Jury finds Miami Beach police officer guilty of battery during 2021 arrest

MIAMI – A jury of three men and three women found a Miami Beach police officer guilty of simple battery, a first-degree misdemeanor, on Wednesday afternoon in Miami-Dade County court.

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle released a statement shortly after the announcement.

“Today’s jury verdict finding officer Kevin Perez guilty of battery is a clear statement against the use of excessive force in making an arrest,” Fernandez Rundle said. “The jurors clearly weighed all the evidence, including the hotel video, before concluding that Perez’ actions were a violation of Florida law.”

Sentencing is pending. Perez faces up to one year in jail or a 12-months probation, and a $1,000 fine.

Prosecutors initially charged Perez with third-degree felony battery after reviewing videos of Dalonta Crudup’s arrest on July 26, 2021, at the nearby Royal Palm Hotel.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Alberto Milian ruled on Tuesday that prosecutors had failed to meet the standard for the third-degree felony battery charge, which carries a maximum of five years in prison, five-year probation, and a $5,000 fine.

Milan told Assistant State Attorney Sandra Miller-Batiste and her team in court that they had failed to prove that Crudup had suffered great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement.

“You did not prove that whatever Officer Perez did was what was the cause of that three-centimeter laceration testified to by the doctor,” Milan said in a decision that was a victory for Attorney Robert Buschel, who is representing Perez.

During her opening statement, Miller-Batiste established that Crudup was injured during the arrest and she asked the jurors to rely on the evidence of the case.

“[Crudup] was not bleeding until he got slammed. He busted his chin and needed stitches,” Miller-Batiste said.

Police officers accused Crudup, who was visiting from Maryland, of fleeing after injuring a police officer while driving a scooter on Ninth Street and Ocean Court. The injured officer needed a brace and crutches, police said.

“Crudup has every incentive to say Perez committed a battery upon him, so he won’t have to account for his own behavior,” Buschel said during his closing statement.

Surveillance videos show Crudup, then 24, riding his scooter down an alley in South Beach and officers following. Videos also show Lt. Jose Reina pointing a gun at Crudup after he and other police officers caught up to him in the hotel, at 1545 Collins Ave.

“When this defendant comes to that lobby it is very obvious what’s on his mind. It’s retaliation,” Miller-Batiste said.

Police officers also arrested Khalid Vaughn, 28, of New York, while he recorded Crudup’s arrest, and later Sharif Cobb, 27, of New York, while he recorded Vaughn’s arrest. Officers arrested Vaughn and Cobb because of a local law that bans bystanders from standing within 20 feet of officers with the “intent to impede, provoke or harass.”

Prosecutors later dropped the case against Vaughn and Cobb and charged Perez and four other police officers involved in the three arrests.

Officer Jose Perez, who is not related to Officer Kevin Perez; Robert Sabater; David Rivas; and Steven Serrano faced misdemeanors at first, but prosecutors later upgraded the cases to felonies. The department suspended them without pay.

“This case is about the beating of an unarmed handcuffed Black man, Dalonta Crudup, by overzealous police Officer Kevin Perez,” Assistant State Attorney Joshua Novak said in court before the verdict.

Officer Kevin Perez and Sgt. Jose Perez took turns striking and kicking Crudup, according to prosecutors. Sabater tackled Vaughn and Rivas and Serrano punched him, according to prosecutors.

“Crudup surrendered. The fleeing is over, but Kevin Perez didn’t care,” Novak said. “He doesn’t kick once, twice. three times — he keeps kicking.”

Last year, Sgt. Jose Perez, who had faced one count of third-degree felony battery, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was sentenced to six months of probation before announcing his retirement.

Watch the interactive video narrated by Miami-Dade State Attorney

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About the Authors:

Liane Morejon is an Emmy-winning reporter who joined the Local 10 News family in January 2010. Born and raised in Coral Gables, Liane has a unique perspective on covering news in her own backyard.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.