The stain continues to spread in the Fort Lauderdale Police racism scandal. Late Thursday, the Broward State Attorney's Office announced it is dropping more than 40 cases involving the Fort Lauderdale Police officers who were recently booted from the department for racist behavior.
Twelve felony cases, 30 criminal misdemeanor cases, and one juvenile case were all dismissed, according to the Sun Sentinel (slightly different numbers are being reported by Local10). The cases were all tainted by their association with the four officers — Alex Alvarez, James Holding, James Wells, and Christopher Sousa. Late last month, Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Frank Adderley and Mayor Jack Seiler announced the findings of a five-month internal affairs investigation into racist text messages swapped by the officers.
From the moment the news broke, it was clear the scandal was going to have a big impact on the Broward criminal justice system. What that impact is going to look like is still taking shape now. Shortly after the firings, Broward Public Defender Howard FInkelstein told New Times his office was reviewing 56 open cases involving the officers.
According to the Sun Sentinel, all the cases dropped on Thursday involved black defendants. "This is a serious matter," State Attorney spokesman Ron Ishoy told the newspaper. "We continue to review each case in which these former policemen were the principle officers involved in the arrest. We are dropping charges against the defendants where it is appropriate."
Update: On late Thursday, the State Attorney provided New Times with a list of the cases dismissed due to the four disgraced officers. The felony cases include:
— aggravated assault with a firearm from April 2014.
— possession of cannabis and possession of cannabis with intent to sell charges from August 2014.
— grand theft, possession of cannabis, and burglary of an unoccupied structure charges from September 2014.
— possession of cocaine and possession of cannabis charges from August 2014.
— possession of cannabis from June 2014.
— possession of cocaine and possession of cannabis from September 2014.
— possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of cannabis charges from June 2014.
— possession of cocaine, possession of cocaine with intent to sell, possession of cannabis, possession of cannabis with intent to sell from May 2014.
— possession of ethylone, resisting an officer with violence, resisting or obstructing without violence, grand theft, grand theft with a firearm, possession of a firearm with altered ID charges from August 2014.
— possession of cannabis from April 2014.
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— possession of cannabis from January 2014.
— unlawful possession of ID of another and possession of cannabis charges from September 2014.
The assumption is that, at least in court, the state's cases against these defendants would be tainted by the association with the bad cops. Although race may have played a role in these cases, if the above defendants were real threats to society, they've basically gotten a get-out-of-jail-free card thanks to the bone-headed actions of these now-ex police officers.
This is the flip side to the situation. We've been worried about these bad cops throwing unfair arrests on individuals due to their race; conversely, they might have also scooped up real-deal bad guys in the course of their police work — would-be felons who now are walking.