By Michael E. Miller
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But Arias needn't have worried. His superiors were apparently orchestrating a way to make the entire case go away quietly, as revealed in documents from the SAO investigation.
Carney ordered that Randy Goldberg, a lieutenant in Weston who was also an attorney, conduct Arias' Garrity interview. The transcript of that interview reads more like a defense attorney leading a witness than an inquisitor looking for truth.
During the interview, Goldberg asks Arias why there's a discrepancy in one of his reports.
"Lack of attention on my part."
"OK, so is it fair to say you made an error?" Goldberg asks helpfully.
"You screwed up?"
"Yes I did."
Shortly afterward, Goldberg manages to blend a question into an assertion: "Okay, so in other words, we have a cut and paste error."
The finale was Goldberg leading Arias to talk about his troubled seven-year marriage, noting that it "may have factored into the errors that... this investigation has revealed." Arias couldn't help but agree. (A few months later, Goldberg was representing Arias in his divorce case.)
Just add to this Menghi's contribution to the findings that his detective routinely didn't pay "proper attention to detail," and everything was good to go. Arias had been sloppy, was given a one-day suspension and the case was closed. The State Attorney's Office would receive nothing.
In early 2003, the closed file was sent back to Feeley, who considered its conclusion a sad joke. "I want to get this on the record," he told state attorney investigators. "The issue that concerns me on this case more than anything else isn't what was asked, it's what was obviously left out." Arias hadn't been asked for his notes or any tape recordings, nor was he pushed to talk about specifics of his interaction with the suspect.
In explaining to SAO investigators his decision to move the case to Weston, Carney characterized Rahinsky as a crybaby who said his department had too much work and too few people.
Carney's claim strains credibility, former BSO personnel say. First, Feeley had almost completed this case, so there was little time to be saved by shipping it off. Second, sending any criminal case out to the districts for investigation was rare.
So why was this case sent?
"I hate to use the word 'cover,'" Vrchota told investigators, "but I think that's exactly what happened to it."
Out in Weston, where Arias had once been "scared shitless about not only losing his job but being charged too," Jordan says, a sense of peace had come over the man during it all. One day, Jordan asked him how everything was going.
"Everything's going to be okay," Jordan recalls his fellow detective saying. "The chief took care of everything."
Other officers questioned the Powertrac game well before 2004, but they found themselves cut off at the knees by their superiors, who subsequently climbed to the Powertrac inner circle, according to the system's critics.
MaryAnn Lettieri resigned from the BSO Pompano Beach division in early 2001 at the height of her success as a detective. Today she's a successful real estate agent who lives with her husband Tim, a retired deputy, in a Margate home adorned with a platoon of rag dolls. She's an energetic 47-year-old with dirty-blond hair, long eyelashes, and a New Jersey accent.
Back in the summer of 2000, she was still getting used to the way BSO operated what used to be the Pompano Beach Police Department. Long-time BSO officers were starting to blend in. Lettieri, whose last name at the time was Reffett, reported to Brian Montgomery, a short, muscular sergeant.
The numbers pressure began, she says, after Pompano Beach was pulled into the Powertrac machine and the district's statistics were far less stellar compared to others. "So Jenne said, 'You need to do something with these crime stats because it's way too high,'" she recalls.
One Saturday that summer, the detectives met with Montgomery to go over everything for the Powertrac review coming up that Tuesday morning. Montgomery, at his computer, asked, "You want to see me clear up these crime stats real quick?" He then inserted code numbers on certain cases and they disappeared.
"I was dumbfounded," she says. "We just dispersed. We didn't say anything. We knew enough to keep our mouths shut." From that point on she steadily applied for other positions to get out of there.
Montgomery didn't hesitate to pull the disappearing act. In one October 2000 memo to Lettieri, Montgomery wrote, "I can loose [sic] a few cases in the system to bring your clearance rate up."
But he also did that without asking. "I have memos where I had the most cases outstanding, and then he'd show me this graph and I'd have the most cases cleared," she says. "What's going on here?"
She hit the breaking point in early January when, she says, Montgomery told her that he was in "big trouble" for hacking into his girlfriend's computer and taking $10,000. He was concerned that if she found out she'd press charges and he'd lose his job.
The next day she went to the division's captain and told him what Montgomery had said. He immediately took her to the office of Major Danny Wright, a tall, slim sharp dresser who was destined for greater things at BSO. She told him what Montgomery had said, what she'd seen him do to purge cases from the computer. "He's a hacker," she said.