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Miami Beach officer cleared in Taser incident at Art Basel party

 

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine complained about how an officer handled a crowd at a Star Island home. But an investigation showed no wrongdoing.

cveiga@MiamiHerald.com

A Miami Beach police officer was cleared of wrongdoing after a lengthy internal affairs investigation into his actions during an Art Basel party at businessman Thomas Kramer’s home, where hundreds of uninvited people showed up and were shooed away.

The investigation of the Dec. 6 incident was instigated by then newly elected Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who told a police supervisor on the scene that officer Giordano Cardoso’s actions were “out of control” when he used his Taser to disperse a crowd trying to get into Kramer’s Star Island home.

Investigators ultimately determined Cardoso did nothing wrong when he pointed his Taser at the ground and fired three times to scatter the crowd he felt was threatening him. Cardoso told investigators the crowd was “loud and rowdy, and he could hear bottles breaking.”

Though Levine initiated the investigation into Cardoso, the report said he chose not to speak to investigators or give a formal statement. The mayor told the Miami Herald on Tuesday that he spoke with someone at the police department the day after the incident, but did not recall who. The internal affairs report said police made several attempts to talk to the mayor.

“You pull out a Taser, you have to be clear that you’re in the right,” Levine said. “I can’t imagine that pulling out a Taser at a Star Island Art Basel party is in the handbook.”

The Internal Affairs report, which includes interviews with 11 witnesses, paints a “mob” scene with about 100 cars blocking traffic and parked in the driveways of Star Island’s multimillion dollar homes.

Kramer is a business mogul whose exploits in South Florida are well documented. He said he invited 300 people to his party during Art Basel week, but the crowd swelled to about 1,000 when word spread. He called Levine a friend, and said he was invited to the party.

“It was absolutely insane. My security was beaten up. It was just a horror scene,” Kramer told the Herald in March.

According to records and witness accounts, police were called to Kramer’s 5 Star Island home just before midnight Dec. 6, when his private security staff couldn’t control the “avalanche of people.” Officers arriving said they were getting crushed by the hundreds of wanna-be party-goers who tried to push their way onto the property. One officer said people were trying to climb the fence to get in.

Cardoso and two other officers slipped through the “large, agitated crowd” and into the home, the report says, where they came up with a plan to clear the crowd. As they tried to go back outside, people were pushing on the gate to get in.

The officers ordered the crowd to leave, but were ignored, the report said. Cardoso decided his best alternative was to fire a “warning arc” from his Taser into the ground. A hostess at the party called the officer’s actions “appropriate and very effective.”

As the crowd began to disperse, Cardoso said he saw a man demanding that a hostess allow him into the party. Though the report doesn’t identify him, the man is Christopher Korge, a high-level Democratic fundraiser who hosted President Barack Obama at his Pinecrest home in 2012.

Cardoso told Korge that “if he continued to try to enter, that it would be considered trespassing.” That’s when, the report says, Levine approached Cardoso, shook his hand and said, “I’m the new mayor of Miami Beach,” and repeated it several times.

In the report, Cardoso said he felt the mayor was trying to intimidate the officers. Police said they heard Levine “encouraging” Korge to try to get back into the party. The officers told investigators they felt Levine “was trying to instigate a challenge between his friend, police officers and security personnel.”

A witness said Korge “seemed to be putting on a show by arguing with the officer and looking back towards the mayor.”

Levine and Korge said that wasn’t the case. They said they didn’t attend the party together, but bumped into each other outside of Kramer’s home when they noticed Cardoso’s inappropriate behavior. Levine said Cardoso was “yelling and screaming... you could just see he was on fire.”

Korge said the officer was using curse words and telling people if they didn’t get out of the way he would arrest them. He said when Cardoso threatened him with arrest, he demanded to know why.

“I wasn’t disrespectful,” Korge said. The mayor said Tuesday he tried to get everyone to calm down, and introduced himself. The mayor said he’d have no problem with new Beach police chief Dan Oates reopening the internal probe.

That way, the mayor said, “we’ll see what’s going on.”

Follow @Cveiga on Twitter.

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