A former sheriff’s deputy in Florida’s Manatee County, who lost his job in August over a steroid scandal, now says he was actually fired because he was seeking gay sex with a confidential informant.
“My personal sex life or preference isn’t any of the Sheriff's Office’s business,” Robert Craig told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on Tuesday. “I was pretending to be interested in this stuff to try to get [the informant] to hook up with me — that’s nothing I should be fired for.”
In fact, the department’s stated reason for firing Craig was “conduct unbecoming a law enforcement officer.” The steroid scandal in August claimed the jobs of three other deputies who bought what the informant called “testosterone boosters,” or illegal steroids.
Sheriff Brad Steube flatly denies that Craig’s sexual orientation caused his dismissal.
“That has nothing to do with this,” Steube (pictured) said. “He was negotiating to buy steroids. I’m not sure that law enforcement officers should be involved in illegal activity.”
Craig, who had been on the job since 2008, says that the department has a history of being “notoriously homophobic.”
Unlike the other three deputies, Craig never bought the steroids and now claims that he was too naïve to know that what the man was selling was an illegal product. While two of the other deputies have been arrested, Craig was never charged with any crime.
The informant was a friend and onetime co-worker of Craig’s whom he had not seen for a few years. The two became friends when they bonded over the fact that each of their fathers suffered from cancer.
“I had hid the fact I was gay for a long time,” Craig told the Sarasota paper. “I told him I was gay and had a crush on him.”
He says the friend responded by providing Craig with nude pictures of himself, leading Craig to believe the man might be a prospective sexual partner.
When they got back in touch in July, the man offered to sell Craig the “testosterone boosters.” Craig says the man never used the word “steroids” and that he did not know that the illegal supplements were what he was trying to buy.
Craig requested $150 worth for himself and $75 worth of the drug for a friend. But as soon as another deputy told him that he was buying steroids, he canceled the order. But it was too late. When he showed up for work the next Monday, he was given a choice to resign or be fired.
A hearing of the Career Service Appeal Board in the county is set to take up Craig’s case on Oct. 9.
Sources: Sarasota Herald-Tribune (2), Bradenton Herald