The Herald-Tribune revealed today allegations of a $400 payment being offered to a Sarasota man who was videotaped being beaten by police.
The victim, one Juan Perez, was picked up by Sarasota PD on June 26th on charges of being drunk, disorderly and stupid. Video from a police station camera shows the handcuffed Perez shimmying out an open rear window of a police car and falling face-first (surprise!) onto the pavement. The officer then exited the car and kicked Perez twice when he tried to stand up. Perez fell back to the pavement and the arresting officer stands with his foot on the perp for several minutes, apparently waiting for a doughnut, while other officers come and go. Didn't anybody at the academy ever explain to this cop that these things are best done someplace other than in front of the police station camera?
Sarasota PD, ever vigilant to uphold the rights of the citizens they have sworn to protect and serve, initiated an intensive investigation into the matter.
On July 10th.
Fourteen days after the incident took place.
Only after they found out that the newspaper was getting a copy of the video.
Crack investigators from the city's risk management department met with Perez and an interpreter, as Perez speaks only Spanish. Sarasota PD also assigned veteran officer, Sgt. Ken Castro, to leave no stone unturned and get to the bottom of this potentially-damaging incident.
After an exhaustive investigation that boldly penetrated the notorious veil of secrecy surrounding the thin blue line of law enforcement, it was determined that the Sarasota Police Department would stand up and do the right and noble thing, regardless of the consequences and repercussions. They all agreed that they had taken an oath to uphold the constitution of this great country and, by Joe Friday, that's what had to be done.
So, they offered Perez $400.
In a check.
Signed off on by a risk management employee.
Authorized by his boss, the human resources manager.
Delivered to Perez' house by none other than Sgt. Ken Castro, the erstwhile officer assigned to be investigating the possible impropriety by the police dept.
Who had to drive Perez to the bank to cash the check.
And have him sign the waiver absolving the SPD of any wrongdoing.
Which, I imagine, was written in English.
Tipped off by the Herald Tribune, attorney Jim Delgado and a reporter just happened to be standing in the Perez driveway when the two new BFFs returned from doing their banking. As Perez exited the officer's car, Sgt. Castro advised Perez, in Espanol, that he didn't have to listen to Attorney Delgado, who, it turns out, just happens to speak Espanol. Ouch!
"Are you giving him legal advice not to speak to his attorney? asked Delgado.
To which the ever-professional peace officer replied, "I can do whatever I need to do. I did him a favor."
As he was leaving, Sgt. Castro threw the money envelope out his car window, which struck Delgado. "That's battery," cried Delgado. Who then, we suspect, fell writhing in agony to the ground from the force of the envelope crashing into his body. He later went to the Police Department to try and return the money and complain about Sgt. Castro's reckless actions, probably on crutches and wearing a neck brace.
When contacted by reporters, NOBODY in City Hall knew ANYTHING about this incident, even though it was a City of Sarasota check. (How do you list that on the city's check ledger, by the way? Payoff? Bribe? Hush money? Miscellaneoous? Party favors?)
The Sarasota County Bar Association is filing an unfair labor practice lawsuit on behalf of ambulance-chasing lawyers everywhere against the Sarasota PD. Said one spokeslawyer, "We are confident we can shake down the City of Sarasota for a hell of a lot more than 400 bucks. Why, if we were to sue on Mr. Perez' behalf, a good attorney could probably get $2 million from them. After attorneys fees, court costs, research fees, investigator's fees, bar tabs and copying charges, Mr. Perez would stand to collect around $538, plus or minus a buck or two. Of course, he'd have to pay taxes on that, while his shameful payoff of $400 would be tax-free, but think how many bartenders and cocktail waitresses depend on attorneys' expense checks for their livelihood."
Sarasota taxpayers are going to think that $400 of their money to settle this was a bargain by the time it's all done. Next time, they're hoping cops just shoot the guy--OFF-CAMERA, PLEASE--and be done with it.
Gougem & Gougem, Attorneys At Law.
"We're in this for YOU!