Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse...

Really, just when you thought you'd heard and seen it all.  If corrupt politicians and cops who get a free pass when caught red handed committing crimes and ethical breaches by the members of the political machine wasn't enough, now the powers that be here in Miami Dade County have gone ahead and all but eliminated the Miami Dade County Police Department's Public Corruption Bureau!  Elaine de Valle broke the story yesterday, she sums it up best here...
"Guess we're done with the public corruption in this town! Already? Really? Really? We don't need them anymore? We don't have any more fake companies securing county contracts to bilk the taxpayers out of millions?"
Unreal, but it makes perfect sense.  Perhaps the folks over at the public corruption bureau were getting a little too close for comfort for the people that run this town, after all, anyone that's been around here long enough knows of cases that the MDPD police have put together against the powers that be that have ended up lost in the State Attorneys Office or kept under lock and key by the upper management of the SAO and then mysteriously reappear just as the statute of limitations runs out.  Eliminating those pesky detectives who keep digging up dirt on these folks is the perfect solution.

What we're seeing here in Miami Dade County is no different than what goes on in third world countries ruled by dictators, oppressive dictators that control the government, the courts, the police, etc.  We can't even elect these goons out of office cause they control the elections through the old folks homes and the absentee ballot scams!  WTF!?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I'm flattered, really, I am.

After years of singling out criminals, dirty politicians and dirty law enforcement officers, yesterday our website was hacked, not just the blog though, but my email account as well.  Whoever dedicated the time and resources to hacking into my email and subsequently the blog controls, I have to hand it to you, you did a great job.  They even went so far as to remove the blog and were in the process of deleting blog posts, luckily I caught it in time and since I have everything backed up, I was able to undo whatever damage they thought they had done.  

Granted, the blog hacking made for a stressful couple of hours, what with trying to get control of my accounts while the hacker was still messing about and simultaneously having friends and blog followers calling, emailing and texting me all the while not having any idea what the fcuk was going on.  No worries though, all is good and everything is back the way it's supposed to be.  It makes you wonder though, who could we have pissed off so bad that they would have gone through such extraordinary lengths to shut us up and delete any trace of our blog from the internet?

Friday, July 26, 2013

An interesting comment from one of our readers regarding the Airways Auto Tag plea offer...

One of our readers left in interesting comment in response to this bit from yesterdays post regarding the plea deal the prosecution offered the tellers who were accused of stealing tens of thousands of dollars in the Airways Auto Tag Agency case, from yesterdays post...
Despite being reminded by the judge and of all people Mr. de Castro's attorney, Simon Steckel (more on that later) that if they went to trial and lost they could face up to 190 years in jail, what do you think they chose to do? Put this mess to an end and take a plea which after taking the required pre trial diversion courses would leave them scott free? NOPE! In one of the most courageous moves that I've ever seen, these girls decided to go ahead and go to trial.
And here's the comment that our reader left on yesterday's post...
Wait, you are saying Chief OMC's defense attorney, Simon Steckel, who has no standing in this court, is allowed by the Honorable (?) Judge Pooler to run roughshod over three defendants?? WTF? The tellers are brave women indeed if they still believe American justice might pay a rare visit to the 11th Judicial Circuit where KFR's cult appears to be controlling the judges as well as the prosecutors. Somebody had better alert USDOJ in Washington because nobody down here is going to do a thing. Democracy and Justice in Miami succumbed from undetermined causes shortly after balloteros were seen leaving via the back door with a spool of piano wire.
Our reader brings up a great point here, what the fcuk exactly was embattled City of South Miami Police chief Orlando Martinez de Castro's defense attorney doing at this hearing that had absolutely nothing to do with the chief?  Secondly, how did Mr. Steckel have any standing before the court to say a single word, let alone try to strong arm these girls into taking a plea?  

Honestly, WTF?  I guess I'm going to have to see if I can get a transcript of the hearing that day before Judge Pooler and see exactly wtf went on.  Till then....

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Cowardice and Courage, the tale of two pleas.

So here we are again, still mulling over the plea deal that embattled City of South Miami police chief, Orlando Martinez de Castro, took in his ethics case before the Miami Dade County Commission on Ethics.  As we discussed last time, Mr de Castro pled no contest to the ethics violations that he was charged with in the ethics commission's probable cause affidavit.

So what's the big deal?  Why are we continuing to beat a dead horse?  Think about it for a minute, why would someone charged with a crime or in this case an ethics violation, take a plea of no contest?  After all, no contest basically is the same as a guilty plea in the eyes of the court, so why the hell would someone take a deal like that, let alone a chief of police accused of several ethics violations as well as possibly having broken the law by sending city business to his wife's tag agency?  Traditionally, people who take a plea do so for a couple of reasons, either they're guilty as hell and have been given a sweet heart deal by the prosecutors or they're innocent and they simply don't have the resources to keep paying their lawyer to fight for them and the deal they're given as a result of the plea is good enough that they can basically resume their normal life relatively unscathed.  In the instance of embattled police chief Orlando Martinez de Castro, judging by the attorneys he's brought to the ethics hearings and the ones that keep firing off the nonsensical threatening letters to anyone that looks at the chief the wrong way, it's obvious that resources aren't an issue, so it only stands to reason that the chief was guilty as charged in the probable cause affidavit and that they gave him a good enough deal where he was walking away with a slap on the wrist.  Fair enough.

Now let's turn for a moment to the girls who were formerly employed by the chief's wife and were accused of stealing tens of thousands of dollars from the chief's wife's tag agency.  A couple of weeks ago, the three tellers had a hearing before the honorable Judge Pooler where they were asked whether or not they were going to go to trial in their criminal case.  Before the hearing, the prosecutor had offered the three girls a sweetheart of a deal, plead no contest (sound familiar?) agree to a pre trial diversion program and the charges are dropped.  According to Court Options, a pretrial diversion program is: alternative to prosecution offered exclusively by the Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office. It provides offenders with a viable alternative to a criminal conviction, and allows them to make significant changes in their lives so that they can avoid further involvement with the criminal justice system. Offenders enter the program voluntarily and in some cases before they make an appearance in court.
Not bad?!  Here you are accused of stealing tens of thousands of dollars, get arrested and have spent the last two plus years of your life bouncing through the archaic criminal justice system all the while trying to maintain some level of employment while waiting to go to trial.  One of the three girls after being laid off and unable to work as a result of her ongoing criminal prosecution opted to take the deal.  It's understandable after all, by taking the plea, the case get's closed, she takes some classes and viola, it's all over.  But what about the other two tellers?  Despite being reminded by the judge and of all people Mr. de Castro's attorney, Simon Steckel (more on that later) that if they went to trial and lost they could face up to 190 years in jail, what do you think they chose to do?  Put this mess to an end and take a plea which after taking the required pre trial diversion courses would leave them scott free?  NOPE!  In one of the most courageous moves that I've ever seen, these girls decided to go ahead and go to trial.  Frankly, I have to admit when I learned that they chose to go to trial and risk getting 190 years in prison versus simply taking a plea and walking away, I was shocked.  I was shocked until I talked to one of the girls who told me...
I've lost everything because of this case, all my money, my car etc.  The only thing I have left is my dignity and if I would have taken this deal, they would have taken that away from me.  I won't plead out to something I know I didn't do, if I go to trial and lose, so be it, at least I can hold my head up and know I did the right thing.

What can you say to that?  Amazing that a police chief who swore to uphold the constitution of our country chose to take a plea deal rather than go to trial and face his accusers while a poor teller who certainly can't afford to prolong a criminal case that's already been going on for two plus years chose to go to trial and clear her name rather than compromise her integrity by taking a plea offer from the state.  I don't know what your opinion of the tellers decision is, but the chief's decision to take the plea deal certainly speaks volumes about who he is...

Monday, July 22, 2013

What exactly is a plea of "No Contest"?

As we all know, embattled City of South Miami police chief, Orlando Martinez de Castro, took a plea of no contest in his case before the Miami Dade County Commission on Ethics.  While we all know what a plea of "no contest" means, let's take a look at the definition as provided by
n. in criminal law, a defendant's plea in court that he/she will not contest the charge of a particular crime, also called nolo contendere. While technically not an admission of guilt for commission of the crime, the judge will treat a plea of "no contest" as such an admission and proceed to find the defendant guilty as charged. A "no contest" plea is often made in cases in which there is also a possible lawsuit for damages by a person injured by the criminal conduct (such as reckless driving, assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault), because it cannot be used in the civil lawsuit as an admission of fault. "No contest" is also used where there has been a "plea bargain" in which the defendant does not want to say he/she is guilty but accepts the sentence recommended by the prosecutor in exchange for not contesting the charge (which is often reduced to a lesser crime). It is standard practice for the judge to ask either the attorneys or the defendant, "Is there a factual basis for the plea?" before accepting it and finding the defendant guilty.
Simple enough.  I think this bit is most interesting...
While technically not an admission of guilt for commission of the crime, the judge will treat a plea of "no contest" as such an admission and proceed to find the defendant guilty as charged
While there was no judge in the ethics case, there was a quasi judicial board that had to approve the chief's plea deal.  And remember, regardless of how lame the outcome of the case was, the advocate for the Ethics Commission, Michael Murawski, did say...
There is substantial evidence to show that De Castro was, in fact, well aware that his department did business with his wife’s company...
The obvious question is despite the airtight case against the chief, why the hell did the ethics commission cut him a deal?  We think we answered that last week.  The only question that remains to be asked then is why did the chief take this plea rather than go ahead to trial?  We're going to examine why and discuss further tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Miami New Times and the Justice Building Blog pick up our City of South Miami NCIC Story.

It's nice to know that the word is getting out about embattled City of South Miami police chief Orlando Martinez de Castro's nefarious and possibly illegal misdeeds.  Both the Miami New Times and the Justice Building Blog picked up on our story about the chief's misuse of the NCIC system from last week.

From the New Times article...
Adds Klock: "I think the police chief believes he is above the law and he can do anything he wants. The people who continue to employ him can solve the problem by firing him."

LOL! And from the Justice Building Blog...

Did you ever wonder what your NCIC printout looks like?
Now, courtesy of the Chief Of the City of South Miami Police Department, you can find out. 
The Miami New Times reported here that the good natured and ever helpful chief Orlando De Castro has been (illegally? es possible) running attorneys in NCIC. And not just any attorneys, but attorneys who apparently bug him.
NICE!  I'm in a bit of a rush today, we'll discuss at length next time.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The truth behind the embattled City of South Miami police chief Orlando Martinez de Castro's ethics hearing.

As you all know embattled City of South Miami police chief Orlando Martinez de Castro got a slap on the wrist and a small fine that was classified as "investigative costs" by the ethics commission.  A total farce in my opinion.  Our friend Al Crespo did a bang up job covering the hearing and also included a short video of what went on, check it...

That's all well and good, to the average guy it seems like the chief had his day before this quasi judicial panel and after a year and a half this was the outcome.

The Miami Herald even follows up their original story and gives the reader a glimmer of hope that the chief might still suffer a more serious punishment than what was doled out last week...
The draft final order written by Murawski states the commission “specifically made no finding as to whether the violation was or was not ‘willful.’”
That draft order has not yet been adopted by the commission, and each side will present draft final orders for the ethics commission to consider next month.
This part about the violations that the chief pled no contest to being "willfull" is the most important part though as if the commission finds that the violations are willful, the chief automatically forfeits his job as the chief of police.  While the commission is going to vote on this part of the chief's deal next month, it's just a matter of them deciding which final order the commission is going to adopt, the one written by the commission or the one written by the chief's attorney.  That's a good one isn't it?  The commission adopting an order written by the defendants attorney?!

In case there's any of you who don't realize what went on here and need further clarification, let's make it a bit clearer using some photos.  Before we start, let's preface this discussion with the claim that City of South Miami police chief Orlando Martinez de Castro makes about his relationship with our State Attorney, Katherine Ferndandez Rundle, according to everything I've heard, the chief claims that he is one of Rundle's closest friends and confidants, so close in fact that they're borderline family.  Good enough.  With that in mind, let's take a look at who attended this ethics hearing, starting with the head of the ethics commission himself, Joe Centorino...

Read more here:
I know it's a shitty picture, I lifted it from Al Crespo's video of the actual hearing.  Look how interested Joe looks in what's going on and what's being discussed.  Let's not forget that Mr. Centorino was the former head of public corruption over at the state attorneys office, Rundle's golden boy for when she wanted to prosecute political figures.  From his own bio...
Joseph Centorino assumed the position of Executive Director of the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust on September 1, 2011, following his laudatory 25-year career at the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office. For most of that time, he served as Chief of the Public Corruption Division where he oversaw the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed by public officers and employees.
Good enough, anyone with a modicum of common sense can see that there is a pretty strong relationship between Mr. Centorino and our state attorney Ms Rundle.

Now, let's move on to the chief's attorney, Mr Simon Steckel, from an old New Times article regarding Mr. Steckel...

Steckel nonetheless was at the peak of his professional life. As a successful prosecutor he had moved quickly up the ladder at the Dade State Attorney's Office. Over four short years he had risen from intern to supervisor, then division chief.
Another former prosecutor, a division chief no less.  While I don't know of any direct relationship between Mr. Steckel and our state attorney, the possibility for some sort of connection is there.

Now, the last member of the chief's defense team is in my opinion the most interesting, take a look at this guy...

That's attorney Michael Band, another former top prosecutor with close ties to our state attorney, Mr. Band was one of our state attorneys most trusted division chief's as well as a close personal and family friend.  What exactly was he doing at this hearing?  Just how many attorney's does the chief need to defend a case before the ethics commission?

Regardless of what Mr. Band was doing at the hearing, the scene that played out was an obvious one, an alleged good friend of one of the most powerful people in South Florida, Katherine Fernandez Rundle, is being prosecuted by a commission that's led by one of her former top and closest employees and as luck would have it, another former top employee and family friend is representing her friend in front of the ethics commission.  Come on, honestly, did anyone expect an outcome any different than what we got?  Can you possibly think of a better example of how this network of politically connected folks down here protects their own?

From the get go, this entire ethics case has been nothing more than a sham, a dog and pony show, an orchestrated scheme to make the citizens of our county think there was some sort of watchdog watching over politicians and public employees.  I think the relationship between the folks that run the ethics commission, the attorneys that represented the chief and our state attorney will make you think twice about how "ethical" the handling of this case was.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Honestly, did you expect any different?

Despite all the noise we made and the excellent article from the Miami Herald yesterday regarding embattled City of South Miami police chief, Orlando Martinez de Castro and his case before the ethics commission, the ethics commission still went ahead and gave him the old reach around then let him off with a small fine labeled as "investigative costs" and a slap on the wrist.

I know, I know, there are plenty of you that wrote me to tell me that the ethics commission was a waste of time and that they wouldn't punish a politically connected Cuban member of the community, I guess I held out a flicker of hope that they'd do the right thing.

Whatever.  Let's just say that this ethics thing is nothing considering the tsunami of bad things that are about to come the chief's way, so no sweat, consider him toast regardless of what the ethics commission decided yesterday.

With that said, this morning the three tellers that were accused of ripping off the chief's wife's tag agency are going to court again to determine whether they're going to go to trial or not.  We'll update as soon as we find out.  

Also, in case you haven't already, check out this story from the Miami New Times regarding the bugged out Vice Mayor of Palmetto Bay who thinks there's people in boats and helicopters following him around.  Fortunately we were able to get some video of the helicopter following the Vice Mayor around, take a look...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Miami Herald covers embattled City of South Miami police chief Orlando Martinez de Castro's ethics case

The folks over at the Miami Herald did a bang up job reporting on embattled City of South Miami police chief Orlando Martinez de Castro's ethics case today.  Take a look for yourselves...

South Miami police chief to go before ethics commission

South Miami Police Chief Orlando Martinez De Castro will appear in front of the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust on Thursday facing charges that he steered city business to his wife’s companies, Airways Auto Tag LLC and Beck and Lo’s Insurance Agency, Inc. The ethics-commission advocate will likely present a settlement agreement. It is unknown if De Castro and/or the commission will accept it.
De Castro is accused of violating the city’s ethics code, which bars city employees from doing business with immediate family members who have a financial interest with the city. Willful violation constitutes malfeasance and results in forfeiture of office. He is also charged with violating the county’s ethics code, which prohibits exploiting one’s official position. 
“There is substantial evidence to show that De Castro was, in fact, well aware that his department did business with his wife’s company,” according to the probable-cause memorandum, written by the ethics commission’s advocate, Michael Murawski. He refused to comment on the case. 
His memo states the city did business with Airways Auto Tag in February, June, and October 2011.A fourth charge alleges that De Castro was soliciting business for his wife’s insurance company using his city email address. 
The issues were first reported in March 2012 by a local blogger known as The Straw Buyer. The blogger also filed the complaint against the chief.
Murawski’s memo presents an interview with Lt. Dan Salerno (now retired from the police department) who asked De Castro in 2011 whether his wife could help obtain titles for vehicles forfeited to police after being used in felonies. Salerno said the chief answered “yes” and gave Salerno his wife’s phone number. 
“Salerno was taken aback when he was advised that De Castro claimed to have no knowledge of Airways’ business transactions with the city,” the memo said.Interoffice memos requesting checks payable to Airways do not have De Castro’s signature on them but were addressed to De Castro. 
De Castro has denied knowledge of the city doing business with his wife and denied giving any order to do so, according to the memo. The memo states De Castro admitted he gave Salerno his wife’s phone number but that Salerno wanted to ask for help in filling out the forms — not give her city business. 
However, the memo also states Salerno said his understanding was that De Castro gave him his wife’s number to have her tag agency handle the matter — not merely to offer help — and that Salerno worked with Ileana Martinez De Castro every time he went to Airways.For her part, Ileana Martinez De Castro said that she does not discuss her business with her husband or anyone, according to the memo. 
After evolving over months of negotiations, the settlement agreement likely to be offered to De Castro would have him plead no contest to the first three counts, while the fourth count would be dropped. He would also have to pay $2,000 in “investigative costs” and receive a letter of instruction. The agreement, as well as the draft order from the commission, specifically states that the commission makes no determination as to whether or not the violation was willful or knowing. 
South Miami Mayor Phil Stoddard, who wants to see the chief fired, said he thinks the chief would be getting off easy if the commission accepts the settlement and that the agreement does not serve the public interest. 
“The police chief is the highest law enforcement officer in the city,” Stoddard said. “If he is accused of breaking the law and the investigations have it clear, why are they betraying the public trust?”
Now, considering the evidence that the Herald story discusses against the chief, how the hell is it possible for the ethics commission to give him a slap on the wrist and a small fine then send him on his way?  What's so telling though is that despite all the assertions by the Ethics Commissions advocate  Michael Murawski, about having such a slam dunk open and shut case, Mr. Murawski couldn't comment on the case when asked by the Herald reporters.  

This case was supposed to have been concluded a couple of months back with a sweetheart deal for the chief as we had discussed before but because of scheduling problems, the conclusion of the case had been delayed, conveniently to the middle of the summer when there's no one around to be finished.  The hearing at the Ethics Commission is today at 10 am if any of you have an hour or so to waste.

Nice work by the Herald's Daniel Ducassi and Maria Perez on reporting this story.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Justice delayed or justice denied?

Here we are over two years from the date that the tellers at the Airways Auto Tag Agency were accused and arrested for allegedly stealing tens of thousands of dollars from the tag agency and the state.  After nearly two and a half years after the fact, today the court docket indicates that the trial of these three tellers is supposed to start.  

While the docket might give some degree of hope for this mess to come to an end, the reality, at least in my opinion, is far different.  You can't go to trial without having deposed witnesses that were involved in the case at hand.  In this particular instance, one of the main witnesses is none other than embattled City of South Miami police chief Orlando Maritnez de Castro, whose wife owns the tag agency where the alleged thefts occurred.  For reasons unbeknownst to me or anyone else, Mr. Martinez de Castro refuses to appear for a deposition, now this is nothing new for the chief as we saw this same pattern of behavior with the Ethics Commission, through trickery and subterfuge, Mr. Martinez de Castro and his lawyers managed to keep from getting deposed throughout the course or the ethics investigation and the discovery phase of the Airways tellers case.  

The question that begs to be asked is why is a veteran law enforcement officer, who I'm sure knows how to deal with attorneys, avoiding getting deposed?  What exactly is the chief afraid of?  Regardless of the games the chief is playing to avoid getting deposed, what excuse do the defense attorneys have for not having the court compel the chief to appear at a deposition?

Whatever the case may be, there is no excuse for a case like this to drag on for over two years, two years during which the defendants lives are in limbo, two plus years where the defendants are literally unemployable and are watching everything crumble around them.  I don't know who's more to blame, the prosecutors for not moving forward with the case or the defense attorneys for not insisting that the case go forward in a reasonable period of time.  

Regardless, in this instance, justice delayed is justice denied.  Who knows, maybe today the judge will hold the attorneys feet to the fire and make them try the case or perhaps the tellers will get lucky and the state will drop the case.  We'll fill you all in tomorrow and let you know what went down in court.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Did you have a chance to check out the City of South Miami NCIC logs?

So did you guys have a chance to look at the City of South Miami PD NCIC logs?  Admittedly, I've been too busy to take a close look, but I did scan them briefly.  Here are some names that stood out for me...

Joe Klock
On February 3, 2011 the chief asked to look up the criminal history of a fellow named Joseph Klock, this name stood out as I was listening to him talking on the radio the other day about one of his clients, Matthew Greer.  If I'm not mistaken, this guy the chief looked up is none other than super lawyer Joe Klock of RASCO KLOCK PEREZ & NIETO!  Why the hell was the chief looking up Mr. Klock?  Perhaps Mr. Klock was involved in some sort of criminal activity that the chief was looking into?  Or maybe Mr. Klock was retained by someone to go against the chief or the city of South Miami and the chief just decided to take a peek into Mr. Klock's past to see if there was some way he could screw with him?  Interesting.  If any of you guys have any idea what went on here, drop me a note via Silent Sender or simply leave a comment, either way your anonymity is guaranteed.

On to the next name that caught our eye...

Jose Basulto
If you can decipher that chicken scratch, it looks like it says Jose Basulto.  Could that be Brothers to the Rescue Jose Basulto?  Hero to the Cuban exile community Jose Basulto?  The aviator that risked life and limb to save Cuban rafters throughout the 90's?  The same Jose Basulto whose organisation's purpose is to... 
"support the efforts of the Cuban people to free themselves from dictatorship through the use of active nonviolence".  
If so, how ironic that Mr. Basulto's background is being checked by a fellow named Castro!

Perhaps I'm mistaken, maybe there's more than one person running around South Miami with the same names as the fellows we wrote about today, but then again maybe not.  We'll have to dig a little deeper into this NCIC log stuff and see what we come up with.  Tomorrow we'll talk about all those redactions that come up in the logs and see whether or not they're legal.