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Bailiff resigns over love letters sent to inmate

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OCALA, Fla. - A former Marion County sheriff's deputy faces legal trouble after investigators found out that he sent love letters to a female inmate, authorities said.

Francisco Perez first laid eyes on Jessica Soverns in a courtroom at the Marion County Judicial Center.

"I made the comment that he was cute," Soverns told WFTVs Berndt Petersen on Thursday.

Detectives said that began a romantic relationship between then-Deputy Perez and Soverns that included passing love notes.

"You could say (it's) like grade school, but this is illegal," said Judge Cochran of the Marion County Sheriff's Office.

The sheriff's office said Perez gave the letters to jail trusty Nancy Simmons, an inmate worker at the courthouse, who then passed them along to Soverns at the jail. Investigators said it amounts to the introduction of contraband to a correctional facility, which is a felony. Perez is charged with six counts.

"I understand it wasn't right. But what they charged him with -- six counts? And he lost his job? I think it was completely blown out of proportion," said Soverns.

Detectives said Simmons blew the whistle on Valentine's Day. They said authorities found the letters in Soverns' jail cell.

"The letters have some kind of romantic encounter. They may have kissed at least once," said Cochran.

"No, there's no sexual stuff in it. It was just a good friendship. It was just a friendship. Honestly," said Soverns.

But Soverns, 24, doing time for theft and violating parole, said she hoped for a relationship with the deputy.

"Possibly, when I got out, that we could have taken [the relationship] to further levels. But the letters were innocent," said Soverns