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Judge Saw Police Commit Felonies in Miami

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  • Dan Clore
    News for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo Sat, Dec. 20, 2003 FREE TRADE MEETING Judge: I saw police commit felonies A judge who said
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 22, 2003
      News for Anarchists & Activists:

      Sat, Dec. 20, 2003
      Judge: I saw police commit felonies
      A judge who said he witnessed some of the anti-free trade
      protests complains in open court about how police handled
      the demonstrations.

      A judge presiding over the cases of free trade protesters
      said in court that he saw "no less than 20 felonies
      committed by police officers" during the November
      demonstrations, adding to a chorus of complaints about
      police conduct.

      Judge Richard Margolius, 60, made the remarks in open court
      last week, saying he was taken aback by what he witnessed
      while attending the protests.

      "Pretty disgraceful what I saw with my own eyes. And I have
      always supported the police during my entire career," he
      said, according to a court transcript. "This was a real
      eye-opener. A disgrace for the community."

      In the transcript, he also said he may have to remove
      himself from any additional cases involving arrests made
      during the Free Trade Area of the Americas summit.

      "I probably would have been arrested myself if it had not
      been for a police officer who recognized me," said the
      judge, who wears his hair in a graying ponytail.


      Margolius, appointed to the bench in 1982, retired as a
      circuit judge in 2001 but said he still hears cases 15 to 20
      weeks a year when courts are overburdened.

      On Friday, he chose not to elaborate on the remarks he made
      from the bench Dec. 11.

      "I can't comment on pending cases," he said. "It was
      inappropriate for me to make the comments I made. A
      reasonable person could question my neutrality because of
      statements I made in open court."

      The judge did not single out a police department. More than
      three dozen agencies were part of the FTAA security effort.
      The Miami Police Department coordinated most police operations.

      Angel Calzadilla, executive assistant to Miami Police Chief
      John Timoney, said: "The chief's not going to comment on
      something this vague. If the judge would like to file a
      complaint with the CIP [Citizens Investigative Panel] he can
      do that like any other citizen."

      Nelda Fonticiella, a spokeswoman for the Miami-Dade Police
      Department, which had a large presence during the protests,
      also said the judge can file a complaint. "It would be our
      hope and expectation that if this is how he feels, that he
      would recuse himself from those cases," she said.

      Margolius had been hearing the cases of Joseph Diamond and
      Danielle Kilroy, both arrested during the FTAA protests.
      Diamond had been charged with aggravated assault on a police
      officer, a felony; the charges were dropped by the state at
      the Dec. 11 hearing.


      Kilroy also faced felony charges -- battery on a police
      officer and resisting arrest with violence. Her charges were
      reduced to a single misdemeanor, resisting arrest without
      violence, according to members of the Miami Activist
      Defense, a legal group monitoring the court hearings.

      During the Dec. 11 hearings, the judge asked an assistant
      state attorney, "How many police officers have been charged
      by the State Attorney so far for what happened out there
      during the FTAA?"

      None, the prosecutor replied.

      "None?" asked the judge. "Pretty sad commentary. At least
      from what I saw."

      The judge also wondered aloud how much the "whole episode"
      had cost taxpayers.

      "I know one thing. There were police officers from every
      agency -- I couldn't believe the sheer numbers," he said.

      Laurel Ripple, a protester who was arrested and is working
      with MAD, said she was in the courtroom during Margolius'

      "I'm really glad he saw for himself what was happening . . .
      I'm really glad he was out there," she said. "As a lifelong
      Miami resident and victim of the police during the FTAA, it
      was really supportive to hear that kind of affirmation from
      Judge Margolius."

      The FTAA summit, Nov. 20 and 21, sparked marches and
      protests in downtown Miami and resulted in 231 arrests.
      Since then, at least 27 misdemeanors have been dropped,
      according to prosecutors' records last updated Dec. 2.
      Additional cases have been dropped or the charges reduced,
      according to MAD members.

      Two citizens' panels plan to hold a joint meeting Jan. 15 to
      hear comments and complaints about police conduct during the
      FTAA, and both Miami-Dade and Miami police are conducting
      internal reviews. Amnesty International, the AFL-CIO and the
      United Steelworkers of America all have called for
      independent probes.

      A Miami police spokeswoman said officers were instructed to
      make arrests only as necessary.


      "We were told to deal with situations that were serious but
      we were always told to be very patient with people," said
      Herminia "Amy" Salas-Jacobson, a Miami police spokeswoman.

      "In the training sessions we were told to be professional,
      be patient and to do everything right. There was one thing
      that was stressed at every meeting: Always be professional."

      During Margolius' informal speech, he noted that he couldn't
      recognize officers because "everybody had riot gear on."

      "I hope the state has the good, common sense to deal with
      these cases in an appropriate manner, with an eye on
      justice," he added.

      Herald staff writer Charles Rabin contributed to this report.

      Dan Clore

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