Federal courts

Ex-Miami-Dade cop sentenced for bogus stops of female drivers

 

jweaver@MiamiHerald.com

A Miami-Dade police officer who stopped women drivers so he could have sexually suggestive conversations — including asking to see the scars on a bartender’s surgically enhanced breasts — was sentenced Thursday to 2-1/2 years in federal prison.

Prabhainjana Dwivedi would let the women go without issuing any citations.

Dwivedi, a seven-year veteran who once worked the overnight shift patrolling an area from Key Biscayne to Jackson Memorial Hospital, was assigned to desk duty after he came under suspicion for questionable traffic stops during May and June of 2011.

In February of this year, Dwivedi, 34, was convicted of six misdemeanor counts of depriving a half-dozen victims of their civil rights. Now fired, he was found not guilty on the seventh count involving a female undercover police officer.

“Our victims were so traumatized that one of them could not come to court [as a witness] because she was physically ill,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Gilbert said, before asking U.S. District Judge Jose Martinez to imprison the defendant for three years.

“He abused these women; he took advantage of them.”

Dwivedi’s defense attorney, Douglas Hartman, tried to depict the defendant in a more sympathetic light, saying psychological evaluations showed that the Indian immigrant possessed the reading level of a fourth-grader. Dwivedi, who received a high school diploma a decade ago, also served in the U.S. Coast Guard.

Hartman said his misconduct as a police officer was “aberrant,” and that generally over the course of his career Dwivedi had an “outstanding” record.

The judge said he felt “sorry” for Dwivedi, wondering aloud how he could have qualified to become a Miami-Dade police officer with his limited intellectual ability. “That’s real scary,” Martinez said.

But the judge concluded that he would stack the penalties for Dwivedi’s six misdemeanor offenses because his crime “tears at the very fiber... of our community.”

Both FBI and Miami-Dade Police officials said Dwivedi undermined the public’s trust in law enforcement. “The officer’s actions have tarnished the badges of all sworn to uphold the law,” Police Director J.D. Patterson said in a statement. “We support this conviction and remain resolute in policing our own.”

According to a criminal complaint and other court records, Dwivedi was a rogue patrol officer who detained female drivers for “unreasonable” lengths of time “without probable cause, reasonable suspicion or other lawful authority to conduct a stop.”

Dwivedi stopped a 19-year-old woman at 2:20 a.m. on May 27, 2011, as she was leaving a Miami-Dade nightclub with two friends. The woman, identified in court records as A.R., said the officer stopped her because she did not turn on her headlights. Dwivedi also claimed she was intoxicated, which she disputed.

Dwivedi asked the driver to get out of her car and sit in the back seat of his marked cruiser, then “instructed A.R. to lower the zipper on the front of her dress down past her breasts to her mid-stomach,” the complaint said. “A.R. stated that, by following Dwivedi’s instructions, she somewhat exposed her breasts.”

She was detained for one hour and 20 minutes before the officer left without issuing a citation. According to Miami-Dade police, Dwivedi did not list the traffic stop on his daily activity report, nor did he advise a dispatcher of the stop. He also did not conduct a driver’s license check of A.R. or her two passengers.

The criminal complaint also showed that on the same date, at 5:30 a.m., Dwivedi stopped a 24-year-old woman bartender traveling from Miami Beach to her home in Broward County. He pulled her over in the area of the Golden Glades interchange, where he accused her of driving under the influence.

The woman, identified as M.F., asked the officer to perform a roadside sobriety test on her, but he refused, the complaint says.

Dwivedi asked her if she was the mother of a young child because she had a child safety seat in the rear passenger area. He told the woman that if he arrested her for DUI, she would lose custody of her child.

Then, he shifted the conversation to the woman’s breast-enhancement surgery, asking her “if she had any photographs of her breasts.”

“M.F. provided Dwivedi with her cellular telephone so that he could view the photographs,” the complaint said. “After viewing the photos, Dwivedi asked M.F. if she had any scars or incisions from the surgery.”

She replied that she did, and he asked to see them.

“M.F. then lifted her shirt and showed Dwivedi the scar,” according to the complaint written by FBI special agent Susan Funk. “M.F. stated that Dwivedi did not touch her breast.”

Afterward, the officer told her that she appeared sober and could drive home. He also said that he would follow her to ensure she arrived safely.

At her residence, Dwivedi said he was thirsty, asking for a drink. The woman said the officer spent more than one hour at her home talking about his personal life.

As in the previous incident, Dwivedi did not list the stop on his daily activity report or inform a dispatcher of the stop. He did not conduct a check of her driver’s license, either.

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