By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org
Assistant State Attorney Stefanie Newman Photo: WSVN-Channel 7
Broward prosecutors who declined to charge a Coconut Creek policeman who pulled a Taser on a frightened theft suspect standing in a bathtub never asked the officer under oath why he hadn’t mentioned the incident in his police reports.
Assistant State Attorney Stefanie Newman investigated police allegations that Officer James Yacobellis committed assault and tried to cover it up by falsifying his reports to omit the 2011 bathroom incident.
On Aug. 21 2012, Newman took an hour-long, voluntary sworn statement from Yacobellis. The 55-page transcript shows she did not question Yacobellis about the omission or ask him to answer his department’s allegation that he had falsified his reports.
Likewise, Newman did not ask Yacobellis to respond to accusations from the young man he interrogated in the bathroom, Blake L. Robinson, who claimed under oath that Yacobellis had threatened him with the Taser.
But two months later, Newman offered her own theory to explain Yacobellis’s incomplete police reports in her closeout memo that ended the inquiry without criminal charges.
“There appears to be no intent to hide this fact and the state has no evidence to rebut a contention that this was inadvertently left off the report,” wrote Newman, a prosecutor in State Attorney Mike Satz’s corruption unit.
Public corruption unit chief Timothy Donnelly, who approved the closeout memo, said this week that Yacobellis was under no legal requirement to include in his reports any facts about the bathroom incident.
Public corruption unit chief Timothy Donnelly
“The fact that he omitted any description of what occurred in the bathroom did not make the report false,” said Donnelly. “While (Newman) doesn’t ask him why he never put that in the report, there is no requirement that he put it in the report.”
Nova Southeastern University professor of constitutional law Robert Jarvis called Donnelly’s assertion “laughable.” Jarvis said the facts Yacobellis left out of his reports were clearly important to the state’s criminal investigation.
“They’re not being reasonable,” said Jarvis. “A police report is supposed to be a fair and accurate summary of what took place…It is very easy to see in this case that it is material if you put a suspect in a bathtub and you have a Taser out.”
“This sounds like a very unusual interrogation, and the more unusual it is the more complete a report has to be. It should bother anybody because that is not the way the cops should operate,” he said.
Records show Officer Yacobellis was summoned to Coconut Creek’s Star Pointe apartments on Aug. 15, 2011 to investigate a report of missing jewelry involving several members of the same family. After two suspects were identified, Yacobellis took one of them, Robinson, into a small bathroom for questioning. The door was closed and the sink faucet was turned on full.
Both Robinson and Coconut Creek police Sgt. Dominic Coppola later stated that Yacobellis held a Taser while a frightened Robinson stood in the bathtub. Under oath, Sgt. Coppola testified the Taser was switched on, with its laser beam targeting system emitting.
Coppola said he asked Yacobellis what was going on and Yacobellis replied, “I was telling Mr. Blake (Robinson) here how my report was going to read when he resists and I tase him.”
Newman concluded in her closeout memo that the statement could be either a threat or a response to a threat from Robinson. She then went on to express tolerance for police who display a Taser during an interrogation.
“It is entirely possible that Officer Yacobellis may have taken out his Taser in an attempt to scare Blake (Robinson) into confessing,” Newman wrote. “While this may not have been the best technique to interrogate a suspect, the intent, by all accounts, was certainly to help the victims recover their missing items.
Civil rights advocates, however, called what happened a disturbing example of police misconduct akin to torture.
Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein asked the Justice Department this month to investigate the State Attorney’s “long, distressing history” of condoning improper interrogation techniques.
Coconut Police Officer James Yacobellis
In his sworn statement last summer, Yacobellis confirmed he took a compliant Robinson into the bathroom for questioning and said he displayed his Taser only after Robinson started becoming “antsy.”
Yacobellis complained that Sgt. Coppola’s statement about him was riddled with inaccuracies and “lies,” though he offered no reason why Coppola would lie about him. He likewise denied activating his Taser and said Robinson didn’t look scared to him.
Yacobellis complained, too, about Police Chief Michael Mann, asserting the chief had unfairly disciplined him in the past and once threatened to “ruin” his reputation.
Yacobellis said that shortly after the bathtub incident the chief put him on paid administrative leave and ordered him to submit to what he termed a “psyche,” or fitness for duty evaluation by a local doctor.
The doctor found Yacobellis “temporarily unfit,” Yacobellis stated. Prosecutor Newman did not ask him to explain why.
Yacobellis’s union lawyer, Anthony Alfero, stated that another doctor hired by the Broward County Police Benevolent Association concluded “there’s nothing wrong with this guy at all, get him back to work.”
When Newman began to wrap up Yacobellis’s statement without asking him about the false reports allegation Alfero brought it up.
“We don’t know what falsification has to do with these reports,” Alfero said. “If you don’t want to tell us, you don’t have to. But we’re trying to answer the questions so…”
“I think you have. I think you have,” Newman replied.
By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org
Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, left, and State Attorney Mike Satz
Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein has asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate what he called the Broward State Attorney’s “long, distressing history” of condoning police use of “threatening, improper interrogation techniques.”
The Friday letter was prompted by a story in BrowardBulldog.org earlier in the week about the state’s decision not to charge Coconut Creek Officer James Yacobellis with assault for using his Taser stun gun to scare a frightened 19-year-old theft suspect into confessing.
“I believe Officer Yacobellis violated the suspect’s civil rights and that the failure to prosecute him is an affront to our justice system. Please do something,” Finkelstein wrote.
The letter, addressed to Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for Justice’s civil rights division, cites five high-profile Broward cases involving coerced or bogus murder confessions. The defendants, all later cleared, were Jerry Frank Townsend, Frank Lee Smith, Anthony Caravella, John Purvis and Tim Brown.
“Despite these chilling statistics, the same prosecutor’s office has now implicitly approved the use of torture as a means of obtaining confessions,” Finkelstein said.
The incident in Coconut Creek happened when Officer Yacobellis responded to a residence on Cocoplum Circle regarding a report of missing jewelry on Aug. 15, 2011.
At one point, Yacobellis took suspect Blake L. Robinson into a small bathroom for questioning and closed the door.
Blake L. Robinson Photo: WSVN,Channel 7
Robinson was made to stand in the tub while the officer had his Taser out with its laser beam targeting system emitting, according to the case closeout memo written by Assistant State Attorney Stefanie Newman and approved by her boss, Public Corruption Unit chief Timothy Donnelly.
Yacobellis omitted mention of the bathroom incident in his police reports about that night. But he later told prosecutors he pulled his Taser because Robinson looked like he might want to fight.
Police Sgt. Dominic Coppola, however, gave a sworn statement that when the door was opened he saw Yacobellis holding his activated Taser and Robinson “speechless, with his hands down by his side and he appeared to have a blank, scared look on his face.”
Coppola asked what was going on. “I was telling Mr. Blake (Robinson) here how my report was going to read when he resists arrest and I tase him,” Yacobellis replied, according to Coppola.
Robinson filed a complaint with details similar to those provided by Sgt. Coppola. He claimed Yacobellis pointed the stun gun at him and threatened to use it.
“He also stated that my legs would give way and if I hit my head the blood could easily be rinsed away and I would be dead or in the hospital,” Robinson said.
Coconut Police Officer James Yacobellis
In her closeout memo last October declining prosecution, Newman concluded:
“It is entirely possible that Officer Yacobellis may have taken out his Taser in an attempt to scare Blake into confessing where he had pawned the missing jewelry. While this may not have been the best technique to interrogate a suspect, the intent, by all witness accounts, was certainly to help the victims to recover their missing items.”
Miami lawyer John De Leon, who stepped down last month as president of the Miami Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, called Broward prosecutors “complicit in the unlawful actions of the police officer.”
Former Miami Police Chief Ken Harms, an expert court witness in police misconduct cases, said the state’s decision “clearly appears to try and sweep it under the rug.”
The public defender’s letter to the Justice Department is the latest shot in a continuing dispute with Broward State Attorney Michael Satz about the quality of justice in the county.
In 2010, Finkelstein accused Satz publicly of routinely violating defendants’ rights and giving favorable treatment to police officers and “influential or wealthy” citizens facing prosecution.
Satz called Finkelstein’s accusation “both false and irresponsible.” The Broward Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers took Finkelstein’s side.
In June 2011, Finkelstein sent a letter to the Justice Department complaining that Satz had failed to adequately investigate and prosecute criminal conduct by police.
Finkelstein said his office reviewed dozens of closeout memos about investigations of officers that had ended without the filing of charges and observed there was a “double standard of justice in Broward County – one for law enforcement and the connected, and one for everyone else.”
Finkelstein’s letter to Justice last week seeking a civil rights investigation was copied to Michael Steinbach, the new special agent in charge of the FBI’s Miami office.
In it, Finkelstein asserted that he was writing again “on behalf of the poor, young and mentally challenged citizens of Broward County who continue to be abused by law enforcement with impunity because the state attorney office stands silent.”
By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org
Clarice Tukes' daughter was murdered; Calvin Sapp lost a sister
The arrest of Jerry Frank Townsend on Sept. 5, 1979 ended the hunt for a brutal serial killer and rapist who had terrorized a predominantly African-American neighborhood in northwest Fort Lauderdale.
But it began an enduring miscarriage of justice.
Townsend spent 22 years of his life in prison until he was exonerated by DNA tests that did not exist when he was arrested. Eddie Lee Mosley remained free to continue to rape and kill until his 1987 arrest and confinement in a state hospital for the criminally insane.
The deaths of 10 women and children who were murdered after Townsend’s wrongful arrest have been linked to Mosley by DNA testing or other evidence.
Now, relatives of three of those victims are calling on longtime Broward State Attorney Mike Satz – who is up for re-election – to finally investigate the actions of police detectives whose testimony convicted Townsend.
“It matters a hell of a lot,” said Clarice Tukes, 72, whose 20-year-old daughter, Arnette, was raped and strangled five months after Townsend’s arrest. “My daughter would still be alive if they hadn’t arrested the wrong man.”
“I want this reopened,” said Jacquelyn D. Miller, the daughter of Geraldine Barfield, whose body was found in a field adjacent to the Immanuel Church of God in Christ near Sunland Park on Dec. 19, 1983. She was 35.
“I’ve carried this with me 28 years. I want Michael Satz to tell me why he allowed this to happen, why a killer was allowed to remain on the streets,” she said.
Broward State Attorney Michael Satz
COMPARED TO JACK THE RIPPER
Satz was in his first term as Broward’s top prosecutor when Townsend was arrested.
The case captured the public’s imagination. A black serial killer police compared to Jack the Ripper. Townsend, they said, had admitted to wanting to “rid the world of prostitutes.”
The victims, however, were not prostitutes.
Townsend, a grown man with the mental capacity of a child, was led by detectives to confess to a string of rapes and murders he did not do. He was convicted of six murders and a rape in 1980 and sent to prison for life.
In 2009, eight years after DNA proved his innocence, the Broward Sheriff’s Office agreed to pay $2 million over five years to settle a civil rights lawsuit alleging that its detectives fabricated evidence, concealed exculpatory evidence, tampered with witnesses and coerced false confessions out of Townsend.
Miami, where city detectives were accused of similar wrongdoing against Townsend, paid $2.2 million to end another suit before trial in 2008. Taxpayers spent at least $1 million more to pay lawyers to defend the police.
Broward Bulldog reported in 2009that transcripts of Townsend’s Broward trial and hearings contain disturbing evidence of crimes like perjury and the falsification of police reports by BSO detectives and other officers. Several relatives recently saw the story.
Jerry Frank Townsend
For example, BSO detectives testified that Townsend led them to the scene of four Broward murders, and provided them with details only the killer would have known.
But Townsend wasn’t the killer. So the detectives’ damning testimony takes on new meaning.
There is no statute of limitations on perjury in an official proceeding that relates to the prosecution of a capital felony. Whether the law could be enforced regarding original police testimony against Townsend is unclear because today’s statute is somewhat different than what was on the books in the 1980s.
Nevertheless, neither Satz, Broward’s state attorney since 1976, nor the Broward Sheriff’s Office has investigated the actions of the BSO detectives whose testimony sent Townsend to prison, Mark Schlein and Anthony Fantigrassi.
The settled lawsuit contended those detectives framed Townsend to advance their careers. Schlein has declined to discuss the case. Fantigrassi has said he never lied to convict Townsend.
Fantigrassi retired as head of BSO’s Criminal Investigations Unit in 2005. Schlein retired in 1993 as a lieutenant colonel, later worked for the state and is today an attorney in private practice in Tallahassee.
The lawsuit said Mosley is believed to be responsible for 41 rapes and 17 murders between 1973 and 1987, when he was declared incompetent to stand trial for the 1983 Christmas Eve rape-murder of Emma Cook, 54.
VICTIMS AND THEIR FAMILIES
Katrenna Bentley, a hedge fund accountant, was 11 years old the day her grandmother died. She still vividly recalls seeing her battered body on a slab at the Mizell Funeral Home.
“I remember her laying on the table and seeing skin under her nails and hair in her mouth. They said she fought back, bit him in the head,” Bentley said. DNA from that trace evidence was matched two decades later to Mosley.
Katrenna and her mother, Mary Bentley, Emma Cook’s daughter, both said they want the state to investigate the actions of the police who handled the Townsend case.
“Every Christmas I relive this and get a sick feeling in the bottom of my stomach,” said Mary Bentley, 61. “If they had investigated it properly from the beginning they could have caught Mosley earlier and he wouldn’t have ended up killing my mom or the other people. They should pay.”
“I would love to see that happen,” said Calvin Sapp, 68, a semi-retired construction worker and older brother of victim Geraldine Barfield. “It seems like very seldom that people of color get the type of justice that they give everybody else.”
The victims’ relatives are not alone in wanting an investigation.
Broward’s elected public defender, Howard Finkelstein, said, “The fact that these officers were allowed to lie and cheat to frame an innocent man, and then were allowed to go on with their lives as though they did nothing wrong and nothing happened is not only illegal, it’s a sin.”
Finkelstein said Townsend’s case is “the best example” of a local criminal justice system where authorities have for decades often ignored the crimes of police officers that plant evidence or commit perjury to make cases against suspects.
“That they turned a blind eye to such a heinous crime is the exact reason that most minorities in Broward feel they don’t get a fair shake – and they’re right,” said Finkelstein said.
Satz, who rarely talks to reporters, referred a request for comment to a subordinate who said prosecutors reviewed the Townsend case before the DNA tests were done and found insufficient evidence of perjury.
“In regards to the officers involved in that case, we know what it takes to charge someone with perjury,” said Assistant State Attorney Carolyn McCann. “People on the outside don’t know about the elements of the crime. They just think that if it smells bad and looks bad it’s a crime. In a perfect world, that would work. But we have to follow the law and can’t just harass people.”
Broward prosecutors, however, have made little effort to actually make such a case. Asked if her office ever confronted Fantigrassi or Schlein about their graphic testimony at Townsend’s trial, McCann said, “ Not that I’m aware of.”
A study released in May by the National Registry of Exonerations showed that Broward accounted for nine of Florida’s 32 exonerations since 1989 – more than twice as many as any other county in the state. Most of those exonerated defendants were black.
Townsend, who lived in Hallandale Beach at the time of his arrest, is one of two Broward men cleared of murders now attributed to Mosley. Frank Lee Smith spent 14 years on Death Row for raping and killing 8-year-old Shandra Whitehead in her bed in 1985. He died of cancer on January 30, 2000, less than a year before DNA tests identified Mosley as the girl’s killer.
Three weeks before Townsend’s 1979 arrest, Fort Lauderdale Detective Doug Evans identified Mosley – known around his northwest area neighborhood as “The Rape Man” – as the prime suspect in the rape-murders in his jurisdiction. Evans based his case on eyewitness testimony and physical evidence, but the BSO detectives blew him off.
Evans later helped catch Mosley and free Townsend. Before his death in January 2011, Evans told Broward Bulldog that he was disappointed authorities had never investigated police misconduct that had caused Townsend’s wrongful arrest and conviction.
Evans’ friend and colleague, ex-Fort Lauderdale Detective Roy Brown, said, “Doug always pushed for an investigation, always wanted one, but it’s been a hard rock. They let it sleep, they let it lay and they moved on and there’s no justice and nobody is held accountable for it. You’ve got to want to pursue them.
“The public should have a right to know this stuff. A serial killer running around killing people and nobody cared,” said Brown.
Clarice Tukes, whose daughter Arnette was murdered not long after Townsend’s arrest, was Doug Evans’ cousin.
“They knew who it was that did it. They knew Townsend didn’t do it, Mosley did. Doug told the whole family he did it. He said he didn’t know why they won’t take his word. That hurts,” said Tukes.
Her grandson, Dominick Richardson, was three years old when his mother died. He’s grown now, with three children of his own. His daughter Arnette is named in his mother’s honor, Tukes said.
By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org
A Fort Lauderdale Police internal inquiry into the out-of-state arrest of a street crimes unit sergeant did not follow departmental procedures for conducting such investigations.
Internal Affairs guidelines say investigators should obtain and review police reports, probable cause affidavits, booking sheets and other information about such incidents. Sworn statements are to be taken from witnesses, including the accused officer, “as soon as possible.”
None of that was done after Sgt. Jerald Fuller was arrested on July 19, 2009 when police were called to a “disturbance” at a private home in Somerset, New York.
Departmental rules also state that completed Internal Affairs investigations are to be submitted for review to both an assistant police chief and the chief of police.
Police files do not indicate that was done either.
As Broward Bulldog reported on May 24, Fuller’s arrest was erased from an Internal Affairs report maintained in a police database. The purged report was later released to comply with a Public Records Act request by the Broward Public Defender’s Office.
It can be a crime in Florida to alter a public record, whether a paper report or an electronic database. But state prosecutors declined to investigate, drawing a rebuke from Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, who had asked for a state inquiry.
Copies of the original and changed versions of the report were leaked to one of Finkelstein’s investigators in February. The Public Defender’s Office soon requested the Internal Affairs report from police to defend a suspect arrested by city police.
POLICE ACKNOWLEDGE PURGE
Police Captain Rick Maglione has acknowledged changing the report when he headed Internal Affairs.
He explained he did so to comply with a New York municipal judge’s orders that had dismissed and sealed the case four days after Fuller’s arrest. He did not include that explanation in the file.
Maglione also told Broward Bulldog that he did not seek to obtain New York police or court records to verify the facts surrounding Fuller’s arrest because those documents were “not obtainable” due to the judge’s sealing order.
New York criminal procedure, however, allows both the person accused and police agencies access to sealed records.
Captain Rick Maglione
Maglione said he relied on assurances he got from Fuller’s New York lawyer, George Muscato, and an official he did not identify in the Niagara County, Somerset Town Court, District Attorney’s office
“Everything I had was self-reported (by Sgt. Fuller). I was satisfied with that because I was also assured no crime had occurred,” said Maglione, who is now a top aide to Chief Frank Adderley.
VETERAN COP AND A DISTURBANCE
Fuller is a 19-year veteran and member of the police department’s controversial Northwest Raiders drug unit. He notified his superiors of his arrest.
In his two-paragraph report dated August 10, 2009, Maglione, a former Raider, identifies himself as both the investigator and supervisor on the Fuller inquiry.
It states that a neighbor called the police about a disturbance at a local residence involving Fuller, his brother “and another individual known to the Fuller family.”
“It was initially determined that Sergeant Fuller and his brother were responsible for some minor damage to the other individual’s property,” Maglione wrote.
Basic information such as the address where Fuller was arrested, the time of day of the incident, a description of the damage, and even the criminal charge lodged against him are not included in Maglione’s report.
By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org
Original I.A. report states "Officer was arrested," left. Revised version, right. Click to enlarge.
The Broward State Attorney’s refusal to pursue a Fort Lauderdale Police Internal Affairs report that was purged of information about an officer’s arrest has drawn the ire of Public Defender Howard Finkelstein.
Finkelstein asserts that the police broke Florida public records law when the head of Internal Affairs changed a police database to delete any mention of the out-of-state arrest of Sgt. Jerald Fuller.
Fuller had been arrested in New York in connection with a dispute involving property damage. A New York municipal judge dismissed the case and sealed the court file four days after Fuller’s July 19, 2009 arrest.
Fort Lauderdale Police Capt. Rick Maglione, who left Internal Affairs in 2011, says he removed the arrest information to comply with the judge’s order.
It can be a crime in Florida to falsify or alter a public record, whether a paper report or an electronic database. So when a tipster alerted the Public Defender’s Office in February to what was done, a request was made for State Attorney Michael Satz’s public corruption unit to investigate.
Assistant State Attorney Tim Donnelly said last week that he spoke with Maglione and determined no investigation was necessary.
“There is no crime in editing your own document,” Donnelly told Broward Bulldog. “It’s not a public record. It’s like a Word document.”
Finkelstein is not happy with Donnelly’s conclusion.
“Despite direct evidence that a police captain, while conducting an Internal Affairs investigation, altered a report to conceal the fact that a police officer was arrested, your office has found nothing wrong nor even found the need to investigate,” Finkelstein said in a recent letter to Satz.
In an interview, Finkelstein added, “The public record is not a work of fiction, but that’s what happened here….It was creative writing to make it appear that what happened didn’t really happen. If it isn’t illegal, it is certainly unethical.”
Public Defender Howard Finkelstein
SERGEANT DISCLOSED ARREST
Fuller, a supervisor with the city’s controversial anti-drug unit known as the Northwest Raiders, disclosed his arrest to superiors. Details, however, are sketchy. Not only is the New York court file sealed, Maglione did not obtain – or request – a copy of the New York police report describing what happened. New York law allows police agencies access to sealed cases.
“Everything I had was self-reported” by Fuller, said Maglione, a former Raider. “I was satisfied with that because I was also assured (by Fuller’s New York lawyer and an unnamed local district attorney) that no crime occurred.”
Maglione’s account, based solely on what Fuller told him, states that Fuller was on vacation in Niagara County, N.Y. on July 19, 2009 when “he became involved in a disturbance at a privately-owned residence.” Fuller, a 19-year-veteran, was with his brother “and another individual known to the Fuller family, the report says.
“The disturbance prompted a neighbor to contact the local police and it was initially determined that Sergeant Fuller and his brother were responsible for some minor damage to the other individual’s property, but any contemplated charges were subsequently dismissed once it was determined that no crime occurred,” the report says.
Maglione’s report does not say what crime Fuller was charged with, provide the location and time of the incident, describe the damage or say what police agency investigated. It also does not mention that one or two other persons were arrested.
Likewise, the police file includes no notation that the report was altered because of New York law. The department’s software system, IAPro, also does not track such changes. “It overwrites the first entry entirely,” Maglione said.
Maglione, now a top aide to Chief Frank Adderley, says he deleted the arrest information in an update before finalizing his report in August 2009. But Al Smith, Finkelstein’s chief investigator, said he determined the alterations were actually made about a year later. During that time, he said, the cleaned-up version was sent out in response to several requests for information about Fuller.
The arrests occurred on a Sunday. By the end of business Thursday, the case was dismissed and sealed by Somerset Town Court Justice Donald P. Martineck.
A few days later, Fuller presented Maglione with a letter from his attorneys, George Muscato and Michael H. White Jr., declaring that “all charges” had been dismissed and that complainant Clayton Cooper had signed a document stating “he did not want to pursue any further charges” and, in fact, had never wanted “to bring charges in the first place.”
Cooper is not further identified. A 78-year-old man with the same name who resided in a small home in the tiny town of Barker, which is surrounded by Somerset, N.Y, died in September 2010.
CLOSED CASE COMES BACK
Maglione closed Fort Lauderdale’s Internal Affairs investigation on August 10, 2009. He did so, he said, without obtaining a police report to verify what Fuller had told him. A signed hard copy of his report, sans mention of the arrest, is included in the file. Case closed, he said.
Captain Rick Maglione
But two and a half years later, on February 1, 2012, investigator Smith, a former Fort Lauderdale police detective, received at his home copies of two nearly identical internal Affairs reports about the New York incident. The second, as Smith put it in his referral to prosecutors, was “sanitized” to omit the fact of Fuller’s arrest.
The Public Defender’s Office filed a public records request seeking Fuller’s file because he is a witness against a client. The police coughed up the version of the report that does not mention that he was arrested.
Police legal advisor Bradley Weissman now says it was a mistake for police to release even the censored report because of the blanket sealing order.
“I believe we made an error when we turned it over,” Weissman said. Still, Florida’s broad public records law requires such records to be open to the public.
Fuller’s Fort Lauderdale attorney, Michael Gottlieb, is upset that someone leaked Internal Affairs records about his client. He said he suspects it was done by “somebody in internal affairs who wanted to get somebody else in trouble and who thought this case was improperly closed or that favoritism was shown.” He declined to name names.
A MATTER OF CONCERN
While prosecutors have brushed the matter off, Finkelstein’s letter to Satz calls it a matter of “great concern” because defense counsel rely on information in Internal Affairs files to locate information they can use to impeach the testimony of officers who are witnesses against their clients.
The disagreement is part of long-running legal spat between Satz and Finkelstein about pre-trial disclosure by prosecutors. For nearly 50 years, courts have required prosecutors to turn over so-called Brady evidence – information favorable to a defendant.
Satz has said his disclosure policy “far exceeds” his legal obligations under Brady. Finkelstein counters that Broward prosecutors tend to withhold too much potentially favorable evidence and have little interest in enforcing Brady requirements when it comes to the police. He cited that concern in his letter to Satz.
“The failure to address this incident evidences the double standard your office employs when police misbehavior is at issue,” Finkelstein said.