BUFFALO, N.Y. — John Gugino was a sheriff's jail deputy at the Erie County Holding Center for 16 years, until October of 2020 when he was pulled over while off duty and arrested for possession of cocaine.
"I had some problems, I used a drug to block the problems, and it was a horrible decision," Gugino told 2 On Your Side.
Originally charged with a felony, the amount of cocaine found in his possession, which Gugino described as a "dusting in a baggie", was so small that the charge had to be reduced to a misdemeanor.
After his arrest, Gugino claims he went through rehab and completed drug counseling, and in May pleaded guilty to the charge against him.
"I broke the law I owned up to it," Gugino said.
He was hoping he would get his old job back but instead was fired on June 10.
"Usually you get a second chance in life, especially going to rehab," he said.
Moreover, Gugino contends there are several other cases from over the years involving deputies who have committed more egregious offenses than he did, but who was allowed to return to work.
Several examples are outlined in a federal court civil suit he filed last year.
"I just want my job back and to continue my career that I enjoyed," said Gugino. "I could have fought (the criminal charges) in court and probably got out of those charges but I didn't. I took the reigns as a man, I stepped up...and it was very unfortunate all the events that happened afterward."
At the time of Gugino's arrest, prosecutors say police were acting on a warrant.
"They were investigating me and wasting a lot of taxpayer's money on investigating me on something I had nothing to do with," said Gugino, who advised not to discuss specifics.
However, according to his lawsuit, which names Erie County as the defendant, "Mr. Gugino’s arrest was based on a warrant that Defendant sought out based on an alleged anonymous tip that Mr. Gugino was selling drugs in the holding center. Mr. Gugino maintains that this tip, the subsequent warrant, and therefore the subsequent arrest and suspension, are based entirely upon fabrications by Defendant to retaliate against him for his complaints about Defendant’s actions towards Plaintiff.
Those actions, according to court papers, involved disputes regarding time off during the COVID19 pandemic and the availability, or lack thereof, of Covid 19 testing for certain employees.
A sheriff's spokesperson said there was no one available today to answer questions on Tuesday, but that they may be able to as early as Wednesday as they investigate what type of information they can legally release about Gugino's case.