Crime

Miami officer gets 45 days in jail for tossing nurse to ground in fight over niece

Fired Miami police officer Lester Bohnenblust, left, was sentenced to 45 days in jail and three years of probation for manhandling a nurse during an argument last year.
Fired Miami police officer Lester Bohnenblust, left, was sentenced to 45 days in jail and three years of probation for manhandling a nurse during an argument last year. jiglesias@elnuevoherald.com

A fired Miami cop, convicted last month of battering a nursing supervisor at Jackson Memorial Hospital, was sentenced to 45 days in jail Friday despite pleas from friends and family who said the officer was kind and often went out of his way to help others.

One man said former Miami police officer Lester Bohnenblust helped him recover from alcohol addiction and often checked in on his well-being. Another explained how Bohnenblust once emptied his pockets of his last $30 to help feed a family.

The pleas, though, weren’t enough to convince Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Marisa Tinkler Mendez to let the 20-year veteran off with just probation.

“The individual on that day of the events and after that crime occurred as found by the jury is not the person you knew,” Mendez told the full courtroom, most there to support the former officer. “It’s not the same person that you all described.”

The judge then sentenced Bohnenblust to 45 days in jail, three years probation, 100 hours of community service and ordered him to attend mental health and anger management programs. Bohnenblust was fired last year after video surfaced of him, while in uniform and on duty, grabbing the nurse and tossing him to the ground.

As Bohnenblust made his way toward the empty jury box to hand over his jacket, tie and belt before he was handcuffed, some in the crowd began to sob.

Jury convictions of police officers in Miami-Dade used to be quite rare. But Bohnenblust’s conviction in June was the second that month of a police officer working for a law enforcement agency in Miami-Dade County. Also convicted was North Miami police officer Jonathon Aledda, convicted of misdemeanor culpable negligence for the accidental shooting of behavioral therapist Charles Kinsey in the summer of 2016. Aledda was acquitted of two more serious felony charges of attempted manslaughter. He was sentenced to probation and 100 hours of community service.

Bohnenblust, 51, was convicted of battery of someone over 65 and false imprisonment by a jury in June for a May 2018 confrontation with JMH nursing supervisor James Nicholson, 66, at the hospital. Surveillance video caught Bohnenblust grabbing Johnson by the shoulders and slamming him to the ground at the hospital’s behavioral health unit during a discussion about Bohnenblust’s niece.

The officer’s niece had been released from the hospital, but returned the next day with her father, who was upset when Nicholson refused to re-admit her. So, her father called Bohnenblust who arrived in uniform and demanded that his niece be re-admitted before walking to the side with Nicholson and grabbing him by the back of his jacket. Bohnenblust at first told Nicholson he was under arrest and called for backup.

Nicholson, a nurse for 29 years who was only two months shy of retirement, was not arrested and Bohnenblust was arrested after the video surfaced.

Prior to the sentencing Nicholson told the court that he never received an apology from Bohnenblust.

“Nothing ever prepared me to have a policeman attack me at my job,” he told the judge.

Bohnenblust spoke to the court briefly, saying he was “remorseful.”

But in the end Judge Mendez was more swayed by the argument of Assistant State Attorney Kerrie Crockett, who told the court that police officers have to be held to a higher standard than ordinary citizens.

“Officers are not allowed to handle cases involving relatives. He knows that,” said Crockett. “If he were not in uniform, he would not have been allowed to commit this crime.”

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