Daniel Cortes, after his run-in with North Lauderdale cops Tucciarone, Novello, and Sokol.
Daniel Cortes, after his run-in with North Lauderdale cops Tucciarone, Novello, and Sokol.
Daniel Cortes

Police Brutality Rarely Ends With Punishment for the Cops

A Fort Lauderdale 911 operator took the call. "They are beating my son!" a woman screamed. "They are going to kill my son!"

"Ma'am, slow down. Who is beating your son?" the operator responded.

"The poliiiice!" The words were an agonized wail. "I tried to talk to them, and the police just punched my face! Send someone to protect me!"

The caller was howling into the receiver in broken English. "Please, send someone who is not North Lauderdale police! Nicolas punched me in my face. Please send somebody; they are killing my son!"

The caller was Gina Brin, a slender 49-year-old mother of two. Nicolas Novello was a Broward Sheriff's Office detective whom Brin had encountered several times before. Brin lived with her husband, Randy, and her sons from a previous marriage, Daniel and Jose Cortes, on SW 71st Terrace. That night, Gina had cooked dinner, slipped on a T-shirt and pajama shorts, and gotten in bed when Daniel's girlfriend, Tabitha Maddeaux, burst into her bedroom.

"Gina," Maddeaux cried, "the cops are hitting Daniel!"

Daniel Cortes had been arrested for possession with intent to distribute ten grams of marijuana on December 6, 2008. Four nights later, driving an unmarked van and in plain clothes, detectives Nicolas Novello and Michael Tucciarone were back to arrest him again. Cortes had allegedly told a hospital nurse during his possession arrest that he'd swallowed ecstasy pills. Novello and Tucciarone thought they had probable cause to arrest him for tampering with evidence.

Daniel and Maddeaux were standing in their yard, calling back and forth across the street with their neighbor, 21-year-old Lee Shatil-White, when a gold van pulled up. "I thought it was someone we knew, 'cause they didn't have lights on or anything," Shatil-White later told Internal Affairs investigators. "They got out of the car, and they're like, 'Daniel Cortes, come here.' "

Daniel walked up to the van, Shatil-White says, and "without any provocation or anything, they just hit him in the head with a flashlight."

She saw Daniel fall to the ground. Maddeaux started crying and ran inside the house to get Gina, Shatil-White recalls.

In interviews with New Times, Shatil-White, Cortes, Maddeaux, and Gina and Randy Brin described a scene that quickly got uglier. Gina jumped out of bed and came outside. Randy stood at the open front door. Gina and Randy say Novello was sitting on Daniel, who was prone on the sidewalk. As Gina screamed at the cops, Novello, they say, stood up, stepped over Daniel's body, and walked up and punched her in the face. Gina fell to the ground. Shatil-White, who was across the street, says it looked like Novello "punched or elbowed" Gina. She recalls hearing Gina screaming, "You hit me! You hit me!"

Randy Brin sounds stunned when he recounts what happened. The 53-year-old Brin, who runs an auto body business, struggled to find words to describe seeing his wife fall. Detective Novello, he recalls, is "six-two, six-three."

"I was looking at Gina on the ground, and she was, I just, you know, I mean, it was just an incredible... thing to see... I just couldn't believe it," he said in a later statement.

Gina Brin told New Times that the second detective, Tucciarone, pointed his gun at her head. Randy and Shatil-White saw the red dot of the laser settle first on her forehead and then travel down to her breastbone. Gina and Randy say they watched while the detectives repeatedly pounded Daniel's head into the pavement.

Seeing detectives punching and kicking Daniel, Shatil-White recalled, "I've never seen that before in my life. It was like a movie. It was crazy."

The frantic 911 call Gina made that night records her begging the operator not to send North Lauderdale police.

"I asked them not to, because they hate us," Brin told investigators.

A few minutes after she hung up, district Sgt. Paul Mikols arrived, and against the advice of her husband, Gina went out to talk to him. Mikols had her arrested. Although Gina and witnesses concur that she never came within six feet of the deputies and Daniel, she was booked on charges of obstructing an arrest.

"I was ashamed. I had on a little [pair of] shorts, I didn't have a wrap, I didn't have shoes," Gina recalled. "I'd never been arrested in my life." On the way to the station, Gina asked the female cop who was driving her, "Why am I here? Is it a sin or a crime to ask these deputies to stop beating my son the way they were doing it?"

"Mrs. Brin," Gina recalls the cop telling her, "don't worry — it's just a misdemeanor."

At the station, Brin says, she watched her son brought in limping. He had an ugly knot on his head. One eye was blackened. He told her later he'd been beaten and dragged from the car by another detective, Robert Sokol. Daniel was charged with multiple felonies, including three counts of battery on a law enforcement officer. None of the detectives was injured.

At the station, Brin saw Tucciarone again. "You should be grateful I didn't kill you," she says he told her.

"Why didn't you?'" Brin remembers asking.

"You are lucky to be alive. I almost killed you," he repeated.

I'm outraged by the police in these cases," says Brian Silber, who is defending the Brins and Cortes and another man, Guillermo Diaz, who claims he was beaten by BSO deputies. "These victims were brutalized at their own homes. I plan to fight these cases until my clients are completely exonerated."

But determining what constitutes "brutality" is exactly the question. There's force, and there's excessive force. Broward Sheriff's Office Commander David Robshaw, who runs the Internal Affairs Division jointly with District Chief John Hale, says civilians tend to confuse the two. The former is pretty much part of a day's work for Broward deputies; the latter happens when situations spin out of control. Nobody's a big fan of excessive force, Robshaw says. It's embarrassing.

Any deputy who uses force is required to file a report. What happened to Daniel Cortes and Gina Brin generated one of 57 "Subject Control Incident Reports" on file with Internal Affairs for North Lauderdale District 15 in 2008 and 2009. The bulk of these were part of routine procedure. But when a civilian files an excessive force complaint, it generates a Preliminary Investigative Inquiry (PII). And here's where the line between "force" and "excessive force" gets trickier.

"Excessive force" is the official police term, but people who say they suffered beatings and witnesses to the scenes use more vivid terms. They remember fragile heads pounded on concrete. They tell of being pulled feet first from police cars while cuffed so that their unprotected heads hit the ground. They show their scars. They point to bruises where facial bones were broken or where police batons impacted soft belly flesh.

New Times investigated four citizen complaints of excessive force lodged with BSO's Internal Affairs in the North Lauderdale District in 2008 and 2009. All of them involved beatings severe enough to land victims in the hospital. Multiple witnesses testified that deputies struck first. They say the beatings were unprovoked or excessive for the circumstances. Internal Affairs eventually dismissed all of the cases. None of the deputies involved in the beatings was disciplined.

These cases illustrate the difficulties civilians encounter when seeking justice through BSO's system of Internal Affairs. It's virtually impossible for excessive-force complaints to be sustained. The four North Lauderdale complaints occurred in the context of an arrest, with deputies arguing that force was used appropriately and that the men and women they arrested resisted violently. But deputies' versions of events were not confirmed by court testimony, and all of the felony charges of battery on a law enforcement officer were either dropped or the defendant was found not guilty.

New Times spoke with BSO about each of these cases, but sheriff's representatives wouldn't comment on specific cases, nor would they permit interviews with the deputies involved. The deputies' versions of events described in this story were taken from Internal Affairs closeout memos, police reports, and pretrial depositions.

North Lauderdale covers an area of about four square miles; the latest census puts the population at 34,572. There's an unusually diverse racial makeup: whites and blacks in just about equal numbers, around 35 percent each; Hispanics, many of them from Colombia, like Gina Brin and her sons, make up 21 percent. It's a largely working-class area of unassuming cement-block single-family homes. The North Lauderdale District 15 is one of 17 districts served by BSO. "It's like a small town here," Tabitha Maddeaux, Daniel's girlfriend, told New Times. "The police station is right in the middle of everything, and everybody knows what's going on."

An excessive-force complaint generated in the context of a crime often becomes hopelessly bogged down while the criminal case progresses. Lawyers commonly advise clients to postpone or drop Internal Affairs complaints until after the trial is finished. But once postponed, IA won't revisit a complaint, even if the defendant is found not guilty.

Broward Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes says Internal Affairs complaints rarely result in justice for civilians. "If you read enough of these closeout memos, look at enough probable-cause affidavits, you'll see that there is a dual system of justice at work," Weekes says. "Officers' testimony is given much greater weight than a citizen's. When complaints against police come in, the witnesses are discredited. And the question is, how do you face law enforcement when they have wronged you? Citizens deserve a fair and just review. They need to know that their complaints will not be readily dismissed, that they will get a fair, accurate conclusion about what happened."

Hollywood attorney Hugh Koerner, who has specialized in police brutality cases for 15 years, concurs. "In most complaints of excessive force," he says, "civilians will generally not have overwhelming proof. You have a police officer serving as both investigator and judge. The landscape is not set up to promote justice — it's set up to enforce internal rules. The only real remedy for a civilian is to file a civil rights suit in federal district court."

Photos and hospital reports would seem to carry a lot of weight. So would recorded calls like Brin's hysterical 911 exchange, an "excited utterance" made under stress; in court, it's judged more trustworthy because it's not premeditated. But excited utterances and black eyes don't hold much clout with IA investigators. If civilians end up looking much worse than the police they were supposedly fighting, that's because "it's not supposed to be a fair fight," says BSO spokeswoman Dani Moschella. "The deputy is trying to stop whatever is happening as quickly as possible."

Even the most impartial IA investigator is beholden to many: to civilians; to deputies, whose rights are protected under Florida statutes; to police unions; and to higher-ups who have political reputations at stake.

Layers of bureaucracy make it difficult to track complaints. Preliminary Investigative Inquiries don't become part of a deputy's disciplinary record. When a full IA investigation does occur, "What we look for is a preponderance of evidence," Robshaw says. "And we're working within the framework of agency policy, which gives much discretion to deputies."

BSO's Internal Affairs has had no shortage of critics. In 2003, private investigator and former California police Detective Diop Kamau, who runs policeabuse.com out of Tallahassee, began a four-year investigation into BSO Internal Affairs that eventually resulted in a retraining of BSO staff. Kamau hired investigators to pose as citizens attempting to file complaints and videotaped what happened. Most districts treated civilians with courtesy. In others, citizens were bullied or threatened with arrest. The evidence he presented to BSO was enough to prompt a reckoning. Kamau ran the subsequent trainings and was paid handsomely; because of that, he has some passionate detractors, but Robshaw, who worked closely with Kamau on implementation of new BSO policies, says "he had good ideas."

"He fostered accountability," Robshaw says. "The impact of his investigation was positive."

Gina Brin and Lee Shatil-White both filed complaints about their encounter with BSO deputies. The "tampering with evidence" charge against Daniel — the "probable cause" that had brought detectives Tucciarone and Novello to the Brins' house that night — was dropped by the State Attorney's Office. The Brins' lawyer, Silber, says Daniel's tampering arrest was "completely illegal. The whole incident should never have happened."

Gina went straight to the State Attorney's Office with her complaint. Shatil-White filed an IA complaint. Both were eventually dismissed. The closeout memos note "inconsistencies between witness statements" and the "credibility issues" of the complainants.

Not every complainant is going to be highly credible. Gina Brin's family was no stranger to North Lauderdale police; they knew many of the local cops by name. And deputies knew them. Brin had filed a dozen complaints with Internal Affairs over what she calls a pattern of harassment against her family. Her sons, she admits, are "no angels." Both had multiple arrests on charges that included drug possession.

Still, Gina says, after years of treatment that included racial slurs — cops had called her sons "losers" and "spics" — she felt her troubled boys were being targeted for especially harsh treatment.

The closeout memos to Brin's complaints have a weary quality. Daniel and Jose Cortes, BSO investigators explained, were "persons of interest" because of their juvenile records. By any objective measure, police told Brin, deputies were just doing good police work. Each time, the final response was the same. "I recommend that this case be closed with no further action taken," wrote Major Kim Tierney of the Field Services Bureau (Tierney is now chief of the North Lauderdale District 15) in a typical memo from 2006.

But Gina believes that what happened the night of December 10, 2008, was altogether different from the hassles they'd complained about in past police run-ins. She's convinced police almost killed her son and perhaps came close to killing her too. Since that night, she told New Times, Daniel has attempted suicide twice. He's in psychiatric therapy. She feels so angry and helpless that she's been tempted to check into a mental hospital herself. And their court cases drag on, costing time, money, and endless heartache. "I just want to see justice done," she says.

If Gina Brin's family had credibility issues, Guillermo Diaz would seem to be a poster boy for the kind of complainant most likely to succeed. A family man with a steady job delivering deli products, Diaz, who is Colombian, had no past problems with the police, with the exception of a successfully contested DUI. But Diaz's good behavior didn't cut him any slack with North Lauderdale Deputy Jorge Alonso. Their encounter ended with Diaz — semiconscious, drooling, and covered with welts — being loaded into an ambulance headed for Broward General.

Diaz had spent Saturday, July 29, 2008, celebrating a birthday. Twenty friends, family, and kids had gathered. They'd eaten cake. They'd danced and traded stories while children ran between their feet. They'd downed shots of the sugarcane liquor Cristal Aguardiente. Around midnight, they'd ended up at Ciro de la Hoz's North Lauderdale house.

When Deputy Alonso pulled up to Ciro's house around 4 a.m., the cop was responding to a noise complaint. Diaz and Harold Patino were outside listening to vallenato music on the radio of a Toyota backed up on the lawn. Diaz told New Times he'd just shut the music off — they were ready to turn in. The deputy told Diaz that somebody had phoned in a complaint about loud music.

"I'm sorry, I'm sleeping now; the music is off," Diaz says he told Alonso in broken English. Alonso turned back to his cruiser, and Diaz thought he was done. But Alonso came back with his ticket book.

"Why are you giving me a ticket now when there is no music?" Diaz asked.

"Let me see your I.D.," Alonso answered.

Diaz protested that he had done nothing. And he made a mistake. He admitted in his sworn IA statement that his driver's license was in his back pocket. He didn't want a ticket. So he lied to Alonso. He said his wife had driven off with his I.D.

Diaz is a big man. Alonso's police report says Diaz kept reaching nervously into his pockets. Alonso claimed Diaz "told him to leave" and "shouted obscenities." The deputy said Diaz was drunk.

Diaz vehemently denies these allegations. He'd had six or seven shots over the course of a long evening and a couple of beers while they were listening to music. Oddly, no drug or alcohol tests were conducted when Diaz was later taken to Broward General.

"The fact that he was drinking, he kept reaching into his pockets, just his overall demeanor... made me nervous," Alonso said in his IA statement. So Alonso reached for Diaz's pocket to pat him down for weapons.

Diaz stepped back. "Hey, what happen? What did I do?" he asked in confusion.

In his report, Alonso claims Diaz pushed and punched the deputy. But Diaz and three witness statements all contradict this. Diaz says at no time did he hit the deputy.

Alonso pulled out his expandable baton and hit Diaz on the neck and shoulders. Next door, Maria Oviedo, a waitress at a local pancake house, had gotten up to go to the bathroom when she noticed blue lights from Alonso's cruiser. In a deposition for the court case, she is emphatic. Oviedo stood in her nightgown looking out her open window directly onto the lawn next door. She watched from the time Alonso stepped from his car. She never saw Diaz make a threatening move or remark. She was certain the deputy struck Diaz first. Seeing Alonso beating Diaz with his baton, she called out the window: "Stop abusing him! I see what you are doing!"

Oviedo saw Alonso throw Diaz to the ground and Mace him in the face.

"I was in shock," she said in her statement. "So I moved back. I sit on my bed. I was so scared."

Oviedo considered calling 911. "I didn't call because I realized, he is a cop," she told investigators, referring to Alonso. "I said who is going to help me if he is a cop and he is abusing Mr. Diaz? So I never did."

Diaz panicked. The stinging pepper spray had hit the deputy too. As Alonso struggled to recover, blinking and coughing, Diaz jumped up, face buried in his hands, and dashed inside the house, locking the door.

Here, memories of deputy and civilian diverge. Diaz says he splashed his face with water, then stumbled into the master bedroom. Three witnesses agree that Alonso yelled four or five times for Diaz to "open the fucking door!" All recall hearing thuds as Alonso kicked open the front door. Bootsteps, as Alonso went from room to room, banging walls and cabinets with his baton.

Diaz told New Times he raised his hands and shouted, "I'm here!" When Alonso confronted him, he launched into cracking Diaz again with the baton. Thighs, stomach, arms. Diaz says Alonso was whaling on him.

All the witnesses agree that a backup team arrived within minutes and that four or five deputies burst into the bedroom.

Diaz says they beat him on his torso and legs with their batons. Every time they hit him, he remembers, they "would scream something." At first, he writhed and whined under the beating. Finally, he feigned unconsciousness. The deputies picked him up three feet into the air and dropped him, he says. At the end, "I had no choice but to take it. I thought I was going to die."

Diaz's friends had gathered in the next room with another deputy. Although they didn't witness the beating, they said in statements that what they heard in the bedroom "sounded like a dog being beaten."

"It was a wailing sound," de la Hoz remembers. Patino recalls hearing Diaz moaning "ay yi yi" each time he was hit and also hearing Alonso scream, "You motherfucker, you son of a bitch." The next time Patino saw Diaz, he says, Diaz was semiconscious and drooling.

Alonso's report paints a different picture. Although Diaz's attorney, Silber, later obtained photos of the broken door frame and boot-scuffed door, Alonso says the door "opened under the momentum of [his] body." In the master bedroom, Diaz lunged from behind a door and grabbed his neck. Diaz ripped away Alonso's microphone and radio when he saw the deputy trying to call for backup.

Alonso describes Diaz as wild under the influence of drugs. Still, Alonso overpowers him. When backup arrives, they find Diaz cuffed and subdued on the floor, drunk and unresponsive. The police report notes the presence of drugs and alcohol. Depositions taken from Alonso, Sgt. Richard Anton, and Deputy Ryath Benham corroborate this version of events.

Diaz was taken to Broward General. Photos show his torso and legs marked with crimson and purple welts. A hospital report notes lacerations on his abdomen, back, and right eye. His blood pressure is low; he's vomiting blood. From Broward General, he was transported to jail and charged with multiple felonies: battery on an officer, obstructing with violence, and depriving a deputy of a means of communication.

Meanwhile, Deputy Alonso was uninjured.

Diaz told New Times that two guards advised him to file a complaint with BSO's Internal Affairs. When he bonded out the next day, before he'd ever spoken to a lawyer, he went straight to the station to file his complaint.

Diaz had never been in trouble before; he thought of himself as a law-abiding family man. He insists he's "never taken a drug in my life." And when he recounts the story now, he looks baffled. At six-foot-two, he nevertheless has a softness about him: a bit of a paunch and braces on his teeth, making the 37-year-old look like an overgrown adolescent. Gold chains holding a cross and a saint's medallion dangle from his neck. His dark eyes are limpid and expressive. He spreads his meaty hands and shrugs his shoulders, a pained expression crossing his face as he remembers that night. "Why? Why?" he repeats. He never anticipated that the incident that engulfed his life "would have gone to such extremes."

Multiple felony charges against Diaz were dropped to misdemeanor disorderly conduct and resisting without violence. A May 7, 2009, memo from Assistant State Attorney Erica Singer concedes she "does not believe there is a reasonable likelihood of conviction on the charges of Resisting an Officer with Violence, Battery LEO, and Depriving an Officer of his Means of Protection. The testimony of the defense witnesses and the defendant offer a reasonable account of the incident. The witnesses are credible and they each corroborate each other."

IA didn't agree. Its investigation exonerated Deputy Alonso. Diaz, "thinking of my family," he says, pleaded no contest to the misdemeanors. He has since filed a civil suit against BSO. He's back at work. Slowly, his life is returning to normal.

My client is not a likable man," attorney Mavel Ruiz says, describing 46-year-old Joseph Luckner. "Frankly, he's obnoxious." But that's no excuse, Ruiz says, for what happened to him at the hands of North Lauderdale Detective Robert Sokol on April 4, 2008. Of Haitian descent, Luckner has past addiction problems and a criminal record for possession of cocaine and theft. He's been in and out of court-ordered rehab. Ruiz doesn't dispute that Luckner entered a nail salon on McNab Road and made a scene the day he was arrested. He was shouting and stuttering. At some point, his loose pants slipped, exposing his blue boxer shorts.

A BSO deputy named Aisha Coker was in the salon getting her nails done. She was out of her jurisdiction, but when Luckner started acting up, she took matters into her own well-manicured hands.

Coker told Luckner she was a cop. But he didn't hear her. Luckner is hard of hearing, and off-duty, Coker was wearing jeans and a tank top. When Luckner left the nail salon and got into his SUV, Coker followed him. She stepped up on the running board, leaned though the window, and tried to take his keys. Luckner hit the gas, sending Coker backward.

Coker called for backup. Two Tamarac deputies pulled Luckner over a few minutes later. They testified in depositions that Luckner was calm and cooperative, that he followed orders to get out of the car, that he allowed himself to be handcuffed, that he wasn't injured when he was stopped.

North Lauderdale detectives Sokol, Novello, and Harell met the Tamarac deputies and took Luckner into custody. Harell drove him to the North Lauderdale station to book him on charges of battering Deputy Coker. By the time he made it inside the station, Luckner was a wreck.

So what happened between the time he was pulled over in Tamarac and the time he was booked in North Lauderdale?

Sokol's police report says Luckner kicked up such a fuss at the station that, while he was trying to subdue him, Luckner — who was handcuffed — fell and fractured his facial bones. "I removed Luckner from the back seat and placed him on the floor," Sokol writes, adding vaguely, "subsequently striking his face on the floor."

He's no clearer in a pretrial deposition. Sokol says he pulled him out headfirst, face up, and that Luckner struck his face on the concrete.

Luckner, Sokol says, was still "yelling, screaming, and kicking at deputies, striking us several more times. I struck Luckner three times in the chest area with a closed right fist to stop the violent actions toward deputies."

Luckner ended up with broken facial bones, pain in the jaw, and rib contusions. None of the deputies was injured. Sokol said in a deposition that he "didn't see any injuries" on Luckner. "I'm not a doctor," he said.

Broward General's hospital report notes that Luckner claimed he had been punched, kicked, thrown against a wall, and thrown down.

Luckner testified at trial that Sokol uncuffed him at the station. Then Sokol kicked the hell out of him.

It took weeks for Luckner's body to heal from what Sokol described as an accidental fall. "It's the oldest story in the book," attorney Ruiz says. "You see it all the time with domestic violence. How'd I get this fractured jaw? Oh, I fell."

Luckner won his case when he went to court last February; he was found not guilty of felony battery on a law enforcement officer. Coker was out of her jurisdiction; the deputy should have called local police immediately for backup, Ruiz argued. Luckner, who testified that "he had never hit a woman in my life," later paid the price when Sokol retaliated, he says.

Ruiz says that during the time she was preparing for trial, Sokol walked out of depositions and had to be ordered by a judge to answer her questions. Although Luckner was found not guilty, he received a letter in August that his Internal Affairs complaint was "unsustained."

The scene with Luckner in the cruiser and at the station bears a remarkable resemblance to Deputy Sokol's report of what happened nine months later with Daniel Cortes. And also to an incident in April 2009 when Sokol arrested Troy Butler. Butler, who said he'd been pushed face-first to the ground while his hands were cuffed behind him, suffered a fractured cheekbone. Butler was later deemed mentally incompetent, and his IA complaint was dropped.

Just about the only time civilians win excessive force complaints from BSO, Mavel Ruiz says, is "when the proof is undeniable." There has to be video or photographic evidence.

"As with any job," Hollywood attorney Koerner says, "if the police are never disciplined, they learn what they can get away with."

Attorney Silber agrees. "Police departments are not immune to the human urge to avoid embarrassment or minimize wrongdoing. Beyond that, criminal cops are prosecuted by the same agencies that depend on police testimony to win other cases. If prosecutors aggressively pursued police misconduct, they would sour their amicable relationships with police departments."

Whatever failings BSO's IA may have, Robshaw argues, "the model we're using has worked well for us. Public officers are easy targets for complaints," he adds.

Civilian review boards set up to monitor Internal Affairs findings might help resolve these criticisms. Fort Lauderdale has such a review board. But lacking them, "it's rare to ever hear of an officer getting fired," Ruiz says. Silber thinks the solution is to create an independent state agency responsible for criminal police investigations and prosecutions.

Former detective Kamau of policeabuse.com offers some insights from ten years spent investigating police abuse complaints. "With BSO's Internal Affairs complaints, there was a serious gap between what was written on the final reports and what was actually taking place," Kamau says. "There were numerous examples of police misconduct, and the office wasn't making thorough investigations." Kamau praises BSO's cooperation with the investigation he closed out in 2007, saying, "They were fully committed to change."

So has BSO slid back into its old ways? Silber and Ruiz wonder how an IA investigation can yield findings that contradict court judgments about battery complaints. If courts deemed Luckner and Diaz not guilty of battery on a LEO, how can those same deputies argue that suspects were injured because the deputies were defending themselves? Was the defendant kicking and punching or not? Both versions can't be equally true.

Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes offers a radical solution. "The best way to correct the perception that there is a dual system of justice at work," Weekes says, "is to make the system public. Post every complaint, every statement, every memo online and let the community decide if it looks like Internal Affairs has rubber-stamped an investigation.

"If the Sheriff's Office is so confident of its process — publish the results."


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