Broward News

Broward Jail Guards Accused of Attacking Woman for Refusing to Take Off Priceless Family Ring

Since the Parkland shooting last February, Broward Sheriff Scott Israel has been the target of a bunch of insane, conspiratorial fearmongering and outrage. He's been lambasted on InfoWars and attacked by National Rifle Association ghoul Dana Loesch.

But there are plenty of very real problems with the sheriff, including the fact that Israel's cops keep getting sued for beating people up inside the Broward Sheriff's Office jail in Fort Lauderdale. In several cases, there's been video and photographic evidence of seemingly unprovoked attacks inside the facility.

Now, yet another woman says she was permanently disfigured after being beaten and forcibly strip-searched by BSO jail guards, all because she got arrested for simple battery and allegedly holding a tiny amount of weed, and then refused to remove a ring on her finger that once belonged to her grandfather. In a new 92-page federal lawsuit, Sharone Gerstenhaber says that she was forcibly pepper-sprayed and beaten before the guards ripped her clothes off and left her fully nude. And after being attacked by the guards, Gerstenhaber says BSO lost the irreplaceable ring.

The ring "had been passed down to Gerstenhaber from her grandfather, a gift to him by her deceased  grandmother at the time of their marriage in Israel in 1943 and had been engraved with the date of her grandparents’ marriage and her grandmother’s words in Hebrew, 'Rachael loves Leslie,'" the suit says.

Gerstenhaber's suit is at least the third case this year in which a woman has alleged that BSO jail guards attacked her.

In March, Jessica Mooney filed a federal suit alleging that she, too, was beaten bloody by BSO jail guards. Mooney's suit included gruesome photos of the injuries she says she sustained, and her lawyers say they viewed jailhouse camera footage that shows BSO officers surrounding Mooney and attacking her while she laid on the ground. Mooney said she did little except reach toward a female guard to brush the guard's hair off her police badge. Interestingly, Mooney was a witness in an infamous case in which Fort Lauderdale Officer Victor Ramirez was filmed slapping a homeless man — two weeks after testifying against Ramirez in court, Mooney was arrested by FLPD officers and then transferred into BSO custody, where she claims she was attacked.

Mere weeks after Mooney sued BSO, another woman, Audra West, filed a beating case against BSO jail guards. West — who also provided New Times with images of her disfigured face after her alleged beating — says she was attacked by BSO deputies inside a Pompano Beach jail waiting room for simply asking for a tampon. WPLG reporter Bob Norman in 2015 obtained video of her attack.

Gerstenhaber's new case fits the pattern described in the other two suits. She says she was arrested on July 11, 2014, after getting into an argument with a taxi driver over her cab fare. When BSO deputies arrived, they say they also caught Gerstenhaber holding less than one gram of marijuana and a glass smoking pipe. (Her charges were eventually dropped.)

Gerstenhaber says she arrived at the BSO main jail with no major injuries to her body — but that was about to change. She says she arrived at the BSO jail "sallyport" entrance, a kind of secure entrance typical for prisons, "barefooted, clothed in a tan shirt, bra, underwear, and jean shorts and was still wearing the ring on her middle finger which was not turned over to any BSO deputy in the sallyport area." Once inside, she says BSO deputies asked her to remove the ring, which, given the ring's value, she was reluctant to do. She says officers' moods soured almost immediately and that she was told to take the ring off or she'd be pepper-sprayed.

When she "did not immediately comply," she says she was sprayed all over her face and body. With the spray still stinging her skin, she says she was forcibly shoved into the corner of a cell and handcuffed to the wall. From there, she says the guards went berserk and "forcibly took Gerstenhaber to the ground while she was handcuffed, held her down, and battered her by beating, hitting, pummeling, and kicking her all over her face and body until Gerstenhaber urinated on herself."

While incapacitated from the beating, she says the BSO guards then took off all her clothes, removed her grandfather's ring, and then left her to sit fully nude inside the jail cell. She says multiple male guards stood and watched while she was stripped nude.

"As a result of Defendants‘ excessive use of force, Gerstenhaber sustained severe and permanent injuries to her face and body including contusions to the face, right eye, and inside of lower and outside of lower lip, contusions to the right side of her head, right and left rear shoulder, right and left wrists, right arm, outer left thigh, inner left leg above the ankle, and left biceps, lacerations to her right eye and upper lip, and bruising and abrasions about her face and body," the suit says.

Importantly, Gerstenhaber — who is suing for assault, battery, and violation of her civil rights — included examples of nine other cases going back to 2004 of BSO deputies allegedly assaulting people. Of the nine cases listed, seven involved BSO Officer Luis Galindez, whom Gerstenhaber also says beat her to a pulp.

Plus, it turns out Gerstenhaber's initial fear of losing her priceless ring wound up being true — in the suit, she claims she never got the ring back once the deputies took it off her finger.
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Jerry Iannelli is a staff writer for Miami New Times. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University. He moved to South Florida in 2015.
Contact: Jerry Iannelli