FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Attorney Michael Gottlieb believes we are seeing only the tip of the iceberg in the scandal involving four former Fort Lauderdale police officers accused of creating a racially charged video and sending racially biased text messages.
The officers have been identified as Alex Alvarez, 22; James Wells, 29; Jason Holding, 31; and Christopher Sousa, 25.
"There is going to be guys who are sitting in prison right now that are saying I told you so to their lawyer, and now that allegation is going to be proved. So you are going to open up the appellate flood gates," said Gottlieb, whose own client's case was dismissed following the investigation.
"You have the stopping officer who is racist; you have the backup officer who is racist. You have a group of individuals that are going around almost like vigilante justice," Gottlieb said.
So far, the state attorney has dismissed eight misdemeanor cases and 17 more are scheduled to be dropped. In 11 misdemeanor cases the defendants had already pleaded guilty. Twelve felony cases that the officers were involved in were also dismissed, as well as one juvenile case.
But the Public Defender's Office said it is still not enough. They believe the State Attorney's Office needs to send a clear message to the public that this type of behavior will not be tolerated and restore faith in the justice system.
"I believe all 56 cases pending in this office should be dismissed," Chief Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weeks said. "But in this office, we have only seen approximately five cases that have been dismissed."
Gottlieb's client was pulled over for not wearing his seat belt and ended up in jail on a marijuana possession charge.
"I think his civil rights have been violated and we are going to move against the City of Fort Lauderdale," Gottlieb said.
The Fort Lauderdale Police Department has declined to release the officer's pictures, citing an exemption for law enforcement officers. Some said names are not enough to jar a person's memory if he may have been wronged by one of them.
"We need to see these police officers and their photographs need to be released and disseminated to the public," Weeks said.
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