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Florida Police Brutality and Police Misconduct 
 
 Page 9



01/27/2006 - MIAMI The Miami-Dade County Independent Review Panel is recommending a Miami-Dade Police officer be disciplined for the arrest of a nurse who refused to draw blood on an inmate – what they are calling overreaction on the cop’s behalf.

Ileana Hollant, who works as a registered nurse at Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ward D – the ward reserved for jail inmates - was arrested by officer Richard Closius, after she told him she needed to wait for her shift assignment before drawing blood on an inmate the officer had in his custody. This is standard procedure for the nursing staff.

Apparently the answer was not good enough for the officer and he proceeded to arrest her and charged her with Resisting Arrest Without Violence for the incident that happened January 7, 2005. The department reduced charges to Refusal To Aid A Police Officer, but after a judge threw out charges against her, she decided to file a complaint with the Independent Review Panel.

The panel concluded that Closius be disciplined for overreacting and use of excessive force. They called his conduct unbecoming of an officer.

The Independent Review Panel is a nine-member volunteer civilian oversight panel which publicly reviews serious complaints made by the public against Miami-Dade County employees and departments, and the department's response to the complaint. The Independent Review Panel reports its findings and recommendations to the Department Director, County Mayor, County Manager and County Commissioners. Public discussion of all reports by the IRP panel members occurs "in the sunshine."

Not guilty of the battery. Not guilty of the official misconduct.

Before she could even begin reading the decision in his sergeant's case, St. Germain began sobbing in silence.

Two and a half years after Peter Daniel claimed St. Germain and Sgt. George Alvarez brutally beat him, more than a year after prosecutors charged both with beating him and lying about it, six days after the trial began, the case was over.

Alvarez silently mouthed ''Thank you'' to the jurors.

The jury took less than an hour to hand down the verdict.

Afterward, Alvarez's attorney, Richard Sharpstein, said he figured the jury just didn't buy Daniel's story.

''It's clear that the jury saw through Peter Daniel,'' he said. ``He lied 12, 15, 20 times on the stand.''

Daniel claimed Alvarez and St. Germain beat him when he told them he didn't know anything about a stolen personal watercraft. The personal watercraft was taken from the home of another Sweetwater officer.

Daniel testified that he finally told the police to contact a friend about the stolen personal watercraft, even though he didn't believe his friend had it.

He just wanted to get the officers to stop kicking and punching him, he said.

The officers took Daniel in Mayor Manuel Maroño's car to find the friend, who was taken into custody but never charged. Maroño was cleared of any wrongdoing in the case.

A couple hours later, officers called for an ambulance because Daniel didn't look good. Doctors found he had a lacerated liver and spleen and was hemorrhaging internally.

In his closing statements, Sharpstein urged the jury to focus on inconsistencies in the various statements Daniel made about that evening in 2003. He pointed to the fact that Daniel admitted lying about being able to work after he was injured.

''If people tell different stories up and down, it's not the truth,'' Sharpstein said. ``Beyond a reasonable doubt, you're going to believe him? And not believe what my client writes under oath? A sworn police officer?''

Sharpstein's and St. Germain's attorney, Doug Hartman, insisted that Daniel invented the story so he could sue the city. Sweetwater settled the civil suit, paying Daniel $2 million.

''He's already gotten his reward in this case,'' Hartman told the jury. ``Don't help him any more.''

Prosecutor Isis Perez told the jury to consider all the Sweetwater officers and employees who were at the tiny station that night yet said they didn't see anything.

''This is a code of silence,'' she said. ``See no evil. Maybe hear some, but speak no evil.''

She also questioned whether any of the defense's three theories of how Daniel was injured made sense.

Alvarez wrote in a report that Daniel lunged for his gun that night and that he was forced to punch him.

The next day, St. Germain wrote a report saying that Daniel hurt himself by throwing himself against the walls of his holding cell.

But no one in the station that night saw either alleged incident.

Meanwhile, the defense argued that another inmate beat Daniel.

''It doesn't make sense,'' Perez told the jury.

After the verdict was read, Perez had little to say.

''We're disappointed with the verdict, but the jury has spoken and the system moves on,'' she said.

A doctor who testified in the trial said Daniel could not have sustained those injuries by throwing himself against the walls of his cell. But the doctor also said he couldn't have had those injuries for hours, throwing into question Daniel's version of events.

Sharpstein said both officers are expecting to go back to work in Sweetwater.

Wednesday's verdict has no bearing on the $2 million civil settlement.

Officers Daniel Fernandez and Joe Losada were arrested Jan. 12 after the department mounted a sting operation, using a confidential informant and surveillance tapes.

Their arrests call into question cases made by the pair in some of the county's most drug-infested neighborhoods as part of the Crime Suppression Team.

'We're used to, unfortunately, whenever we prosecute a police officer for any reason, we always send a notice out to all of our lawyers, saying, `If you have any of these officers or this officer on a case, please let us know,' '' Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle said.

The next step will be to determine whether the street arrests were based solely on the word of Losada or Fernandez, or whether other officers or civilians were witnesses. Without corroborating witnesses, prosecutors may be forced to drop some cases.

The Miami-Dade Public Defender's Office has found at least 20 open cases filed by one or both of the officers. The office also will look at some of their older cases to determine whether anyone was wrongly convicted.

''Many innocent people accept blame for crimes they either did not commit or were not as serious as those charged, rather than risk trial in the face of the overwhelming power of the government,'' Public Defender Bennett Brummer said. ``Some of our clients may be in jail or prison today as a result of the alleged misbehavior of these officers.''

Fernandez, a 15-year veteran, and Losada, on the force for nine years, were arrested after they busted an informant planted by internal-affairs investigators at a house at Northwest 18th Avenue and 95th Street.

Police say the two officers entered the house and found $970 in cash -- but turned in only $570. Authorities believe that Losada falsified the informant's arrest report, and when the two officers were arrested, investigators found only $160 of the marked money.

It's unclear what happened to the remaining $240. The investigation is ongoing, and police have not ruled out more arrests.

Both officers have denied any wrongdoing. Losada's attorney, C. Michael Cornely, said the department's professional-compliance bureau went too far.

''I have a feeling they went out of their way to entrap one of their own,'' Cornely said.

Fernandez's attorney said his client was not found with any of the allegedly stolen money.

''He went in, searched the drug dealer's house, found the money, turned it over to one of the officers who was doing the property receipt,'' attorney Doug Hartman said. ``Evidently, some of that money was missing, but that money was not found on him.''

Authorities say they have surveillance video from inside and outside the house, but have not released it or discussed what it shows.

Miami-Dade police Director Robert Parker agreed that a thorough review of the officers' previous cases was necessary.

At least four private defense attorneys have also identified clients arrested by the two officers. In two cases, some of the charges were dropped before the officers were arrested this month.

Peterson Moise was charged with possession of cocaine and two counts of possession of marijuana in November after Fernandez said he saw Moise selling drugs on Northwest 53rd Street.

But Moise's attorney, Joe Klock, submitted an affidavit from Moise's employer saying he was working 20 miles away.

After the officers entered Moise's aunt's house to arrest him, a Sony PlayStation turned up missing, Klock said.

The attorney also disputed Losada's arrest affidavit -- Klock said his client wasn't outside and did not run from the police, as Losada claimed. Instead, Moise was arrested as he sat on the toilet, Klock said.

Prosecutors dropped the case in December.

Charges of cocaine possession and attempted murder of a police officer were also dropped in the case of Derrel Burnett after Losada dictated an arrest affidavit to another officer in April 2004.

Officer Tony Nair, who wrote the affidavit, later gave a sworn statement that he didn't know anything about the claims that Burnett was seen dealing drugs, or that Burnett flipped a sergeant over his head and onto the ground.

Sgt. Alexander Ramirez told prosecutors that Burnett could not have flipped him onto the ground when the two struggled and that Losada was mistaken when he claimed Burnett was dealing drugs.

Burnett still faces other charges stemming from that incident, which left Ramirez with two herniated disks in his neck. Burnett's attorney, Andrew Rier, hopes to get the remaining charges dropped.

''Joe Losada was really the driving force behind the arrest of my client,'' he said. ``He confused him with someone else.''

Rier stressed that most Miami-Dade officers are professional and honest, including three he deposed in Burnett's case.

''It's not fair that they will all be painted with a broad brush because of these two guys,'' he said.

Losada's arrest could affect at least one case pending in federal court.

In a March 16 incident report, Losada wrote that officers saw Armando Delgado standing on the porch of a Northwest Miami-Dade house where drugs had been sold earlier in the day. Delgado bolted at the sight of the officers, who chased him into the house, Losada wrote.

The officer claimed he tackled Delgado in a back room -- and spied a table covered with drugs and a Browning .380 pistol. Delgado was charged with armed drug trafficking.


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