Mr. Snyder's Opus

A police beating can't hold back the Hallandale band director and his irrepressible charges.

The clincher, perhaps, was the testimony of Robert Scott, who had originally shown up in Snyder's case as a witness for the state, based on an interview he gave police shortly after the incident. At a subsequent deposition, however, Scott would testify that the police interviewer never asked him whether Snyder had struck Williams, nor did the interviewer read Scott the affidavit Williams filed in the case.

"No, he did not," Scott testified, "because if he would have, I would have told him then that they was lying."

Scott, a volunteer who had been leading Stranahan off the field when the altercation began, did not know Snyder. But he remembered Snyder's appearance, how he was facing Scott when police arrived. "At this time, when they grabbed him," Scott testified, "I guess Mr. Snyder thought that was the student, so he did shake... but he didn't — like, it was no force to hit anybody. He shook when he realized — when he said, 'No, no, no, no, not me,' but I don't know why [police] would even say that pack of lies... They went against their own law."

At Hallandale High, band has more social cachet than football.
At Hallandale High, band has more social cachet than football.

The allegation that Snyder tried to stand up after being taken down is also false, Scott testified. "You have to understand... it was two police officers that grabbed at the same time and took him to the ground. One had his knee in his back, had him down the whole time, so I don't see how they can say that he tried to get up, because they had him pinned."

Predictably, Scott was dropped from the state's witness list. He remembers fielding a call from a detective who wanted to conduct a deposition over the phone, "but when I was getting to the part to what actually happened, he cut the conversation, 'OK. that's all I wanted to hear. Thank you very much,' and hung up the phone."

Ultimately, the police version of the story was overwhelmed by witnesses who told another version, in which the cop was the aggressor. Snyder was acquitted on all charges.

A county School Board investigator who looked into the incident would find no cause for penalizing Snyder.

In fact, the only parties who may yet feel repercussions are police officers. A spokesman for the Fort Lauderdale police confirmed that the incident is now under active investigation by its Division of Internal Affairs. This means that no police officers are free to speak of it publicly, including Williams and Sandman.

So far, Williams has had good luck with Internal Affairs. A public records request by New Times shows that seven complaints have been filed against him, including a 2002 case in which he was accused of "bias-based policing," two separate allegations of false arrest in 2003, and allegations of excessive force in 2004 and 2006. In each instance, Internal Affairs cleared him of wrongdoing.

It may have been tempting for Snyder to simply be grateful for the judge's ruling and not look back. Except that in his mind — and for those who believe in him — justice still hasn't been completely served.

"To try and sweep this under the rug, that is also sending a bad message to the kids," Lamar-Dukes says. "For him to be put in this situation in the first place, where he faced the risk of losing his job and going to jail, somebody should be held responsible. The kids should learn that there is a process."

Part of that is Snyder's cooperation in the Internal Affairs investigation. And another part of it began in July, when Snyder's attorney, Lynn Overmann, filed a notice of claim with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department.

If the department's claims adjusters don't offer a handsome settlement — and they rarely do — Overmann will file suit on grounds of false arrest and battery. She says Snyder wants to recover the roughly $20,000 he spent in medical and legal fees, plus receive compensation for the emotional distress the incident caused him.

Otherwise, the experience is one Snyder wants to put in the past, so he can concern himself more with the future of his program.

As the Hallandale High band finally takes the field for September's Clash of the Titans, the incident seems far from Snyder's mind. He watches from beneath a goal post, pacing like a football coach, wearing that stern game face, and occasionally pointing and waving directions. "Move! Move!" Snyder yells to the flag girls, who are slow to leave the sidelines. He goes through a series of hand signals as inscrutable as those by a third-base coach, but they make sense to the kids on the field.

A band that seemed to struggle with its concentration during the indoor rehearsal appears to have come alive with motion in the space of the football field and with a crowd to please.

For all that intensity during the performance, its completion brings a rare smile to Snyder's face. "They did good for a group that has a lot of young kids."

Receiving their 20-ounce sodas and boxes of chicken wings, band members stay to watch Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M wage musical combat. Then at Snyder's signal, the Hallandale drums sound the beat, and like a victorious army regiment, the band marches in time back to the bus.

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