Authorities have dropped charges against a Venezuelan developer accused of filing a false police report against Doral City Manager Joe Carollo.
The Miami-Dade state attorney’s office closed the case against Juan Carlos Tovar Barrios and his employee, Javier Bellón, on Monday, hours before a status hearing on the case. Johnette Hardiman, a special prosecutor assigned to the case, had started drafting the closeout memo on Dec. 2 and filed it over the weekend.
In the memorandum addressed to chief assistant state attorney José Arrojo, Hardiman explained that the case had to be dismissed in order to “treat these civilians as we would any other civilians similarly situated.”
She added: “Had the city manager not been involved, the case would not have been given the scrutiny and intense police work that it was given.”
In a phone interview late Monday, Hardiman said that she also took into account the fact that Doral police initially documented Tovar’s allegations against Carollo as an “incident report,” and not as a criminal battery case that needed to be investigated.
“The original intent was simply to document an incident,” she said.
Carollo said he disagreed with the reasoning and referenced a letter sent by Tovar’s lawyer a day after the alleged incident, saying that his client “was threatened and physically accosted by the city manager” and may sue the city.
He said the decision to drop the case was “political” and connected to his sour relationship with state attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle.
“This has to do with her personal prejudice against me,” said Carollo, a vocal critic of the state attorney in recent years.
Shortly after Tovar’s arrest, the city manager added, he asked Fernández Rundle to recuse herself from the case. Carollo said he didn’t believe she could fairly prosecute the case because he helped run her opponent’s campaign in last year’s race for state attorney.
Carollo also said that he has a sworn statement from private detective Joe Carrillo that will serve as additional evidence that Fernández Rundle should have recused herself from the case. During an absentee-ballot fraud investigation that implicated her own campaign last year, Carrillo said he was asked twice by Fernández Rundle whether Carollo had hired him to launch an initial private probe into the matter.
Fernández Rundle declined to comment on Carollo’s statements on Monday.
“She feels that the closeout memo is exceptionally clear, well-reasoned and thorough,” said her spokesperson, Ed Griffith, in an email to El Nuevo Herald. “Additional comment would only dilute the facts.”
Tovar, 32, said he was “obviously happy that justice was served,” but he declined to say more without speaking with his attorneys, who did not respond to messages on Monday.
In September, Tovar filed a police report alleging that Carollo had physically and verbally attacked him just outside the Doral City Hall chambers during a tense council meeting.
The council had just green-lighted a controversial real-estate project owned by Tovar. The project, IVI Doral, had initially belonged in part to the adult children of Doral Mayor Luigi Boria, who gave them millions of dollars to buy their share of land. Bellón, an employee of Tovar in his real-estate firm, said he had witnessed Carollo’s attack on Tovar.
However, a video of the incident revealed that Carollo never touched Tovar. After discussing the case with the state attorney’s office, Doral police arrested Tovar and Bellón for the false report.
On Monday afternoon, Boria declined to comment on the state attorney’s decision to dismiss the case against Tovar, who had once been a client of the mayor’s computer sales company.
But the mayor did say, “It was about time this was over.”