FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony lied several times to get his first job as a police officer and then passed a lie-detector test despite saying his answers were true, newly released records show.
Coral Springs police made Tony fill out a questionnaire and undergo a voice stress test in 2005. He answered “no” to several questions that would have revealed that he once killed a man, according to police records released Thursday.
Tony was arrested as a 14-year-old in Philadelphia on charges of shooting another teenager, an act he has described as self-defense. The case was transferred to juvenile court and he was found not guilty. The records are no longer available, leaving it unclear whether they were purged, sealed or expunged.
During the Coral Springs interview, he maintained that he had never been taken into custody or questioned in any matter, records show.
The police records, obtained by the South Florida Sun Sentinel in response to a public records request, provide the most detailed example yet of falsehoods that have emerged as Tony campaigns for his first election as sheriff. They are the first to show Tony concealing the shooting even when asked specifically about sealed or expunged cases.
Tony’s campaign on Thursday blamed dirty politics for the records surfacing.
“This week the country has once again been rocked by stories of police brutality — an issue that Sheriff Tony has confronted head-on in Broward County and was ignored by his predecessor Scott Israel,” Tony’s campaign said in a statement. “So it is no surprise that once again opponents are trying to dredge up incidents from his teenage years and from his past. Voters in this election will make a choice between the job Sheriff Tony is doing in the job as sheriff today, as compared to the failed leadership of his predecessor — not on things that happened 15 or 27 years ago.”
Tony’s campaign consultant, Eric Johnson, had argued earlier this month that Tony didn’t disclose the killing on other police paperwork because the question asked if a “criminal” record had been sealed, and he said Tony had been found not guilty.
The Coral Springs interview did ask Tony about dismissed cases.
In preparation for his lie-detector test, Tony replied no to all of these questions:
— Had law enforcement ever been called because of something he was involved in.
— Had he ever caused the death of another person.
— Had he ever been in a fight that involved a weapon.
— Had law enforcement ever questioned him as a suspect in an investigation.
— Had he ever been arrested or charged, even if the charges were dropped, sealed or expunged or he was found not guilty.
— Had he ever used a hallucinogenic drug.
When asked about the most serious thing he had ever done in his life, he responded “fighting.”
Then, during 31 questions during his voice stress test, he made similar omissions. Tony said no to direct questions about whether he had ever used hallucinogens, falsified any information on his application or ever been arrested or detained.
Instead, Tony admitted on the questionnaire to spraying graffiti as a teenager on supermarkets, rooftops and abandoned homes. He admitted stealing $200 from his parents and siblings, taking $10 worth of paper and pens, driving on a suspended license and street fighting.
He also reported that creditors were pursuing him, and he described himself as “irresponsible” for not paying traffic tickets. He said he had written bad checks three to four times.
“The examination indicated the candidate was truthful in his responses,” according to the Coral Springs police records. “No deception indicated,” the investigator wrote.
Some police agencies employ the voice stress test because it is less invasive than a polygraph test, which requires the person to be strapped to a device to gauge their truthfulness, said Maria Haberfeld, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Haberfeld said, however, that many agencies discontinued the voice stress test years ago because it is less effective at measuring the same physiological reactions as the polygraph test. Coral Springs police said they still use the same test these days for applicants.
Revelations about Tony’s past have emerged repeatedly during his hotly contested campaign to become sheriff. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed him to the position last year after ousting former Sheriff Israel for what the governor called negligence during the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Israel is running to reclaim the job.
Since Tony’s appointment:
— The Sun Sentinel reported that the state’s vetting of Tony appeared hurried and failed to uncover the shooting in Philadelphia.
— Police records showed that Tony was rejected for a police job in 2004 after admitting he used LSD one time and that he concealed the drug use after that, going on to secure his first job as an officer with Coral Springs police.
— The Florida Department of Law Enforcement began an investigation into whether Tony was untruthful about the Philadelphia shooting in paperwork required of law enforcement officers.
— The union for sheriff’s deputies took a no-confidence vote against Tony in April, saying, among other things, that he failed to provide them with enough gear to protect them against the coronavirus.
— Racy photos surfaced of Tony, showing him at two party-like gatherings, organized by promoters who specialize in “erotic theme events, pool parties, strip and swing club invasions and group vacations.”
In a radio interview last week, Tony said he has become the focus of a “smear campaign” and “political slandering.”
“I hate to say this, but for every time there is a minority candidate for any position of power, the first thing they want to do is portray you as having a gun in your hand, or needle in your arm, or some financial problems,” he said.
He said he grew up in an inner city saturated by drugs, but “I made it out, and I’m proud of it.”
He said that he wanted to focus on his career and what he’s accomplished for the Broward Sheriffs’ Office, and that he wouldn’t be deterred by new revelations emerging about him.
©2020 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)