Arrested 344 times, Miami Beach man heads back to jail

Neighborhood group says case highlights problem of repeat offenders

By Liane Morejon - Reporter, Tim Swift - Local10.com Digital Editor

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. - When Richard Powell appeared before a judge Tuesday, it wasn't his first rodeo with the Florida criminal justice system - not by a long shot.

Powell, 57, has been arrested 344 times with charges ranging from drinking in public and stealing a milk crate to strong-arm robbery and sexual battery. 

Recently, Powell, who is homeless, was banned from Miami Beach, south of 40th Street. But police found him violating that order, yelling in the middle of the street while carrying a beer. Officers said he had marijuana stuffed in his shoes. 

Powell will now spend the next 90 days behind bars with credit for time served. He essentially took a plea and avoided trial. 

However Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Andrea Ricker Wolfson  had a stern warning.

"You’re on the radar my friend. Essentially, the officers, the residents who live in that area know who you are, and they will call the police if they see you. And you’ll be right back here where you are right now," Ricker Wolfson said. "And I can guarantee you that if you violate the order again, the state won’t even discuss a plea with your lawyers." 

Powell has been convicted five times in the last 12 months. 

For John Deutzman, Powell's long history or arrests and release is part of a larger problem.

Deutzman and other residents started the Miami Beach Crime Prevention and Awareness Group last year. 

The group wants to stop the revolving door of repeat offenders who are arrested, released and return to the beach. Armed with information, they attend court hearings to persuade judges to keep the chronically accused in custody.

"We are focusing on the repeat offenders in Miami Beach that are making our beach unlivable," Deutzman said.

But Deutzman said he hopes this stint in jail finally sends a message to Powell and others like him. 

"Hopefully it’ll sink in," he said.

Law enforcement officials are on the record supporting the citizens engagement. 

But Carlos Martinez, Miami Dade's public defender, said their involvement catches defendants by surprise at their bond hearings and their testimony sometimes is hearsay or irrelevant.

Others such as the ACLU of Florida are concerned the group's efforts could lead to racial profiling and the harassment of homeless people.

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