The living room of MaryAnn Macias' Miami Beach condo is sparsely furnished, with few decorations other than photos of herself with her swarthy, barrel-chested husband, Jaime. There's one snapped soon after they moved in together. Another was taken at their wedding. A third shows them seated together in Jaime's aunt's home in Miami.
But look closely and you'll see the pictures are all old and fading. That's because Jaime, a 69-year-old decorated Army veteran and ex-cop with 25 years of experience and three master's degrees, has been in jail for nine years.
"I don't want any pictures of him in prison," says MaryAnn, a pretty, big-eyed 59-year-old. "We're gonna put all this behind us when he gets out and go back to how it was. Back then, we were really happy. Life was really, really good."
The story of Jaime Macias' imprisonment begins with an allegation of forced fellatio in a Winn-Dixie parking lot and ends with a sick old man crying out to Cuban President Raúl Castro for aid. It provides a look into the murky world of Broward County's drug court.
The alleged victim, a then-23-year-old woman in a Broward County drug program for a cocaine problem, claimed in 2003 that Macias, who was working as a drug court supervisor, had forced her to perform oral sex. She went free after the case, but Macias was sentenced to 15 years in prison. A judge later threw out a civil suit she filed against the county. Though Macias has filed numerous appeals, he remains in prison.
"I now turn to my birth country," Macias wrote in a letter to Raúl Castro dated November 11, 2014, "as I have exhausted all avenues within the United States government to receive basic human rights and the necessary medical care I need... The U.S. denounces other countries for their alleged lack of human rights. It is hypocrisy at its utmost."
Jaime Macias came to America in 1959 at age 14. After a brief stay in Miami, the family headed for Union City, New Jersey, where the lanky teenager attended Union Hill High School before joining the Army to fight for his adopted country in Vietnam. There, on July 1, 1966, in the central-highlands province of Kontum, Macias' helicopter was forced to land in a hostile zone under enemy fire, according to a commendation he later received. Machine guns were jammed. Macias jumped out of the chopper while Viet Cong pummeled the soldiers with mortar shells. Despite the heavy fire, Macias fixed the weapons, and the helicopter escaped safely. In 1968, he was awarded a medal for heroism.
After his 18-month stint in the military, Macias joined the Union City Police Department, where he stayed for 25 years, attaining the rank of detective working juvenile crimes. He testified at his trial in 2005 that he had a spotless record, and prosecutors never brought up any issues during questioning. Union City cops verified his time there but did not provide his performance evaluations. No newspaper articles mention any issues he may have had while working there.
Macias seems to have had ambitions bigger than low-level police work. During his spare time, he earned a master's degree in psychology from Long Island University and another in sociology from Mercy College in New York City.
He was married and divorced once. Then Jaime met MaryAnn and they moved in together in 1988. They wed a decade later. It was a simple church ceremony in New Jersey with a handful of guests, MaryAnn says. "We had been living together for so long -- I didn't want a big to-do."
Around the same time, circa 1998, Jaime retired from the police force and the couple sold their New Jersey home. They moved into a four-bedroom house in Miami Beach's Biscayne Point, complete with a dock and a boat. Jaime kept busy with part-time detective work, investigating elder abuse for a private agency. MaryAnn began taking courses to earn her master's degree in education.
After tiring of semiretirement, Jaime found work as a drug-treatment counselor at the Broward County Sheriff's Office drug court program in 2001. Two years later, he racked up a third master's degree, this time in counseling with a specialization in substance abuse at Nova Southeastern University. That led to a promotion to a supervisory role managing a team of counselors.
Everything seemed to be going well for the couple.
"We really just had a regular, quiet life and kept to ourselves," MaryAnn says. "We worked and stayed at home, and on the weekends Jaime would go out on his boat."
But the assignment of a petite, baby-faced young woman to Jaime's drug court program sent that happy life off the rails in 2003. The year before, the young woman had been busted with eight grams of cocaine in Oakland Park. It was her first felony offense. And like more than 10,000 other first-time felony offenders each year in Florida, she was given the option of completing a drug court program instead of jail time. If she finished it, the coke charge would be wiped from her record. But if she failed, she could go to jail and have a felony drug conviction on her record.
Completing drug court, which requires meetings, counseling, and random drug tests, isn't easy for some. Numbers vary, but the National Association of Drug Court Professionals says between 16 and 27 percent of participants don't make it past the first two years. The young woman was on her way to becoming one of those statistics. Since age 12, she had battled addiction, which pestered her in the early part of her drug court experience. She missed several meetings and failed her first three drug tests.
Macias informed her that she was in danger of flunking out and could possibly face a month in jail.
In testimony, she claimed Macias then made his play: "Your counselor says you get away with a lot," she reported that Macias said. "Are you good with your mouth?" At first she thought he was asking if she was good at talking, but then -- she claimed -- she realized he meant sexual favors. "My stomach dropped. Like, I didn't know -- I was on the spot. I didn't know what to do."
The woman said Macias on October 13, 2003, told her to meet him in a Winn-Dixie parking lot a half-mile from the drug court office. During her testimony, she said she called a friend for comfort but knew she would go through with it. "It was my worst fear to go to jail. I didn't know what else to do... He gave me an opportunity to not go to jail," she said.
The woman testified she entered a white van where Jaime was waiting. He told her to perform oral sex, and she did. Then, she claimed, he asked if she would rather have had intercourse instead. She said no. He assured her she wouldn't go to jail. "I'll take care of it," he allegedly said.
A few days later, a judge scolded her for failing multiple drug tests but gave her another chance. She would wear a patch that monitors drug use. But the woman continued to fail drug tests, and after more than a year in the drug court program, she was ordered to go to an inpatient drug treatment facility. There she told a counselor about the alleged encounter with Macias, and he reported it to police.