The following are excerpts from The Miami Herald
In a case tried in June, 2010, in Broward County Circuit Court, the defendant, a teenager, was charged with the life felony of attempted second degree murder with a knife and two Additional counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. He was found not guilty of all charges. The incident occurred late one evening in the parking lot outside of a local Jamaican night spot in Ft. Lauderdale. The alleged victims, two brothers and their friend, claimed to police that the defendant, with members of his gang alongside, stabbed one brother several times after which the second brother and his friend were run over as the defendant fled the scene in his girlfriend’s car. The first brother was rushed to the hospital and required life saving surgery. The defendant was identified from his photo on FaceBook and surrendered to United States Marshals at his home several months later. After the arrest, the defendant was read his rights and provided the police with a video tape recorded confession. The defendant was held without bond for nearly one year prior to trial.
Attorney Joel Robrish represented the defendant as pro bono counsel. At trial, defense counsel challenged the work of the detectives assigned to the case. Several defense witnesses that had never been interviewed by the police, testified on the defendant’s behalf. They stated that the two brothers and their friend had too much to drink when they confronted the defendant outside the club. That, without cause, one brother actually punched the defendant as he and his friends were entering his vehicle about to leave. As to the defendant’s post arrest confession, the defense showed that the detective intentionally interrupted the defendant’s responses as he attempted to explain his side of the incident. The defense argued in a motion to dismiss the case that the defendant could no be prosecuted based on Statutory Immunity granted under the “Castle Doctrine” or commonly referred to as Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. However, the trial judge denied the motion to dismiss, but was persuaded to instruct the jury that under Florida’s Castle Doctrine a defendant faced with real possibility of imminent bodily injury had the right to defend himself and to use force, even deadly force, if he reasonably believed he was in grave danger at the time of the incident.
For five years Miami-Dade police Officer Nicholas Cefolo has carried around the heavy burden of possibly spending the rest of his life in prison.
On Monday night that burden was lifted. After deliberating a little over an hour, a jury found Cefolo, 57, innocent of all charges: trafficking in cocaine, conspiracy to commit armed trafficking and attempted trafficking in cocaine.
Cefolo was accused of pulling over a driver on Aug. 7, 1998, and stealing what he thought were 25 pounds of cocaine before letting the driver go. But only one of the 12 bags had actual cocaine - and the driver was an undercover state agent. An informant had told police that officers were pulling over drug dealers and ripping them off. Cefolo, who was off-duty, was immediately arrested and suspended from the force.
His lawyer, Joel Robrish, said Cefolo intended to turn the drugs over to his sergeant. ``When he stopped the man for a traffic violation and found the drugs, he said he'd turn it in not once, but twice,'' said Robrish. ``He was arrested before he had the chance to turn it in.''
Reinaldo Garcia, another officer caught in the same sting, continues to serve a 10-year sentence for armed cocaine trafficking. Prosecutors say he was the lookout.
Cefolo's attorney said his client was set up by Garcia.
``He was not working in concert with anybody,'' Robrish said. ``Garcia tried to set him up.''
Prosecutors said they were stunned by the verdict.
``We thought this was an extremely strong case,'' said Miami-Dade State Attorney spokesman Ed Griffith. ``We honestly felt the jury voted for an acquittal despite the evidence - based on a sympathy factor.''
That factor, Griffith said, was Garcia's long sentence. If Cefolo had been convicted, he would have gone to prison for at least 15 years because he had a gun on him, Robrish said. He said he did not know if Cefolo wanted his job back.
``Nick basically faced going to jail for the rest of his life,'' Robrish said. ``Now he just wants to get his life back in order, and go from there.''
The last time Barbara Abramson saw her daughter alive, the teen-ager told her a friend named Rusty was coming over for a midnight visit.
"He'll only stay 10 minutes and I'll push him right out," Erinn Abramson, 18, promised her mother.
Prosecutors who told a jury they want to see Rusty in the electric chair say he is Russell Jason Sanborn, a red-haired plumber with a long prison record, and they say he stayed at the Abramson home longer than 10 minutes the night of April 16, 1984.
Prosecutors say Sanborn, 27, robbed the Abramsons of their money, jewelry and a brown Mercedes-Benz, then stabbed Erinn Abramson 14 times and dumped her body in an empty lot.
Thursday, Barbara Abramson took the witness stand in Circuit Judge Sidney Shapiro's courtroom and told a 12-member jury that she woke up that night at 4:40 a.m. to see a stranger on the floor of her bedroom.
"At first I thought it was my son Scott, and I said, 'Scott, get up and go to bed,' " she said. "Then the person got up. He was dressed all in black, his face was like a blur. He grabbed me and he said 'Shut up or I'll kill you.' I realized then that it wasn't my son."
Abramson told the jury that the robber tied her and her husband, Miami attorney Herbert Abramson, with the cord from an electric clock, then took their jewelry and $140 in cash. They then heard their Mercedes being driven away, she said.
After calling police, the Abramsons went to their children's rooms. Their son Scott was asleep, she said. Erinn's room was empty, and there was blood on her bed.
Police found Erinn Abramson's body in a vacant lot in North Dade later that morning.
Sanborn was arrested May 8, after a suspicious Hallandale coin dealer, who bought some jewelry from Sanborn, tipped off police, according to court records.
The jewelry belonged to the Abramsons and was taken the night of the robbery, according to prosecutors David Waksman and Kevin DiGregory.
Under cross-examination by defense attorney Joel Robrish, Barbara Abramson admitted Thursday she had first told police that she thought the robber was black because of the way he talked. Sanborn is white.
Abramson said she later told police that the robber had "a prison jargon, a tough talk."
Prosecutors say Sanborn served 2 1/2 years in prison, and had been out of jail on probation a month when he allegedly murdered Erinn.
The nephew of Rolling Stones legend Mick Jagger got some satisfaction Tuesday: A Dade County judge threw out a theft charge against him.
Potts Arthur Dawson, 23, was nabbed by Metro-Dade police officers in November after he walked out of Miami International Airport with the Mendoza bag -- a small decoy bag police use to nab luggage thieves.
But Dade Circuit Judge Arthur Snyder called the arrest "legal entrapment." He said the police sting creates too much opportunity for an innocent person to be arrested.
"The judge did the right thing," said Joel Robrish, Dawson's lawyer. "This is a case of lost or abandoned property. There was no crime committed."
Tuesday's ruling also means other defendants nabbed in the sting now have a case they can use to challenge their arrests.
"While every case is different, Judge Snyder's decision can be expected to affect the way other judges treat defendants in the cases from the airport," said Pamela Perry, a Miami criminal defense lawyer and entrapment expert.
Prosecutors were not available for comment Tuesday night. Dade Assistant State Attorney Paul Mendelson, head of the legal unit, has repeatedly said the airport sting is legal.
Dawson was arrested Nov. 28, three days after his uncle Mick and the Voodoo Lounge tour rolled through South Florida. He and his girlfriend Kirsten Marie Spring were at the airport when she spotted the bag atop a pay phone in Concourse D.
Spring told Robrish that she took the bag to an undercover police officer, whom she had seen place it at the pay phone. She asked him if he owned it. The man answered in Spanish, which Spring doesn't speak or understand. He left.
At that point, Robrish said the couple figured the man had abandoned the property. Dawson and Spring soon left the airport. Detectives arrested Dawson as the couple loaded their belongings into a rental car. He was charged with grand theft.
Dawson's father is Jagger's stepbrother, the defendant's lawyer said.
Robrish said his client's arrest not only made for bad law, but also sullied Dade's image worldwide.
"It's bad for tourism," he said.
Talk about sticky fingers. Potts Arthur Dawson, nephew of Rolling Stones rock legend Mick Jagger, became the latest victim of the Mendoza bag -- the little decoy bag police use to nab luggage thieves at Miami International Airport.
Dawson, 23, of London took the fall Nov. 28 -- three days after Uncle Mick's Voodoo Lounge tour rolled through South Florida. Dawson's father is Jagger's stepbrother, the defendant's lawyer said. Dawson was not in town for the concert, just passing through.
"I needed a camera for Barbados," Dawson reportedly told Metro-Dade detective Tony Ojeda.
Dawson's lawyer Joel Robrishsaid his client will fight the charges. He called the police sting "entrapment."
According to police:
Dawson and his girlfriend Kirsten Marie Spring were at the airport when she spotted a black camera bag atop a pay phone in Concourse D.
"She went to see if it was a bomb," Robrish said. "She was very courageous."
Spring told Robrish that she took the bag to an undercover police officer, whom she had seen place it at the pay phone. He denied placing the bag, Robrish said.
The couple took the bag, stopped at the Lost and Found booth and asked for directions to the rental car counter. They rented a vehicle from National Rent-a-Car and boarded a shuttle bus.
Ojeda and detective Jesse Mendoza, whose name appears on the decoy bag, arrested Dawson as the couple loaded their belongings into the car. He was charged with grand theft, a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in state prison.
Dawson later chatted with detectives in the booking room. One asked if he was in town for the concert.
"You're not going to believe this. I'm related to Mick Jagger," Dawson reportedly told detective Mike Kent.
Kent recalled a later chat -- about Stones concert tickets.
"Could we make this go away?" Dawson asked. "I'm just kidding. Truth of the matter is, I can get tickets."
Robrish said the whole case is bogus. His client can afford a camera.
"He is an executive chef," Robrish said. "He cooks for some of the wealthiest families in the world, including the Rothschilds."
Illustration:color photo: Mick Jagger's nephew Potts Arthur Dawson.
Urged by a government attorney to use their common sense, federal jurors on Thursday absolved the city of Miami of liability in the deaths of two drug dealers who drowned at the hands of the River Cops a decade ago. The dead men's widows were denied $9.5 million in civil damages.
While exonerating the city, the jury found six former police officers personally liable for violating the victims' civil rights and ordered them to pay $1.25 million in damages.
But getting the ex-cops to pay will be tough. Three are in prison, and the rest say they are broke.
The widows of Adolfo Lopez and Pedro Martinez contended the city was most responsible for the deaths because it had hired scores of unfit officers, including the rogue officers, in a rush to expand and diversify the ranks of the police department in the early 1980s. They also claimed the police training and supervision were lacking.
The city maintained it did everything possible to screen officer candidates and couldn't avoid some bad apples getting on the police force.
The civil rights lawsuit was an epilogue to the River Cops scandal, which erupted when Lopez, Martinez and a third man drowned in the Miami River on July 29, 1985. They jumped in when a gang of corrupt officers stormed the boat yard where Lopez and Martinez were unloading cocaine. Instead of arresting them, the so-called River Cops stole the drugs so they could sell them.
The jury took four hours to decide a lawsuit litigated for seven years. The trial lasted three weeks in the courtroom of Senior U.S. District Judge William M. Hoeveler.
"Put away your sympathies, put away your prejudices, and use your common sense," Assistant City Attorney Leon M. Firtel told the nine jurors. "Just because two people died, it doesn't mean their constitutional rights were violated. They were running because they wanted to avoid being arrested. It's that simple."
Attorney Joel D. Robrish said he will pursue whatever assets owned by River Cops Rodolfo Arias, Luis Batista, Osvaldo Coello, Armando Garcia, Omar Manzanilla and Carlos Pedrera. Coello, Garcia and Manzanilla are in prison.
"This is not a Pyrrhic victory," Robrish said. "These River Cops will have a judgment against them. And the city will think twice before it puts police officers on the street who have inadequate training, supervision and discipline."
Busted: Three of five robbery suspects who police say pulled a brazen holdup at Mayors jewelers on Miami Beach's trendy Lincoln Road.
The trio: Daniel Rodriguez, 18; Maurice Francis Hundley, 24; and Heracio Johnson, 21. Charges range from armed robbery and false imprisonment to auto theft and dealing in stolen property.
Also charged: Tavaris O. Allen, 20, who reportedly got paid $2,000 to wait nearby in a stolen getaway car, and Leonard A. Sylvester, 31, accused of providing the crooks ``safe haven.'' They divvied up the loot and disposed of their ``robbery outfits'' at Sylvester's home, investigators say. Allen already took a plea - and got 10 years.
Police also arrested Takeary Smith, 22, but prosecutors dropped charges. Mistaken identity - with an alibi, says his lawyer Joel Robrish. ``He was at a high school basketball game, and there was a videotape to corroborate his presence.'' Smith remains on probation for burglary.
Miami Beach cops say the group stole two Nissans - a Maxima and Altima - from Royal Rent-A-Car for getaway cars. Wearing hoods and toting hammers, they hit Mayors at 8:23 p.m. Feb. 10. They ordered employees and customers to the floor, smashed glass display cases and grabbed 50-plus watches with a retail value of $350,000.
The next day, Johnson allegedly took a $6,995 Gevril watch - with Mayors' price tag still attached - to a jewelry store and sold it for $1,400. ``Watch recovered,'' Detective David McCue's arrest report says. Transaction ``caught on video.''
THE VERDICT IS IN
* The R & B group Jagged Edge made a South Florida appearance this week - in Miami-Dade's courthouse on West Flagler. Jagged Edge got sued for failing to perform at a 2002 Memorial Day weekend concert at Miami Arena. The music promoter, named It's `R' Musique, booked the group for $27,000. It later alleged breach of contract. Jagged Edge countersued, saying the promoter paid a 50 percent deposit, but didn't pay the $13,500 balance - due two hours before show time. Jurors sided with the promoter and awarded $13,500, the deposit amount.
Plaintiff's lawyers: Kevin Fabrikant and Otis Oliver Wragg IV. Jagged Edge's lawyers: Sekou Gary and Marka Fleming. Circuit Judge Peter Lopez presided over the three-day trial. During breaks, Jagged Edge's Kyle Norman, Richard Wingo and twins Brandon and Brian Casey signed autographs for courthouse fans and shot a photo with the judge.
Emery Sheer, 47, a CPA with Berenfeld, Spritzer, Shechter & Sheer, is headed to Hollywood, Calif. - for Monday's premiere of Walking Tall at Grauman's Chinese Theatre. His client, wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne ``The Rock'' Johnson, stars as Sheriff Chris Vaughn.
Johnson, 31, a former University of Miami defensive lineman, and wife Dany, 35, live in Davie. Walking Tall opens Friday.
* Coming to Coral Gables: Argentango Grill. Ivan Ho, 38, owner of Argentango on Young Circle in Hollywood, bought Amalfi Ristorante from architect Willy Bermello and Willy Jr. Ho plans to open in late May. And, he's opening a third Argentango this summer at 5084 Biscayne Blvd. Ho also owns Kelly's Cajun Grill in Dadeland Mall - his uncle founded the chain.
* Roberto Ruggeri, chairman of the Bice Group international restaurant chain, is moving corporate headquarters from New York to Miami Beach. Site: 1501 Collins Ave. Ruggeri, 60, who has a Bice in Coconut Grove and in Palm Beach, is moving the Grove location into M Resort Residences, developer Edgardo Defortuna's 25-story condo-hotel under construction in Sunny Isles Beach. Ruggeri also plans to open Bice Grand Cafe at The Falls.
The man prosecutors described as the financier of the "Coca-Cola" cocaine smuggling ring pleaded guilty to two drug charges Tuesday, ending one of South Florida's most bizarre smuggling cases.
Rene Rodriguez -- who once told a government informant that he had made $90 million in the drug business -- pleaded guilty to protect his mother from prosecution, his lawyer said.
"There are not too many people who will do what he did," attorney Joel Robrish said. Rodriguez's mother, Felicia Quincones, has not been charged in connection with the ring, but Robrish said Rodriguez feared she would be.
U.S. District Judge James C. Paine could sentence the 39- year-old Rodriguez to 40 years in prison and fine him $500,000. He will sentence him Sept. 26.
Rodriguez was the last Coca-Cola group member to be prosecuted. Two others, Jorge Almeida and Alberto Suarez, pleaded guilty Monday to drug charges. In April, group leader Jose "Coca-Cola" Yero and six others were convicted of numerous charges.
Yero -- a former Cuban bicycle racing champion who drank Dom Perignon and modeled himself after the ultraviolent film character "Scarface" -- was sentenced to 45 years in prison and fined $750,000. His friends called him "Coca-Cola" because he preferred the soft drink to alcoholic beverages.
Drug Enforcement Administration agents and other law enforcement officials cracked the Coca-Cola case on June 27, 1985. That morning, they seized 1,664 pounds of cocaine from two homes near Palm Beach Gardens. They also arrested Yero and several other group members.
The Coca-Cola group was a fabulously wealthy organization, agents learned. Yero himself had two Lamborghini sports cars, three Mercedes-Benz luxury cars and a dozen gold Rolex watches, each of which matched a different designer outfit.
Rodriguez, who was arrested in Dade County last September, was the group's money man, prosecutor Greg Kehoe said. He owned a fleet of yachts and racing boats with names like Black Jack, The King and I, Talisman and Miss Sandy. The Connection was one of his boats.
Rodriguez bribed Bahamian officials to let him smuggle Colombian cocaine through the islands and into South Florida, Kehoe said.
"Rodriguez was the overseer," Kehoe said. "He ran the operation from afar."
The government had convincing evidence against Rodriguez. Shortly before the Palm Beach Gardens raids, Metro-Dade police discovered $343,050 in cash in the trunk of a Mercedes-Benz 500 SEL that Rodriguez drove.
Kehoe said Rodriguez got the money selling drugs. Rodriguez said he got it from a man who wanted to buy one of his boats.
Robrish, Rodriguez's attorney, asked Paine to throw out the evidence. He said police searched Rodriguez's car illegally. But Paine denied that and other motions, and soon after that Rodriguez entered the guilty pleas.
In exchange for the pleas, the government dropped two other charges and agreed not to prosecute Quincones.
"(Rodriguez) made a decision as a man that whatever problems he had in life shouldn't spill over and destroy his family," Robrish said.
Rodriguez told Paine he would plead guilty to all four charges if the government would only "leave my family alone." Paine said that would not be necessary.
Q: What do O.J. Simpson, the River Cops, ex-City Manager Howard Gary and a couple of widows have in common?
A: Case 87-2456 in Miami federal court.
The 7-year-old lawsuit, likely to go to trial in late October, resurrects one of the ugliest eras in Miami's history -- vintage 1980s political skulduggery and deadly police corruption.
It could cost taxpayers plenty. The lawsuit seeks $10 million in damages.
The litigation is a spinoff of the River Cops scandal, which erupted in 1985 when two drug dealers drowned at the hands of a corrupt cadre of cops. The dealers' widows are suing, saying the political turmoil that cost Gary his job in 1984 also kept the police department from policing its own ranks -- alleged negligence that deprived their drowned husbands of their civil rights.
The case has an O.J. spin, too. In Miami federal court Wednesday, the widows' lawyer said the River Cops case parallels the latest subplot of the Simpson murder trial: allegations of repeated misconduct by homicide detective Mark Fuhrman throughout his career at the Los Angeles police department.
"What's happening in California today happened with the River Cops in the 1980s," said attorney Joel D. Robrish. "People now are aware of the code of silence and deliberate indifference in certain police departments. At dinner tables across the United States, Mark Fuhrman is the topic of conversation."
Assistant City Attorney Leon M. Firtel thinks the O.J. connection is a stretch -- and he wants presiding Judge William M. Hoeveler to prohibit any mention of the Simpson trial to jurors in the Miami case. Firtel also thinks Miami's political intrigue is irrelevant.
"This is garbage," he told Hoeveler at a case status conference Wednesday. "If it is, it will be deposited in the appropriate bin," Hoeveler replied, saying he would study the issues.
Robrish said he doesn't intend to bring up the Simpson case, that jurors will make the connection on their own. And he intends to keep testimony about city politics to a minimum. "We're not going to bring every bit of dirt into this case," he told the judge.
The lawsuit, brought by Ada Lopez and Juana Martinez, accuses the city and 11 officers of negligence and civil rights violations. Uniformed officers allegedly forced Adolfo Lopez and Pedro Martinez into the Miami River after storming the cocaine- laden boat the men allegedly were unloading.
The scandal unfolded after their bodies were fished out of the river on July 30, 1985, prompting a federal investigation into a police rip-off squad that stole cocaine from dealers. Two dozen officers eventually were convicted, and dozens more were disciplined.
The widows' lawsuit repeatedly was delayed by the criminal cases -- which still aren't finished. Later this year, Hoeveler will preside over the trial of a group of used-car salesmen who allegedly purchased the river cops' cocaine.
For the next several weeks, a multiethnic jury will ponder this paradox: Are two drug dealers who drowned at the hands of Miami's River Cops also victims of an equal-opportunity employer?
In Miami federal court Tuesday, an attorney for the dealers' widows contended that's the case, that the city of Miami, in a rush to expand and diversify the ranks of the police department a decade ago hired a cadre of officers who didn't make the grade.
Ada Lopez and Juana Martinez contend their drowned husbands were deprived of their civil right to life by 11 officers and the city. They want $10 million in damages. "The rules changed, and it turned the city inside out," attorney Joel D. Robrish told a jury of four blacks, four Hispanics and one non-Hispanic white. "Candidates who never would have been hired before now were being accepted. Among them were the River Cops."
Assistant City Attorney Leon M. Firtel said the department did everything in its power to weed out bad candidates.
"Every person certified to go to the police academy met every standard," he said. "The city does not in any shape or form condone what the River Cops did. But for a period of time, they were good police officers. They met the hiring requirements and did their jobs."
The civil rights lawsuit is an epilogue to the River Cops scandal, which erupted when Adolfo Lopez, Pedro Martinez and a third man drowned in the Miami River on July 29, 1985. They jumped in when a gang of rogue officers -- with someone barking orders to take no prisoners -- stormed the boat yard where Lopez and Martinez were unloading cocaine. The cops then made a fortune selling stolen dope.
The scandal unfolded after their bodies were fished out of the river the next day. After a federal corruption investigation, two dozen officers eventually were convicted, and dozens more were disciplined.
Little was said about the occupational hazards of being a drug dealer at Tuesday's proceedings. The trial resumes Thursday before Senior U.S. District Judge William M. Hoeveler.
"It's perhaps unfortunate that these people drowned," Firtel told the jury. "They should have been arrested and brought to justice. Blame it on the officers, not on the city."
Criminal Cases of Interest
Miami Circuit Court Case No. F-05-8085, Defendant was charged with Attempted Second Degree Murder and Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon. The case involved a shootout in which he was wounded eight times by members of a rival street gang who were shooting at him with a variety of firearms, including an AR-15 assault rifle. When the police arrived, my client was still in the driver’s seat of his car in possession of a 9mm Luger that had been used in the gun battle. Defendant’s car showed damage from at least twenty five bullet holes, including many fired from an AR-15 assault rifle. Client underwent emergency surgery to remove as many bullets and bullet fragments as possible when he was arrested while recuperating at the Ryder Trauma Center.
After the state agreed to drop the Attempted Murder charge, they insisted on a trial on the firearms charge because of client’s previous criminal history that included twelve prior felony convictions and previous imprisonment. The state even filed a Notice of Enhancement as a Habitual Violent Offender against the defendant, mandating a life in prison term if convicted. The defense successfully utilized the seldom used defense of “necessity” to justify the defendant’s possession of the firearm and at trial on January 25th 2008 the jury in Miami returned a verdict of not guilty.