A convicted Miami police sergeant who is already imprisoned for corruption offenses, including stealing drugs and money from dope dealers, faces a new criminal indictment.
Federal prosecutors have charged now-fired Sgt. Raul Iglesias with contempt for posting undercover investigative recordings on a law enforcement website and on YouTube, in an effort to smear the reputations of fellow officers who helped build the original case against him.
Iglesias has been charged with violating a judge’s protective order by posting the telephone recordings of two fellow Miami police detectives who had engaged him in conversations under the direction of federal investigators. Both Miami officers worked for Iglesias when he ran the department’s undercover drug-fighting squad.
The two phone recordings were not used at Iglesias' trial, but they were still “protected” from disclosure, even after trial, under the judge’s order, according to federal prosecutors. Now, Iglesias finds himself charged with criminal contempt and retaliating against witnesses by posting the phone recordings on April 24 — two days before he was to begin his four-year prison sentence.
Iglesias, 41, imprisoned at a South Carolina correctional facility, is scheduled to have his initial appearance in Miami federal court on Jan. 16. If convicted of the contempt charges, Iglesias faces up to life in prison. The retaliation offenses carry maximum sentences of 10 years.
U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga, who presided over Iglesias’ trial last January, issued an order to enforce her protective order after federal prosecutors brought the alleged violation to her attention in May. Prosecutors said the screen name of the person who posted the investigative recordings was “Chivas Regal.” The postings on the law enforcement Web site, leoaffairs.com, and YouTube.com were titled, “Miami Mice.”
Last June, the judge ordered “the person using the screen name Chivas Regal” to remove the protected audio recordings from the two sites immediately, without identifying the name of the actual person who posted them.
The phone recordings were then removed from YouTube.com and leoaffairs.com.
Altonaga stopped short of holding a follow-up hearing to consider finding anyone in contempt for violating her protective order.
Miami defense attorney Rick Diaz, who represented Iglesias, questioned the legal basis for the indictment, filed Dec. 19, by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Selmore.
“They are going to have a very hard time proving he violated the protective order,” said Diaz, who plans to ask another attorney in his Coral Gables law firm to represent Iglesias on the new charges.
“The government is seeking to do through this indictment what Judge Altonaga would not do in her decision to enforce the protective order after trial,” Diaz said.
The judge had issued her order in 2012 to cover “sensitive and confidential records and audio recordings of cooperating witnesses” to prevent retaliation against any police officers assisting the FBI-led probe of Iglesias, according to prosecutors.
The order stated that “defense counsel shall hold the discovery materials in strict confidence, disclosing this information to the client, office staff, investigators and witnesses (including any experts) only to the extent necessary to assist in the defense.”
Last March, Iglesias was sentenced to four years in federal prison after a Miami federal jury convicted him of two counts of civil rights violations, along with conspiracy to possess and possession with the intent to distribute cocaine and crack cocaine.
Jurors also found him guilty of obstruction of justice and making false official statements to FBI agents. He was acquitted of one civil rights conspiracy count.
At trial, federal prosecutors Ricardo Del Toro and Michael Berger painted Iglesias, a former U.S. Marine, as a rogue sergeant who over the course of five months in 2010 planted cocaine on a suspect, stole drugs and money from dope dealers, and lied about a box of cash left in an abandoned car as part of an FBI sting.
A second detective, Roberto Asanza, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor drug charges stemming from the same investigation.
During the tense trial, Asanza testified against his former boss. Four other detectives who worked on Iglesias’ Crime Suppression Team also testified against him.
In the courtroom, members of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police union sat on one side of the courtroom to show support for Iglesias, while the department's Internal Affairs investigators who worked with the FBI in making the case sat on the other.
Outside, the case created a chasm between Iglesias' supporters, who characterized the detectives who testified against him as “rats,” and Iglesias' detractors, who felt the department needed to clean up internal corruption.
Iglesias’ trial was held while the FBI and Justice Department were separately investigating allegations of corruption and excessive force in the Miami Police Department, leading to firings, resignations and prosecutions of more than 10 officers over the past year.