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Deputies Avoid Contempt Charges After Complying with Court Order

BROOKSVILLE – Several Hernando County Sheriff's Office (HCSO) deputies will not face contempt charges or be forced to explain to a judge why they missed depositions in a homicide case being tried in Hernando County.

In March, R News reported that Detective Kevin Keiper and Deputies Mitchell Vesper, Chelsea Reid, John Longobardi, and Craig Milne all failed to appear for depositions in reference to a 2023 homicide case. In addition to the HCSO employees, a State Medical Examiner's Office investigator, and two other individuals also missed the same depositions scheduled for September and December of 2023.

On March 7th of this year, the Sheriff's Office issued written reprimands to all five employees for failing to attend the court-ordered depositions.

On March 13th, Chief Judge Daniel B. Merritt Jr ordered all five HCSO employees to appear on April 25th to show cause for missing the depositions.

There are unconfirmed reports that Sheriff Al Nienhuis met with Judge Merritt prior to issuing reprimands but neither would confirm nor deny if the meeting took place.

Sources tell R News that missed depositions are a common occurrence, but some deputies say they are never notified, and that the electronic notification system has a glitch. Despite three other individuals missing the same depositions, Sheriff Nienhuis says there is no systemic issue with the delivery of subpoenas, and that the reprimands were warranted.

Surprisingly, on March 28th Judge Merritt quashed the order to show cause for seven of the eight ordered to appear, due to the depositions being fulfilled before the hearing. Witness Brittany Tara Russell has not complied with the subpoena, which subsequently led to Judge Merritt issuing a warrant for her arrest on April 25th.


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