2009 FSA Correctional Officer of the Year
Brevard County's Robert Lincoln Recognized for Thwarting Danger, Death
Awarded February 2010
For nearly 20 years, the Florida Sheriffs Association has been selecting one Corrections professional annually to honor as the Correctional Officer of the Year. It is never an easy job to choose from the multitude of outstanding men and women we have working in our county jails.
But when you hear his story, we think you will agree that the awards committee selected well when they chose our 2009 winner.
VIDEO and STORY BELOW
Production by Thurgaland, sheriffvideo.com
Corrections Deputy Robert Lincoln Jr., age 33, has only been with the Brevard County Sheriff's Office for two years, and prior to that he served two years with the Orange County Jail. For him, corrections is a relatively new career, as he previously worked as a technician at Central Florida Chrysler Jeep in Orlando.
Unlike many of his fellow corrections and law enforcement colleagues, Deputy Lincoln has no immediate relatives in the field. He has been described by jail administrators as conscientious, professional, loyal, dedicated and thorough in every aspect of the profession. They say he is hardworking and genuinely cares about the officers and civilians he works with on a daily basis.
Many of these traits played a role in the event that transpired on August 14, 2009.
It was late on a Friday afternoon, and Deputy Lincoln was nearing the end of his 12-hour shift. He was sorting the inmates' mail – which can sometimes involve up to 200 pieces a day – and he would soon be driving 35 minutes to his home in east Orange County.
When Deputy Lincoln came across a large yellow manila envelope that was coded "privileged legal communications" and marked priority mail, his intuition kicked in. The return address was from an Orlando-based law firm – and it's not unusual for attorneys to send packages to inmates in the jail. But what caught Deputy Lincoln's attention was that the sender's address and zip code did not match.
Following normal procedures, he called another deputy and the two inspected the package further. As they opened it to investigate the contents, they found what looked like a stack of legal papers. But further inspection revealed a hollowed dugout concealing a .38 caliber, two-shot, Derringer-style pistol loaded with two live rounds of ammunition.
You've got to be kidding
The package was addressed to Justin Curtis Heyne, who was in the trial phases of a case involving two counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder, kidnapping, sexual battery and several other charges for which he subsequently received a death sentence.
And that's just what happened before Heyne arrived at the Brevard County Jail. He has been party to many violent incidents against staff and other inmates since 2005, ranging from sexual assaults and aggravated battery to strong-arming other inmates.
Within days after Deputy Lincoln's remarkable discovery of the package, investigators uncovered an elaborate plot involving Heyne and fellow inmate Phillip McCullough. The plan was to smuggle a firearm into the jail, which Heyne first planned to use for escape. When McCullough convinced him he wouldn't be able to escape, Heyne said he would use the firearm to take a hostage, kill a Corrections Deputy that he was angry with or kill another inmate he was angry with. If he couldn't escape, he said he was going to take a Corrections Deputy with him.
Getting the firearm to that critical point of discovery had involved the participation of Inmate McCullough's wife and brother, who arranged the purchase of the firearm; a friend of Heyne's who wired the money to buy it via Western Union and a young man who got the package weighed and stamped at the post office.
The scheme had involved several test runs of packages sent and received prior to the firearm being mailed, as the accomplices didn't know if the post office used metal detectors or x-ray machines in their processing.
During the investigation related to the package, the two inmates – Heyne and McCullough – tried to convince investigators that a Corrections Deputy was involved in the plot. Later, they admitted they had just wanted to get him into trouble because he had been "hard on them." There were no jail employees involved in the mailing or receiving of the package.
At the end of the investigation, Phillip McCullough pleaded guilty to his role and received five years in prison for the offense. Lamont Lewis, McCullough's brother, was sentenced to four years of probation under a plea deal. Under the terms of the agreement, he is required to testify against his co-defendants. Charges are still pending against Heyne and McCullough's wife.
For "setting the standard as a dedicated professional in the corrections field," and for his part in saving numerous lives last August, the Florida Sheriffs Association named Corrections Deputy Robert Lincoln Jr. the 2009 Correctional Officer of the Year. He and his family were honored during the FSA Mid-Winter 2010 conference, where he received a handsome plaque and a check for $1,000.