Love Behind Bars

When Albert Tacher met Dina Mora, he knew it was love. The problem? She was a prisoner, and he was a Broward Sheriff's Office deputy.

Mora's "freedom" hasn't come without a cost. All calls from the jail are collect, and Tacher says his phone bill costs as much as $300 a month. It's just one financial drain that he says has all but emptied his bank account. He's also had to hire lawyers to fight BSO's attempt to take away his state certification because of his relationship with Mora (including the allegations of oral sex) and to represent him in his struggle to visit Mora in jail. He says he's spent roughly $30,000 so far, and he now works at a medical office for $8 an hour -- $12 an hour less than he made at BSO -- to help make ends meet.

Lieutenant Colonel Tighe, who runs the entire BSO jail system of 4500 inmates and 1700 employees, isn't concerned with Tacher's hardships. It is the rules he says he cares about. In June, Tacher called Tighe and asked if he could visit Mora. Tighe told him no way. "This is not a personal issue but rather the enforcement of policy that no former employees are allowed in our facilities," Tighe wrote in a memo to jail administrators after talking with Tacher, who was warned that he'd be subject to arrest for trespassing if he came to the jail. In concluding the memo, Tighe wrote in bold print: "All [BSO staff] needs to be apprised of the seriousness of this situation. This could turn into a 'Critical Incident'!"

Despite the seeming impossibility of marrying Mora while she was still in jail, Tacher was bound to try. The first step was getting a marriage license, which required that he present an ID card belonging to Mora. Problem was, all her IDs had been confiscated by agents during the raid on her house. Tacher, however, was able to persuade the State Attorney's Office into releasing the IDs to him. Then an attorney visited Mora in jail, she signed the marriage papers, and soon Tacher had the marriage license.

Tacher has lost everything -- his career, his savings, and his reputation. But he says the love he found is worth that price and more.
Tacher has lost everything -- his career, his savings, and his reputation. But he says the love he found is worth that price and more.
Tacher has lost everything -- his career, his savings, and his reputation. But he says the love he found is worth that price and more.
Albert Tacher
Tacher has lost everything -- his career, his savings, and his reputation. But he says the love he found is worth that price and more.

But that hurdle was insignificant compared to the one that lay ahead: How could he marry Mora while she was in jail? It seemed impossible, but Tacher, who now had a lot of time on his hands, began to devise a plan. Tacher knew that Mora was sometimes taken to the courthouse for hearings on her case. That would have to be the place. But how? When she went to court, she remained in handcuffs and was simply transferred from the custody of jail deputies to that of sheriff's bailiffs. On top of that, she was handcuffed to a chair. It was so controlled, Tacher knew there was no way to pull it off -- without help, anyway.

So Tacher went to Broward Circuit Judge Susan Lebow, who was hearing Mora's criminal case, and amazingly Lebow (who wouldn't talk to New Times about the situation) agreed to help get the couple married. The date for the covert wedding was set for January 14 of this year, a day Mora would be in court for a status hearing.

On that day Mora stayed in the courtroom until Lebow was finished with all her cases. Then the bailiffs uncuffed Mora, who was in her olive green jail uniform, and took her to the judge's chambers. There, while one of the bailiffs snapped the wedding photos, Tacher and Mora exchanged vows and rings while someone (Tacher won't say who) married them. Tacher claims their wedding day was the first time he and Mora ever embraced.

Then, quickly, he had to take the ring back off Mora's finger -- she wasn't allowed to have it -- and the bailiffs put the cuffs back on the bride, who was escorted to jail.

Both Tacher and Mora say it was the most bittersweet moment of their lives, and Tacher remembers that his eyes burned with tears as he left the courthouse.

The next day he and his lawyer, Donald McCoy, went to the jail together. Deputies threatened Tacher with arrest and called Tighe. McCoy then announced the stunning news: Tacher and Mora were married, and the jail had no right to keep a husband from visiting his wife. McCoy gave the jailers the marriage certificate, which the deputies copied and faxed to Tighe. "They thought the certificate was a fraud," Tacher recalls. "They could not figure out how I managed that. They were so upset; they were like children."

In the end, the lieutenant colonel, bound by BSO policies allowing spousal visits, had to let Tacher back into the jail.

"They circumvented the rules of the jail," Tighe says, not attempting to conceal his disgust at the bizarre turn of events. "Who was I going to investigate? The chief judge? The judge who allowed them to do it? There was nothing that could be done about it."

Tacher, meanwhile, was suffering from stress due to the marriage plans, his lost job, and the fights with Tighe. Three days after he was married, he felt a pain in his chest and started having problems breathing. Tacher, who'd been trained for medical emergencies, knew what was happening. He was having a heart attack. He drove himself to the emergency room and collapsed in the doorway.

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