Courts

Miami-Dade cop to serve 10 days in jail after DUI conviction

 

dovalle@MiamiHerald.com

A Miami-Dade cop must spend 10 days in jail after he was convicted at trial Wednesday of drunk driving.

The officer: Fernando Villa, who earlier made headlines as part of a botched sting in June 2011 that led to the fatal shootings of four suspected armed robbers, including a police confidential informant.

After the shooting, Villa was transferred from the department’s Special Response Team to patrol duties in the West Kendall Hammocks district. Six months later, in December 2011, Villa – wearing shorts and a T-shirt – was found passed out inside his patrol car at a West Kendall intersection.

He was charged with driving under the influence.

At trial, which started Monday, jurors heard that Villa twice refused to take an alcohol breath test. But Miami-Dade prosecutors Rebecca Gray and Alexis Perez argued he nevertheless showed signs of impairment.

Jurors deliberated just 30 minutes before finding him guilty Wednesday.

Miami-Dade County Judge Bill Altfield sentenced Villa to 10 days in jail, though he won’t begin his sentence until June 10.

“It’s an unfortunate situation and we have to abide by the jury’s decision,” said defense attorney Betty Llorente, who tried the case with Madeline Acosta.

At the time of the DUI arrest, officers allowed Villa to go home. That drew the ire of then-Miami-Dade Police Director Jim Loftus, who told The Miami Herald that he had ordered Villa booked into jail.

Villa had been on desk duty pending the DUI trial.

He and members of Miami-Dade’s Special Response Team were heavily scrutinized for the operation that killed four in South Miami-Dade. Though prosecutors did not file any charges against the officers, they issued a stinging 40-page report in March criticizing the operation.

Prosecutors branded many decisions of the officers that chaotic night “unusual, counter-intuitive, suspicious … disturbing,” and pointed out severe flaws in the police operations.

Miami-Dade detectives, working with an informant within a gang of suspected armed robbers, had tricked the men into believing there was a marijuana stash inside a Redland home.

But when the men scattered, officers opened fire, killing the men, who did not fire at the cops. The informant was killed while laying on the ground in surrender, while another was killed curled up in the fetal position under a tree.

Villa was one of a group that killed Antonio Andrew, 26, who was shot as he appeared to be trying to head toward an escape through a hole in a fence. A sergeant told detectives Andrew reached toward his waistband — although prosecutors noted the sergeant shouted “contradictory” orders: “don’t move your hands,” and “let me see your hands under your waistband.”

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