A former Florida police chief who had a lot to say five years ago after bragging about his department’s 100 percent clearance rate on burglaries is now singing a different tune, pleading guilty to directing three of his officers to frame two innocent young black men and one innocent 16-year-old boy of unsolved home and vehicle break-ins in order to boost and perfect the force’s property crimes record.
Biscayne Park Police Chief Raimundo Atesiano, 52, pleaded guilty to conspiracy in Miami federal court. Race was not a factor in the federal case, although the three who were wrongfully arrested are black, according to the Miami Herald. Nonetheless, the conspiracy conviction carries up to 10 years in prison, though it will be interesting to see how much time Atesiano actually serves (the Herald notes he is expected to serve far less time, so no surprise there.)
Atesiano will face sentencing on Nov. 27. Per the plea agreement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office agreed to recommend two years, however the final decision remains up to the judge. He faces between 2 and 2 1/2 years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines, which is a sham considering he was fully prepared to send three innocent people to serve likely far longer sentences.
Two other charges of civil rights violations which carried up to one year each will be dismissed in his case. And Atesiano probably dodged a bullet as he was due to face trial on Monday. Prosecutors were reportedly going to introduce evidence of three other false arrests while he was an officer.
“The vast majority of law enforcement officers across the nation serve our communities with honor and integrity,” U.S. Attorney Benjamin Greenberg said in a statement. “We will not allow the minority of officers who cast aside their oaths to tarnish the reputation of those who protect us all.”
The case all started over the summer when three former Biscayne Park officers who had worked under Atesiano when he was chief in 2013 and 2014 pleaded guilty to civil rights violations due to the arrest of the three individuals. In a bid to reduce prison time, the three officers worked with the FBI and federal prosecutors, forcing Atesiano to push for a plea agreement rather than face a jury (which would have been what he deserved.)
The Herald reports:
In August, Officers Charlie Dayoub, 38, and Raul Fernandez, 62, pleaded guilty that they falsified the arrest affidavits for a 16-year-old black suspect for four unsolved break-ins in June 2013, a month before then-police chief Atesiano touted the town’s 100 percent burglary clearance record at a village commission meeting.
Atesiano told the two officers that he wanted them to unlawfully arrest T.D., the teen, for the residential burglaries “knowing that there was no evidence that T.D. had committed the burglaries,” according to the indictment charging all three former officers. The charges against the teen were eventually dropped after the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office noticed the four arrest affidavits, written by Fernandez and signed by Dayoub, all used similar vague language — that the “investigation revealed” T.D. employed the same “M.O.” and the homes had a “rear door pried open.”
Then in January 2013, Atesiano ordered Dayoub, and another officer Guillermo Ravelo (who pleaded guilty to conspiracy as well) to arrest Clarence Desrouleaux for breaking into two homes in Biscayne Park because “there was reliable information that [he] had forged and cashed a check stolen during the course of” a third home burglary.
“Atesiano told the officers to make the arrests for the two additional burglaries, despite knowing that there was no evidence that [Desrouleaux] committed the burglaries” at the other homes, the statement said.
Desrouleaux, 35, ended up being sentenced to five years in prison and deported to Haiti. The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office has since thrown out his wrongful conviction.
Then there was the arrest of 31-year-old Erasmus Banmah related to five unsolved vehicle burglaries. Again, there was no evidence that Banmah had committed the crimes, but Atesiano ordered Ravelo to arrest Banmah in Feb. 2014. Ravelo followed through, filling out five arrest forms falsely accusing the 31-year-old.
For each of the five cases, Ravelo “falsely claimed in an arrest affidavit that [Banmah] had taken him to the site of the respective burglary and confessed to the items that [he] had stolen,” court records noted.
All of this, because Atesiano wanted a perfect record of clearing burglaries. The police department touted clearing 29 of 30 burglary cases during Atesiano’s leadership (he resigned from the force in 2014), but now it has been uncovered that 11 of those cases were based on false arrest reports.
“As chief of police for the Village of Biscayne Park, [Atesiano] caused and encouraged officers to arrest persons without a legal basis in order to have arrests effectuated for all reported burglaries,” the indictment filed by federal prosecutor Harry Wallace, read. “The existence of this fictitious 100% clearance rate of reported burglaries was used by [him] to gain favor with elected officials and concerned citizens.”
And once again, despite race not being factored in in this particular case (although we all know what is what), internal public records obtained by the Herald showed that command staff had reportedly encouraged officers to target black people in order to clear cases.
“If they have burglaries that are open cases that are not solved yet, if you see anybody black walking through our streets and they have somewhat of a record, arrest them so we can pin them for all the burglaries,” one cop said in an internal probe ordered in 2014. “They were basically doing this to have a 100% clearance rate for the city.”
And yet people are still wondering why Colin Kaepernick kneels.
At any rate, Miami-Dade prosecutors are expected to review criminal arrests during Atesiano’s tenure as chief in from 2013 to 2014, and given what has already been exposed, one can only imagine what else is left to be brought to the light.