CONNECT WITH:

Ft. Lauderdale police report altered to hide cop’s arrest; Courthouse clash over need to investigate

By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org

Original I.A. report states "Officer was arrested," left. Revised version, right. Click to enlarge.

The Broward State Attorney’s refusal to pursue a Fort Lauderdale Police Internal Affairs report that was purged of information about an officer’s arrest has drawn the ire of Public Defender Howard Finkelstein.

Finkelstein asserts that the police broke Florida public records law when the head of Internal Affairs changed a police database to delete any mention of the out-of-state arrest of Sgt. Jerald Fuller.

Fuller had been arrested in New York in connection with a dispute involving property damage. A New York municipal judge dismissed the case and sealed the court file four days after Fuller’s July 19, 2009 arrest.

Fort Lauderdale Police Capt. Rick Maglione, who left Internal Affairs in 2011, says he removed the arrest information to comply with the judge’s order.

It can be a crime in Florida to falsify or alter a public record, whether a paper report or an electronic database. So when a tipster alerted the Public Defender’s Office in February to what was done, a request was made for State Attorney Michael Satz’s public corruption unit to investigate.

Assistant State Attorney Tim Donnelly said last week that he spoke with Maglione and determined no investigation was necessary.

“There is no crime in editing your own document,” Donnelly told Broward Bulldog. “It’s not a public record. It’s like a Word document.”

Finkelstein is not happy with Donnelly’s conclusion.

“Despite direct evidence that a police captain, while conducting an Internal Affairs investigation, altered a report to conceal the fact that a police officer was arrested, your office has found nothing wrong nor even found the need to investigate,” Finkelstein said in a recent letter to Satz.

In an interview, Finkelstein added, “The public record is not a work of fiction, but that’s what happened here….It was creative writing to make it appear that what happened didn’t really happen. If it isn’t illegal, it is certainly unethical.”

Public Defender Howard Finkelstein

SERGEANT DISCLOSED ARREST

Fuller, a supervisor with the city’s controversial anti-drug unit known as the Northwest Raiders, disclosed his arrest to superiors. Details, however, are sketchy. Not only is the New York court file sealed, Maglione did not obtain – or request – a copy of the New York police report describing what happened. New York law allows police agencies access to sealed cases.

“Everything I had was self-reported” by Fuller, said Maglione, a former Raider. “I was satisfied with that because I was also assured (by Fuller’s New York lawyer and an unnamed local district attorney) that no crime occurred.”

Maglione’s account, based solely on what Fuller told him, states that Fuller was on vacation in Niagara County, N.Y. on July 19, 2009 when “he became involved in a disturbance at a privately-owned residence.” Fuller, a 19-year-veteran, was with his brother “and another individual known to the Fuller family, the report says.

“The disturbance prompted a neighbor to contact the local police and it was initially determined that Sergeant Fuller and his brother were responsible for some minor damage to the other individual’s property, but any contemplated charges were subsequently dismissed once it was determined that no crime occurred,” the report says.

Maglione’s report does not say what crime Fuller was charged with, provide the location and time of the incident, describe the damage or say what police agency investigated.  It also does not mention that one or two other persons were arrested.

Likewise, the police file includes no notation that the report was altered because of New York law. The department’s software system, IAPro, also does not track such changes. “It overwrites the first entry entirely,” Maglione said.

Maglione, now a top aide to Chief Frank Adderley, says he deleted the arrest information in an update before finalizing his report in August 2009. But Al Smith, Finkelstein’s chief investigator, said he determined the alterations were actually made about a year later. During that time, he said, the cleaned-up version was sent out in response to several requests for information about Fuller.

The arrests occurred on a Sunday. By the end of business Thursday, the case was dismissed and sealed by Somerset Town Court Justice Donald P. Martineck.

A few days later, Fuller presented Maglione with a letter from his attorneys, George Muscato and Michael H. White Jr., declaring that “all charges” had been dismissed and that complainant Clayton Cooper had signed a document stating “he did not want to pursue any further charges” and, in fact, had never wanted “to bring charges in the first place.”

Cooper is not further identified. A 78-year-old man with the same name who resided in a small home in the tiny town of Barker, which is surrounded by Somerset, N.Y, died in September 2010.

CLOSED CASE COMES BACK

Maglione closed Fort Lauderdale’s Internal Affairs investigation on August 10, 2009. He did so, he said, without obtaining a police report to verify what Fuller had told him. A signed hard copy of his report, sans mention of the arrest, is included in the file. Case closed, he said.

Captain Rick Maglione

But two and a half years later, on February 1, 2012, investigator Smith, a former Fort Lauderdale police detective, received at his home copies of two nearly identical internal Affairs reports about the New York incident. The second, as Smith put it in his referral to prosecutors, was “sanitized” to omit the fact of Fuller’s arrest.

The Public Defender’s Office filed a public records request seeking Fuller’s file because he is a witness against a client. The police coughed up the version of the report that does not mention that he was arrested.

Police legal advisor Bradley Weissman now says it was a mistake for police to release even the censored report because of the blanket sealing order.

“I believe we made an error when we turned it over,” Weissman said. Still, Florida’s broad public records law requires such records to be open to the public.

Fuller’s Fort Lauderdale attorney, Michael Gottlieb, is upset that someone leaked Internal Affairs records about his client. He said he suspects it was done by “somebody in internal affairs who wanted to get somebody else in trouble and who thought this case was improperly closed or that favoritism was shown.” He declined to name names.

A MATTER OF CONCERN

While prosecutors have brushed the matter off, Finkelstein’s letter to Satz calls it a matter of “great concern” because defense counsel rely on information in Internal Affairs files to locate information they can use to impeach the testimony of officers who are witnesses against their clients.

The disagreement is part of long-running legal spat between Satz and Finkelstein about pre-trial disclosure by prosecutors. For nearly 50 years, courts have required prosecutors to turn over so-called Brady evidence – information favorable to a defendant.

Satz has said his disclosure policy “far exceeds” his legal obligations under Brady. Finkelstein counters that Broward prosecutors tend to withhold too much potentially favorable evidence and have little interest in enforcing Brady requirements when it comes to the police. He cited that concern in his letter to Satz.

“The failure to address this incident evidences the double standard your office employs when police misbehavior is at issue,” Finkelstein said.

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • I know of at least 5 other serious IA compliants involving Police Wrongdling, including but not limited to perjury and fabrication of evidence, that FLPD has knowingly covered up and refused to investigate. Ft. Lauderdale has a proven track record that they cannot be trusted to Police their Own. The State Attorney’s Office is aware and allows such conduct to continue.

  • I would love to read the actual Court Order to seal the file. Who exactly did it apply to? When was it issued? Was it an order to the Somerset Town Court Clerk to seal the Court’s case file or did it really have retroactive effect to seal any legitimate mention of the case having ever physically occurred– with notice and applicability to everyone with any knowledge of the case prior to the Court’s Order, as “factual revisionist” Capt. Ricky Maglione of the Ft. Lauderdale Police Department and Satz’s cover up team asserts.

    Honestly, I don’t know how one can “stuff the proverbial cat back into the bag,” once it has been let out. I doubt a Court would have intended that order to prevent and aid the knowing concealment of legitimate Brady Information. One can only wonder what other police wrong doing has Capt. Maglione or Satz’s office concealed from the Public Defender’s Office and the general public. What other reports has Capt. Maglione altered to modifiy, change and/or conceal the facts?

    Apparently, under Chief Adderley’s leadership it is approved and acceptable practice for experienced, sworn, certified Ft. Lauderdale Police Officers to use revisionary tactics and falsehoods to alter and conceal important and relevant facts in their investigations.

    ASA Donnelly [who is buddies with Ricky Maglione] has now set the Precedent for Broward County Law Enforcement– Police officers can now retroactively alter official police records to alter the factual outcome and conceal known facts, when it serves their political or personal interests to do so, without any sort of criminal or administrative accountability.

    Way to dump the legal system on it ear Mr. Satz. So much for trusted, unbias, presentation of objective facts by sworn and trusted law enforcement officers and State Attorneys.

  • Rick Maglione you hopefully will be indicted for all the crimes you have committed during your reign of terror hiding behind the badge. You took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America, State of Florida and protect the community of Fort Lauderdale, yet you continued to violate the trust. How many innocent people did you falsely put in prison? How many criminal LEO’s did you cover for? You have no ethics or morals, you disgrace each and every honest LEO that wear the badge. You are not the “Teflon Don”.
    Why were you were afforded the opportunity to attend the prestigious FBI academy? You certainly lack the credentials that are required.
    Possess an excellent character and enjoy a reputation for professional integrity;
    Exhibit an interest in law enforcement as a public service, a seriousness of purpose, qualities of leadership and enjoy the confidence and respect of fellow officers.

    In closing one last question. The standard that you have conducted yourself as a Fort Lauderdale Police Officer, is that the same standard you have taught your sons?

  • Mr Michael Satz you have failed in your elected positions for allowing the Fort Lauderdale Police Department to continually violate the Constitutional Rights of individuals, it is one thing to arrest someone, but to brutalize them, falsify the affidavit is beyond any reasonable behavior by a sworn law enforcement officer. Mr Satz your appointee ASA Timothy Donnelly in charge of Public Corruption Unit has neglected his sworn duties also. Capt Rick Maglione who has been in charge of Internal Affairs and has covered up numerous crimes committed by Fort Lauderdale Police officers, just recently Capt Rick Maglione erased and altered the Fort Lauderdale Police Internal Affairs data base, will Capt Rick Maglione be charged for destroying and altering these documents to cover for an FLPD officer’s arrest in New York? How many innocent people are incarcerated or have been murdered by these rogue criminals wearing a badge?

  • What organization or lawyer, etc…, can someone go to, and trust, when wanting to take on the corruption when it was applied against them?

  • now its time for the TRUTH to be told. Two crooked Fort lauderdale cops falsely arrested me 5 years ago. now I see there names in scandals with satz and satz prosecuted my case. Also see one of these monsters connected to other cases of misconduct. I pleaded guilty out of fear of these cops. Now its record against me even after probation is done. Is there anyone who can help me expose these cops. GOD sees and knows all the lawyer fees Iv paid to not go to jail as an innocent woman. I was facing 15 years for what I knew nothing about! how could they continue to get away with this????

  • Exposer….same situation…bad Ft Lauderdale cop…false arrest planted drugs…Cop gets arrested for a crime committed previous to our issue in 2010…no info given to our Attorney. We run out of money…not enough for a long trial…accept a minor charge of misdemeanor and then the moron cop who did this to my son gets arrested. No money for vacation sold all jewlery 100 percent innocent with proof of cops bs. NEVER in trouble…Our Attorney now just drops the civil suite cause some idiot judge dismissed the charges against the fool. How in GOD”S name is there justice when all of the judges are backed by the police unions??? Read the back of their cards when they are running for reelection…ENDORSED BY POLICE UNIONS. I will not stop till this cops is held accountable…Need help any idea’s??? Any JUSTICE???? Is this America ?

leave a comment