Dozens of cases linked to allegedly racist former ex-Fort Lauderdale police officers have been dropped by prosecutors, according to recent news reports.
As of this writing, 12 felonies, 19 misdemeanors and one juvenile case had been dropped, while another 20 were being analyzed. Each of these cases had one thing in common: One or more of the four officers accused of sending racist text messages and/or producing a racist homemade video were connected to the investigations.
Each of the defendants in the cases were black.
Our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys know that in many criminal cases, the court gives significant weight to the testimony and evidence of police officers. That’s because law enforcement officers are trained in investigation, sworn to uphold the law and promise to be impartial. But when there is strong evidence to suggest their investigations may have been tainted, that their judgment was clouded by toxic personal beliefs, prosecutors may find it impossible to rely on their testimony to secure a conviction.
The officers in this case were at the center of a five-month investigation into a racist video and a number of text messages that contained the N-word, as well as other slurs. The video was titled “The Hoods” and it depicted President Barack Obama with gold teeth and images of a dog attacking a black man and various pictures of Ku Klux Klan hoods. One of the exchanged text messages indicated sexual arousal at the thought of one of the officer executing a black suspect at a crime scene. Another referenced having a noose ready.
One of the cases dropped involved a man charged with possession with intent to sell cannabis after he was, according to the assistant public defender, “Driving while black.” The man was driving a brand new vehicle, owned by his employer, when one of these officers stopped him for allegedly rolling a stop sign. A drug dog was called to search the vehicle, and inside, several small bags of marijuana and a digital scale were found. Throughout the encounter, defense lawyers say, the officer was “extremely aggressive” toward the suspect. The bias of the officer, it is alleged, was insurmountable in that case, and clearly in numerous others.
When the Fort Lauderdale chief of police announced the termination of the officers in March, he granted access to the FBI civil rights division to launch a full investigation. Soon after, the Broward State Attorney’s Office began examining all criminal cases connected to those officers. In total, it seems since January 1, 2014, the officers have been involved in nearly 60 arrests of suspects who were black or other minorities. It’s not clear whether there may be a closer examination of cases in which there have already been convictions.
Existence of these text messages and the video came to light after a report from one of the officer’s ex-girlfriends. The former officers claimed the video was simply a joke. Whatever their intent, the appearance of impropriety was too great for prosecutors to overcome in the pending cases.
Call Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Dozens of cases involving former Fort Lauderdale cops dropped, April 9, 2015, By Amanda Batchelor, Local10.com
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Broward Jury Acquits Man Who Grew Marijuana for Medicine, March 12, 2015, Fort Lauderdale Defense Attorney Blog