A Clay County firefighter was arrested Sunday on charges of simple domestic battery. The arrest was omitted from the Clay County Sheriff’s Office arrest log because a sheriff’s spokesman said the firefighter was exempt from the information being reported on the department’s website.
According to a court affidavit, Matthew Breeland, 42, of Fleming Island was involved in a physical altercation with a female victim at approximately 11:39 p.m. Saturday, July 9.
Breeland told officers that he and the victim had gone to Whitey’s Fish Camp for a co-worker's birthday, where he got upset because she [the victim] pointed out a man who expressed interest in her. Breeland left the restaurant bar and went home without the victim, he told officers.
Once the victim returned to the home, it was reported that she asked Breeland to get out of the bedroom to which Breeland grabbed her and pushed her down the floor, the affidavit said. He proceeded to drag her between the end of the bed and the foot of a dresser, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit describes the victim’s injuries as a bruise to the left eye, left wrist and left middle toe.
Breeland was placed under arrest July 10 for a Class one misdemeanor of domestic battery. He was transported to the Clay County Jail where he paid a bond of $752 and was released.
Breeland was reassigned to administrative duties at Clay County Fire Rescue until the investigation is complete, County Information Officer Annaleasa Winter said.
“We do not comment on ongoing personnel situations. We will take appropriate action if necessary, should the outcome of the investigation warrant that. As per our procedures, the employee has been reassigned to administrative duties until the finalization of the investigation,” she wrote in an email.
The county arrest log, or sheriff’s office ‘docket,’ is automatically generated on the sheriff’s website through a records management system. The information can only be deleted if manually removed by a department employee, according to the Clay County Sheriff’s Office.
The sheriff’s office cited Florida Statute 119.07, an exemption to Florida’s Government in the Sunshine Law, saying it allowed Breeland the right to file for an exemption from his arrest information being reported on the sheriff’s online docket. News organizations frequently review the docket to ask for arrest reports under the state’s public records laws.
“FSS Section 119.07 exempts from public records disclosure the home address, telephone and Social Security numbers, and photographs of certain current or former public employees … and the home address, telephone and Social Security numbers, photographs, and employers of their spouse and children, and the daycare facilities and schools of their children,” Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Andrew Ford said in an email.
Exemptions are granted to first responders and law enforcement personnel involved in criminal cases and can include the removal of addresses, phone numbers and information of minors.
A review of the sheriff’s online arrest docket shows that individual addresses are not reported, only the block where the arrest was made is included in the log.
“An agency is not complying with the law if they cannot provide a citation stating a name can be removed from the log,” Florida First Amendment Foundation General Counsel Ed Birk said. “Legislation is adding exemptions all the time, but I believe someone’s actual arrest should not be exempt.”
Breeland’s pre-trial date occurred Tuesday, July 12 and an arraignment hearing has been set for Aug. 9, 2022, according to the Clay County Clerk’s website.