Broward bailiff faces courthouse theft investigation

BSO community service aide also facing allegations

By Bob Norman - Investigative Reporter

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Security is always tight at the Broward County courthouse, but now there's an investigation underway into whether some of those entrusted with protecting the public there have victimized them instead.

Joseph Safonte, 72, a veteran bailiff and the president of Broward Sheriff's Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, has been taken off the job and put on desk duty while under internal investigation by the Broward Sheriff's Office for alleged theft of items from the courthouse lost and found.

Also put on desk duty during the investigation is another civilian Broward sheriff's employee, community service aide Lisa Bouley, according to the BSO.

Courthouse sources said an employee from the private security firm G4S has been terminated as part of that investigation as well, but that has not been confirmed as Local 10 News awaits response from the company.

The ongoing investigation has been presented to the state attorney's office for criminal review, spokesman Ron Ishoy said.

Attorney Bill Gelin, who operates the courthouse blog JAABlog, said it's part of a troubling trend.

"It seems like with alarming regularity they're (courthouse employees) caught up with sensational and scary allegations of serious crimes," he said.

Indeed, just this month Broward County bailiff Kendrick Busby was charged with rape and attempted murder of a prostitute. He is currently in jail and has been suspended without pay pending the outcome of that criminal case.

In the past year, two bailiffs have been sentenced to prison for serious crimes.

Ex-bailiff Garrett Cunningham was hit with 20 years after being convicted on armed false imprisonment and aggravated assault with a firearm charges, related to an incident in which he terrorized his wife.

Another bailiff, Brian Preston, was sentenced to eight years in prison on a child porn conviction. A third bailiff, Steve Palacios, is awaiting trial on a felony charge of dealing in stolen property

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