MANATEE COUNTY--Robert Craig says the Manatee County Sheriff's Office fired him because he's gay and not because he discussed buying what he thought were legal muscle enhancers from a friend. That friend that turned out to be a confidential informant for the sheriff's office.
"He [the informant] never used the word steroid, he never used the word narcotic, he never used the word illegal, he said they were all natural testosterone boosters," said Craig, "I realized the stuff was not legitimate, I said no thank you. That is what an officer should do."
Craig never bought anything from the man, and admits what he really wanted was to have a sexual relationship with the informant.
"The truth is, which is embarrassing, I really had no interest in supplements of any kind," said Craig.
Craig was placed on administrative leave while his involvement with the informant was investigated by internal affairs. The investigation determined his conduct to be unbecoming of an officer. That's something his attorney disputes.
"He never acquired anything, and the sheriff's office confidential informant never told Robert that there was anything illegal," said attorney Peter Lombardo, "he was led to believe it was all items you could legally buy."
Unlike three other deputies, Craig was never charged criminally, but his employment was terminated. He says that's because Sheriff Brad Steube wants to silence any bad press.
"The Sheriff's had a very bad year--a deputy getting a DUI, a former lieutenant having child molestation charges," said Craig," he is so on edge right now and so worried about his own political career and politics, that any scandal of any sort, he just wants to go away."
But Craig also believes his sexuality factored into the decision.
"It's the higher ups, administration, who has had a history of treating gay people differently," said Craig.
Craig says Sheriff Steube's ways of thinking are out of touch, but stopped short of calling him a homophobe.
"He's an older, white man, with outdated ways of thinking," said Craig,"it's time for a change."
The Manatee County Sheriff's Office provided ABC7 News with the following statement:
"The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office does not tolerate harassment or discrimination of its employees. Furthermore, the Sheriff’s Office does not discriminate based on race, gender or sexuality. The Sheriff’s Office takes great pride in being a diverse agency. Former deputy Robert Craig was negotiating for the purchase of illegal steroids while on duty and in doing so, violated MSO’s General Orders of Conduct Unbecoming a Deputy."