Biscayne Park Police Chief Raimundo Atesiano claimed a perfect rate of solving burglaries, by charging his subordinates with stopping people of color at the “badlands”— the border of the predominantly white suburban city.
Officers Charlie Dayoub, Raul Fernandez, and Guillermo Ravelo complied with their chief’s request, and paid the price. FBI investigations uncovered it, and all officers plead guilty. Dayoub and Fernandez thought that by cooperating, they would get leniency.
But U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore sentenced them to the maximum: one year in prison for the false arrests.
“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.”
Fernandez notarized arrest affidavits and Dayoub signed as the arresting officer. Vague language such as “investigation revealed,” same “M.O.” and homes had “rear door pried open.”
Ravelo faces up to 10 years at his sentencing Thursday for violating the civil rights of innocent victims by false arrests. Atesiano faces similar punishment in November.
Fernandez, a 30-year-veteran of the force, reported a “culture of fear and reprisal” created by Atesiano.
His attorney, David Sobel, wrote in a motion to seek 12-month probationary sentence: “Atesiano was so focused on having a 100% clearance rate that he was enlisting his officers to make ‘bad’ arrests and to harass people of color who were seen anywhere within the city.”
“Mr. Fernandez detailed to the FBI and United States Attorney’s Office … how Atesiano, via his underlings, would use a specific code meant to alert officers that a person of color was seen in the city and that they needed to be stopped and confronted,” the defense attorney wrote.
The prosecutor, Wallace said he wanted an opportunity to compel Atesiano to plead guilty to a felony civil rights conspiracy, and said a plea deal would drop that charge for the two officers (which carried a maximum 10 year sentence) in exchange for their testimony against Atesiano.
Moore did not agree and accused the prosecutors of “sentencing manipulation.” He said if they went to trial against the ex-chief and the officers it would have been a “slam dunk.”
Charges against the 16-year-old teen, referring to as T.D. in court documents, were eventually dropped. Charges against the homeless man, Erasmus Banmah, 31, were also dropped. Clarens Desrouleaux, 35, one of the other framed victims who spent five years in prison and was deported to Haiti, filed a federal lawsuit last month against the town and the officers for violating his civil rights.