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October 18, 2018

Remarkable sentencing where district judge decided crooked cops needed more punishment than federal prosecutors sought

This local article from Florida reports on a sentencing in a remarkable federal case under the headline "Ex-Biscayne Park officers get year in prison for roles in framing black teen in crimes." Here are the details from the start of the article:

By helping the feds make a case against a corrupt ex-Biscayne Park police chief, two convicted former officers were hoping to avoid prison time for their roles in framing a black teenager with a string of burglaries. Instead, Charlie Dayoub and Raul Fernandez were handcuffed and led by U.S. Marshals into custody on Tuesday after U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore sentenced them to the maximum: one year in prison for the false arrests.

As family members cried in disbelief, Moore chastised federal prosecutors for agreeing to recommend eight months of home confinement for Dayoub and one year of probation for Fernandez based on their grand jury testimony and other assistance in helping target former Chief Raimundo Atesiano, who had pressured officers in the mostly white suburban town to pin property crimes on people of color. He pleaded guilty last month. “It would have been a slap on the wrist, and it would have sent entirely the wrong message — particularly to the minority community,” Moore told Assistant U.S. Attorney Harry Wallace. “To think that they can come into court and get a slap on the wrist is insulting to the men and women in law enforcement.”

Moore challenged the prosecutor about his recommendation of leniency for the two defendants, who pleaded guilty in August to depriving a 16-year-old of his civil rights after framing him for four unsolved burglaries in 2013 at the direction of the ex-chief, Atesiano. The misdemeanor conviction carried up to one year in prison, while under the plea agreement prosecutors dropped a more serious civil rights conspiracy charge with a maximum 10-year sentence.

Wallace said his decision allowed the U.S. Attorney’s Office to use testimony by Dayoub and Fernandez to compel Atesiano to plead guilty to the felony civil rights conspiracy. “We were faced with a Hobson’s choice,” Wallace told the judge. But Moore, who accused the prosecutors of “sentencing manipulation,” rejected Wallace’s argument. The judge said had the prosecutors gone to trial against the ex-chief and the two officers, it would have been a “slam dunk.”

The sentencing outcome was a shock to everyone in the courtroom, especially the defendants, who were expecting leniency because the prosecutors joined their defense attorneys in support of no prison time. The reason: The two former Biscayne Park police officers testified before a federal grand jury about how the department’s ex-chief pressured them to arrest people of color and others for crimes they did not commit in the leafy bedroom community north of Miami.

Dayoub, 38, and Fernandez, 62, testified that Atesiano’s goal was to achieve a 100 percent burglary clearance rate, even if it meant pinning unsolved break-ins on people who were innocent victims, according to newly filed court records. Atesiano, 52, and another former Biscayne Park officer, Guillermo Ravelo, 37, already pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the civil rights of innocent victims by falsely arresting them. Ravelo faces up to 10 years at his sentencing on Thursday, while Atesiano faces similar punishment in November.

UPDATE: This new Justice Department press release discusses the underlying crimes in detail while announcing that today "former Biscayne Park Police Officer Guillermo Ravelo was sentenced to 27 months incarceration for conspiracy to deprive a person of his civil rights and deprivation of civil rights under color of law."

October 18, 2018 at 10:57 AM | Permalink

Comments

This case shows the truth of the statement that plea bargaining _is_ the criminal justice system.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Oct 18, 2018 12:31:25 PM

"This case shows the truth of the statement that plea bargaining _is_ the criminal justice system."

It is up the time a judge decides to feel his oats and get all feisty. Remarkable, indeed.

Posted by: Daniel | Oct 18, 2018 12:49:33 PM

Surprising indeed and what the defendant's may not yet know is that because the sentence was one year or less, they will get no good time credit from the BOP. The sentence has to be more than a year for the 15% reduction to kick in. And even if it were an option (which it was not here because the stat max was 1 year), I doubt the Judge would have given them a year and a day anyway.

Posted by: atomicfrog | Oct 18, 2018 3:43:04 PM

reasonable sentence here would have been the amount of time they tried to hang on the kid they framed.

Posted by: hgd | Oct 18, 2018 4:07:04 PM

So basically, armed men kidnapped a person. Last I checked, deliberately arresting someone without cause is armed kidnapping. Why weren't they prosecuted for that?

Posted by: federalist | Oct 18, 2018 6:43:12 PM

The judge is a Bush 41 appointee.

Posted by: federalist | Oct 18, 2018 6:52:56 PM

Doug, curious your thoughts on the sentencing.

Posted by: federalist | Oct 18, 2018 7:23:46 PM

"The two former Biscayne Park police officers testified before a federal grand jury about how the department’s ex-chief pressured them to arrest people of color and others for crimes they did not commit in the leafy bedroom community north of Miami." That the two would commit illegal acts of arresting and setting up innocent minority persons s becuase of "pressure"is the old Nurenberg defense. Human nature hasn't changed much.

When raising my children, I would alway repeat to them the precept from the Talmud:
"In a place where no one is a man, try to be a man." Thee men did not have the courage to tell their boss "no." they well deserved the punishment they received.

Posted by: anon2 | Oct 19, 2018 12:18:14 PM

anon2, they deserved more

Posted by: federalist | Oct 19, 2018 6:39:48 PM

federalist, I share your instincts (and the judge's) that sentences here --- which are waaaaaay below federal mandatory minimums for low-level drug dealing ---- seem too light by comparison. But these crimes strike me as so disrespectful to humanity and to civic responsibilities, I am not sure an extra 12 or even 48 months in prison would "feel" better. Indeed, this is the kind of case that makes me eager for a sentencing system with more creative shaming and/or community service punishments. Make these cops spend the next few years seeking to root our corruption in other police departments or make a public service video to be sent to every prosecutor and judge that says criminal defendants are sometimes correct when claiming they are framed. In addition, I would like to see them have some responsibility to help get the kids they framed into a college or vocation program (and pay their way). And the town of Biscayne Park should also be coming up with some big-time compensation here, too.

Posted by: Doug B | Oct 20, 2018 12:36:03 AM

I don't think such a video would have made any difference to this chief and so I really have to question whether it would accomplish anything. The sort of person who would be swayed by a "sometimes they really are innocent" video doesn't need to be told that.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Oct 21, 2018 1:59:36 AM

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