A prosecutor for the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office dropped the charges against Campodonico, after concluding the video showed he was defenseless while being tasered. The prosecutor’s findings jibe with many of the assertions in Campodonico’s suit.
“Although of poor quality (i.e., dark and relatively distant), it does show the defendant on the ground when the zaps of the Taser are heard,” Assistant State Attorney Cristina Rivera wrote in a March closeout memo.
She also noted that the police officers’ sworn depositions in the criminal case were “inconsistent” with their statements in the internal report, written by Ortiz.
For example, the prosecutor found that in a deposition, officer Lugo said he did not see Campodonico punch Dauphin, yet in Ortiz’s report Lugo said he saw the defendant punch Dauphin in the chest. Also in his deposition, Lugo said he didn’t hear James warn Campodonico, “Taser discharge!” Yet in Ortiz’s report, Lugo said he did hear James yell that out.
“I subpoenaed all officers, including Sgt. Ortiz, to my office on at least three separate occasions; each time, each officer failed to appear,” Rivera wrote. “I finally got a hold of Sgt. Ortiz via phone and spoke to him about the discrepancies and the futileness in attempting to correct them at trial.”
She further noted that Campodonico’s criminal defense attorney, Scott Srebnick, was “so bothered by the circumstances surrounding this case” that he contacted prosecutor Jose Arrojo, a senior aide to State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle, via email “to suggest taking actions against the officers involved.”
Srebnick said the state attorney’s office confirmed receiving his email, but never got back to him. A spokeswoman for the office did not answer a reporter’s question about what action, if any, Arrojo took.
Srebnick filed suit in November against the officers along with the city of Miami, alleging excessive force, battery, malicious prosecution, false imprisonment and negligence. He is seeking unspecified damages.
“Ortiz fabricated the police statements after taking one from all seven cops at the scene that night,” Srebnick asserted in an interview. “He doctored them all to sound alike.’’
Srebnick called Ortiz’s official account — a “response to resistance” report required by the police department because a Taser was deployed — a “cover-up.”
In the suit, Srebnick asserted the city was well aware that all four officers named as defendants had a history of complaints, including being investigated for alleged excessive force by either internal affairs or the city’s Civilian Investigative Panel, an oversight agency. The CIP had placed all of the officers but James on its “monitoring list,” according to the suit.
Cohen, the attorney for Ortiz and Lugo, said the officers were simply trying to restrain a violent person who assaulted them.
“Force was used in subduing Mr. Campodonico, but the only force that was used was that which was necessary to place Mr. Campodonico under arrest,” Cohen said. “Several officers were injured during the course of the arrest, including Sgt. Ortiz.”
No complaints of abusive treatment or false arrest have ever been sustained against Ortiz and Lugo, he added.
Campodonico and his attorney say they don’t put a lot of faith in police disciplinary reviews, particularly when it comes to Ortiz, because he is the union president.
Photographs taken after the confrontation by a Miami police crime-scene investigator show Campodonico sustained blows to his face, along with cuts on his hairline, back, knees and elbow.
“Once they had me in cuffs, they walked me away” to a makeshift police unit near the entrance to the music festival off Biscayne Boulevard, said Campodonico, whose girlfriend was also charged but eventually cleared. “They threw me to the floor and hit me. They said, ‘Welcome to Miami, bitch.’ ’’
“It’s about time someone called them on it,” he said. “They need to learn a lesson so it doesn’t happen again.”