker Act (an involuntary mental committal) worked and he used that knowledge to isolate (the victim) in a legal and effective way.”

Fraivillig asked the judge to sentence Bybee to at least 30 years on the kidnapping charge alone.

Bybee’s attorney, Ronald Kurpiers, said his client will suffer from the decisions he made for the rest of his life, and that since his arrest in January, he has been treated deplorably.

“He went through hell for the first 60 to 90 days of his incarceration,” Kurpiers said. “He was not allowed to wear clothes — he wore a turtle suit (a tear-resistant, one-piece garment that prevents inmates from using the clothing to kill themselves). The lights were on 24/7. He was given bologna sandwiches and lost 30 pounds in 60 days.

“There were times he would shower and it’d be a shower filled with feces — he was treated like an animal.”

Kurpiers said the treatment was part of a “suicide watch,” but that his client was never suicidal. The attorney said Bybee has justifiably been in protective custody since his arrest because he was a deputy and received threats from other inmates.

Kurpiers said Bybee’s food was tampered with, and that his life will be in jeopardy in confinement.

“He will live in protective custody, I suspect,” Kurpiers said.

Judge Mason said he based his findings on the jury’s decision, but that he was troubled by Bybee’s “evil intent.”

“The penalty you face is incalculable to me,” Mason said. “You have lost your family, your job and your most important thing — your reputation. ... You’ve hurt every one of these people in here today with a uniform on. You’ve made their job that much tougher by your actions when being a cop is already a tough thing to be.

“People will look at you, and your name will forever be infamous in Sarasota County. It’s incomprehensible to me.”

Mason then sentenced Bybee to 15 years in prison and 10 years probation for kidnapping; 15 years for exploitation and computer fraud; and five years probation for all eight fraudulent use of personal information convictions. The charges will all be served at the same time.

Bybee will have to pay court costs, prosecuting fees and restitution.

Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight, who made his first appearance in the courtroom since the start of the trial, said outside the courthouse that he was angry Bybee had abused the uniform and the badge.

“Judge Mason did an outstanding job today explaining his decision and the seriousness of Bybee’s crimes,” said Knight, who personally walked Bybee to jail after his January arrest. “Wearing a uniform and having a badge is cherished. If you take it lightly and exploit it, you deserve to be taken to state prison. I’m glad he’s not wearing the same uniform anymore that I wear and that nearly 1,000 people in my Sheriff’s Office wear. I’m extremely proud of my detectives.”

Fraivillig said Judge Mason struggled with his decision because he served 30 years as a Massachusetts police officer.

“He gave a very, very just sentence based upon the fact Bybee dishonored his badge and brought dishonor on all the men and women of our community,” Fraivillig said.

Kurpiers, who submitted a motion to withdraw from the case after the sentencing, said Bybee will continue to fight the kidnapping conviction. A motion during sentencing to stay the conviction was denied.

“Fifteen years is better than life,” the attorney said. “Not saying 15 years is what this man wants to do — he’s gone through hell and he will have a very difficult time in custody.”

No contempt

Before the sentencing phase, Sarasota County sheriff’s deputies Chris Butler and Sgt. Chris Felix appeared before Judge Mason to show why they shouldn’t be charged with contempt of court for their actions during the trial.

The two deputies reviewed evidence of the case, while Felix was still under oath, in a patrol car belonging to Deputy Russell Reynolds.

Butler and Felix testified that they watched the video from the squad car’s “Watchguard” system to help them recall candid conversations made at the victim’s home the day she accused Bybee of trying to kill her.

Butler and Felix were told they could each face six months in jail if they were found in contempt of court.

Mason was lenient with the two deputies who were called to testify late. He did not feel they were properly instructed before their testimony.

Butler said he was unaware of the rules of sequestration.

“I would just like to let you know, your honor, that I have been a law enforcement officer for 31 years. My whole life has involved law enforcement,” Felix said. “I would not do anything to disobey a direct order from you. My son is a prosecutor. My whole life has been law enforcement.”

Butler said nothing.

After hearing testimony from Reynolds, Butler and Felix, the judge said he was satisfied that the deputes did not intend to undermine or embarrass the “orderly administration of justice.”

Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Kaitlyn Perez said the agency will go forward with an internal affairs review of Butler and Felix.

“The Sheriff’s Office supports the court’s findings in this case, however, will continue to conduct the internal affairs investigation to determine if both members were in compliance with agency standards and procedures,” she said.

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http://www.heraldtribune.com/news/20171109/judge-sentences-former-deputy-frank-bybee-to-15-years-in-prison

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