Fatal Attraction: A Cop Gets Tangled Up With a Pair of Addicts, and Things Turn Violent | Feature | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida

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Fatal Attraction: A Cop Gets Tangled Up With a Pair of Addicts, and Things Turn Violent

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On the 911 tape of the call obtained by New Times, Raja's voice appears normal. He's not out-of-breath or shaking or hyperventilating. He gave no indication of having been in a violent struggle. But on Raja's word, authorities charged Iorillo with a litany of crimes: burglary of an occupied dwelling, battery on a law enforcement official, corruption by threat, and trespassing.

"I didn't do anything to justify the charges," Iorillo says.

According to several depositions, two sheriff's deputies first arrived on the scene after the 911 call. They placed Iorillo in handcuffs and pushed him into the back of a cruiser. The off-duty Raja — wearing only undershorts — jumped in, and pummeled Iorillo's face to a pulp as the deputies stood by.

A third deputy, Tom Turner, pulled up to see Raja hit Iorillo at least twice. Turner jumped out of his car and ran to the scene, according to a deposition he later gave in Iorillo's criminal case. "What the hell is going on?" he yelled.

Raja got out of the cruiser, walked around to the other side, and started opening the door to jump on Iorillo again.

"Get the fuck away from the car," Turner said. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" He got between the car and Raja and pushed him back.

A West Palm Beach internal-affairs report validated the version of the incident that Iorillo and Turner tell. It explains how Raja walked right by the first two deputies at the scene, Jennifer Baker and Bill Mc­Kenna; opened the back door of Baker's squad car; and entered the back seat to "talk" with Iorillo.

"They were watching him slap me and punch me until a third deputy showed up," Iorillo says. "[Turner] stopped the whole thing. If he hadn't been there, I don't know what would've happened."

Iorillo was taken by ambulance to the Wellington Medical Center, with Turner riding with him. Doctors in the ER patched Iorillo up, and he was booked yet again. His mug shot shows eight bruises and abrasions, including a black left eye.

Those were Iorillo's last moments of freedom — until March 1, 2011. For nearly two years, he was held in county jails without bail. Prosecutors with the State Attorney's Office deemed him dangerous, so a judge denied bond soon after the incident. Two more hearings in which Iorillo could have been released over the next 18 months were repeatedly postponed.

Then, on January 11, Iorillo finally was brought to the courthouse for what he believed would be his fourth bond hearing. Instead, his two lawyers, Anderson and David Roth, told him a deal had been worked out with prosecutors.

Anderson says he didn't want to risk seeing Iorillo go to trial and be put away for life by a jury. Details of the case worried the attorney. Raja, for example, had also been treated a couple of days after Iorillo's last arrest for scrapes and bruises, suggesting he had been in a struggle. And sheriff's deputies at the stockade had found among Iorillo's personal effects a piece of paper with an address scrawled on it. The address? Raja's mom's. "I'm not ready to call Officer Sanjay a liar and a crooked cop just yet," Anderson said, "and I go after police departments for a living."

Iorillo pleaded guilty to attempted burglary, a lower-grade felony; and trespassing. In exchange, he was sentenced to the time he had already served in jail.

Raja, meanwhile, admitted in his deposition that he hit Iorillo "once or twice" because Iorillo allegedly spat at him and accused him of "killing" Christina Passi.

The law now considers Iorillo a felon, and it's not something he wants on his record. "Raja is a liar," Iorillo says. "He knows I know what happened between him and Christina. That's why he went after me like that."

Christy Rogers, one of three assistant state attorneys who took turns prosecuting Iorillo, disagreed. "As a prosecutor, if I didn't believe the evidence before me, it is my duty not to pursue a case," she said. "How would you feel as a police officer if a suspect shows up at your house? We did pursue the case. Draw your own conclusions."

On September 20, Iorillo appeared before Judge Jeffrey Colbath for a motion to withdraw his guilty plea. Iorillo and his current lawyer, Ron Chapman, claimed Iorillo was coerced to plead by Anderson, who allegedly said he'd drop Iorillo as a client if he didn't sign off on the deal.

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Jose Lambiet
Contact: Jose Lambiet