What started with a routine police stop on Christmas Day 2008 ended with a backseat beating. Short and simple, that's the ugly account Maria Paul lays out in a recently filed federal lawsuit targeting the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.
But it turns out the cop Paul ran into was one of a trio of deputies running around Belle Glade at the time dispensing an off-brand of police work that included excessive force and Facebook boasts.
Paul caught the attention of police on December 25, 2008, when her car blurted out loud music. A deputy on the scene ended up handing Paul citations for having her stereo jacked too high and failing to produce a vehicle registration. Woodside assisted with the stop.
Paul started her car and left, only to be pulled over again by Woodside a few blocks away. In a later police report, the deputy explained Paul drove off too quickly for his liking. The second stop ended with Woodside ordering the woman out of the car. He then allegedly put her in a "chokehold position, slammed her body to the ground, and handcuffed" Paul.
Woodside then put Paul in the backseat of his patrol car, "where he repeatedly punched her about the face and body while she remained in handcuffs."
As disturbing as the allegation is, Paul's suit lays out the case that the PBSO should never have never let Woodside put on a uniform in the first place.
The lawsuit points out that he applied and was rejected by the department twice, in 1998 and 2005. During his third try at a job with the sheriff, Woodside was involved in a 2007 federal lawsuit stemming from his gig at the time as a Jupiter cop. In that suit, later settled, Woodside was accused of "false arrest and false imprisonment." Despite that pretty hefty smudge on his record, PBSO brought him on.
It just so happened Woodside ended up in Belle Glades, where he fell under the supervision of Sgt. Brent Raban. This was the fine public servant who would later be booted from the department in 2009. You might remember the case: Raban wore a hat inked with "punishment" while running around on duty in Belle Glade. He also bragged on Facebook about smacking around citizens. "[U]nder the supervision of Sergeant Raban" Woodside "acted aggressively towards the citizens of the Belle Glade area," Paul's suit claims.
According to the suit, by the time Paul brushed up against Woodside on Christmas Day, he was the subject of four use-of-force complaints and two internal affairs investigations from his time in Belle Glade. A later 2009 probe would find him guilty of four infractions. Along with Raban and another cop, he lost his job for the Belle Glade free-for-all. But Paul's lawyer, Kenneth Swartz, tells New Times PBSO is on the hook for Woodside's actions -- they had plenty of warning the cop was a danger.
When we reached out to PBSO for comment, department spokesperson Teri Barbera told New Times the office couldn't comment on active litigation.
But in another recent twist, Raban recently won his $70,000 job back by squeezing through arbitration.