There won’t exactly be justice for Strushie the cat.
The South Beach hotel clerk accused of killing the popular neighborhood cat — with a crossbow arrow to the skull — has been deported to his native Greece before Miami state prosecutors could ever take him to trial.
Georgios Kollias, 37, was booted from the country on Nov. 29, according to the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office. Immigration officers whisked him away from a Miami-Dade jail 12 days after his July arrest. He spent four months in a federal detention center before he was put on a plane for Greece.
The move came as a disappointment to prosecutors who hoped to put Kollias in jail or prison for a bloody killing that drew widespread attention from animal-rights activists and cat lovers. The death got so much attention that supporters started a “Justice for Strushie” Facebook page, and the Miami Beach City Commission even honored Strushie soon after Kollias’ arrest.
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“A lot of citizens were very concerned about this case,” Miami-Dade Chief Assistant State Kathleen Hoague told the Miami Herald. “We were looking forward to proving this case — and we had good evidence against him.”
A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement statement did not address the pending criminal case.
“ICE works in partnership with its local, state and federal law enforcement partners before effecting a removal. On Nov. 29, 2017, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) removed Georgios Kollias, 37, a citizen and national of Greece, from the United States,” the statement read.
The deportation of Kollias comes as immigration authorities nationwide have increasingly detained people awaiting criminal trials under President Donald Trump’s aggressive policies toward undocumented immigrants. His administration has threatened to withhold federal funding from so-called “sanctuary” cities that do not honor “detainer” requests to hold inmates facing possible deportation.
In Miami-Dade, however, the county mayor — in a much criticized move — agreed to honor requests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain even low-level defendants facing possible deportation.
The “detainer” requests ask Miami-Dade to extend the detentions of people already booked in county jails on local charges. The requests ask for an extra 48 hours of jail time, plus weekends and holidays, to give immigration officers time to detain the suspects, usually after they’ve been convicted or their case has been resolved.
But federal authorities are increasingly detaining undocumented criminal-court defendants who haven’t even been convicted or had their cases resolved, said Lody Jean, a South Florida immigration attorney and former state prosecutor.
“ICE doesn’t have faith that their detainers will be honored,” said Jean, who is not involved in the case. “And in this case, they didn’t need the conviction to deport him.”
The reason: Kollias had been living in Miami illegally after overstaying his permitted time here. Greeks, like citizens from other European countries, do not need a visa to visit the United States for tourism — but can only stay for 90 days.
Kollias was arrested on July 4, with police booking him under a misspelled last name of “Lollias,” after Miami Beach police said he killed Strushie the cat with a crossbow three months earlier. Surveillance footage revealed Kollias hunting for Strushie at the Franklin Hotel while attempting to “conceal the crossbow from anyone that may be in the area,” a police report said.
Kollias shot into the bushes where the cat was hiding, puncturing Strushie's skull and brain, police said. A woman who feeds Strushie regularly later found the bleeding cat, but it could not be saved and had to be euthanized.
He was charged with animal cruelty and tampering with evidence. Detectives suspected he may have stalked the cat because strays were considered a nuisance.
Kollias never posted bail. ICE officers picked him up at Miami’s Turner Guilford Knight Correction Center less than two weeks after he was arrested. He was moved to Miami’s Krome Detention Center.
But his case was complicated when Hurricane Irma bore down on South Florida in September, forcing him and others to be moved to a detention facility in Louisiana. A detention officer from Louisiana was the one who informed Miami prosecutors that Kollias was slated for deportation.
He could not be extradited unless a Miami judge issued a warrant for him — and for legal technical reasons, that didn’t happen until one day after Kollias was sent back to Greece.
The deportation shocked his defense attorney, Pat Dray, who believed he would have won the case. But he said he believes ICE officers long knew what they were going to do.
“The guy wanted to stay here. He didn’t want to go back to Greece,” Dray said. “But as soon as he got taken in, they knew he was going to Greece.”