Broward Sheriff's Office Det. Anthony Costanzo turned himself in yesterday on charges of witness tampering, evidence tampering, disclosure of confidential information and felony use of a two-way communication device -- all of which are felonies and one of which, witness tampering, which carries a potential life sentence.
The Broward County State Attorney's Office says Costanzo used his cell phone to record video of a discussion he had with a woman about a case of false imprisonment involving two Fort Lauderdale police officers; he then allegedly sent the video to one of the officers.
Those officers, Fort Lauderdale policemen Billy Koepke and Brian Dodge, face life in prison for a pile of charges that includes racketeering, kidnapping, extortion, false imprisonment, official misconduct, grand theft, falsifying records, forgery, and perjury.
The incident with Costanzo happened January 20, when Constanzo was one of five officers to respond to an Oakland Park traffic stop around 2:30 in the afternoon. The driver was issued a citation for driving with a suspended license, but the passenger, 50-year-old Bonita Liston, allegedly consented to a search of the car and her purse, where police found pills that prompted her arrest.
While she was at a BSO facility, Liston allegedly told Costanzo and other officers they reminded her of Koepke and Dodge, the officers accused in a false imprisonment case involving Liston's husband, which prompted Costanzo to take out his cell phone and record a conversation he had with her. BSO interview rooms have their own recording equipment.
Prosecutors say Costanzo later that day told a supervisor that Koepke was a "buddy," then showed him some of the video and said he'd sent it to Koepke. Prosecutors say Costanzo "unlawfully and knowingly engaged Bonita Liston in a conversation, statement or interview, with the intent of intimidating her and/or engaging in misleading conduct about the circumstances surrounding the criminal proceeding against Billy Koepke."
When authorities seized Costanzo's phone 10 days later, he'd deleted the video. His lawyer, Al Milian, told the Miami Herald that Costanzo was going to plead not guilty because "we think it's politically motivated."
Dodge and Koepke's case is a messy one -- they were charged in November with 36 crimes that could land them both in prison for life. The accusations include arresting a man during a traffic stop, performing illegal searches of both his car and hotel room, and threatening him with life in prison "if he did not 'set up' someone that did have drugs and money." After hours of illegal maneuverings, both of them are accused of lying about the whole thing.
Costanzo was recorded on the tape telling Liston that her husband was cooperating with police, so "technically he wasn't being kidnapped."
Eventually, Dodge and Koepke were accused of being "involved in an 'ongoing pattern of criminal conduct' that focused on stealing money and pills from patrons of pain clinics." We've got two looong posts about the accusations against them. They're worth checking out if you want to know the two shining members of society Costanzo is accused of helping out:
Nov. 4, 2011: Fort Lauderdale Cops Face Life in Prison on a Gang of Charges; Two More Under Investigation