Jury finds 2 Fort Lauderdale detectives not guilty in misconduct case

William Koepke, Brian Dodge were accused of shaking down drug dealers

By Bob Norman - Investigative Reporter

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Suspended detective Brian Dodge was overcome with emotion Friday in court when he heard the words, "Not guilty."

A jury acquitted both Dodge and his former partner at the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, suspended detective Billy Keopke of falsifying reports and official misconduct charges involving a 2011 crack cocaine arrest that was caught on surveillance video.

As a tearful Dodge walked away from the courtroom, he had no comment on the verdict.

"He's grateful the jury did a good job and they got it right," his attorney Michael Dutko said.

 "What he said," said Dodge, who was also acquitted of perjury for allegedly lying in a deposition.

 The most serious charges against the two men -- including racketeering, false imprisonment, kidnapping, and grand theft -- were dropped before the trial. They involved allegations they stole money from their drug dealer victims.

The surveillance video shows Dodge handling cash prosecutors initially alleged he stole. Prosecutors went forward only with charges the detectives lied in reports about the arrest. They claimed, for instance, that a suspect dropped cocaine in the passengers' side of a car when the video clearly shows there was no one in the passengers' side of the car.

"There's no man with drugs," Assistant State Attorney Ryan Kelley told the jury during closing arguments Thursday evening. "There's no one at all."

During his argument, Kelley held up the erroneous probable cause affidavit in the case and ripped it in half, saying the reports "weren't worth the paper they were printed on, because they contain the lies of two sworn police officers and based upon their lies people were hurt, not just [the drug suspects] but the entire judicial system."

Dutko and Dodge, who testified on his own behalf, both readily admitted that mistakes were made but said they were honest ones.

"In the real world, well-intended individuals make mistakes and this was a situation where there were mistakes made," Dutko told the jury.

 Dutko said the officers may have confused the case with another case they'd been working and didn't pay adequate attention to the paperwork. Dutko also hammered the fact that the suspects were convicted drug dealers.

"You had cocaine dealers, drug dealers that acknowledged they were there to do a drug deal," he told the jury.

Two jurors told Local 10 they chose to acquit despite the fact there were major falsehoods in the detectives' story that they couldn't be sure they were intentional. Both detectives are suspended without pay and there is an internal investigation pending but Dutko said both fully intend to go back to work at the police department.

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