Trade Meeting (FTAA)
Judge: I Saw Police Commit Felonies
Judge Who Said He Witnessed Some Of The Anti-Free Trade Protests
Complains In Open Court
About How Police Handled The Demonstrations.
Amy Driscoll, The Miami Herald, December 20, 2003
A judge presiding over the cases of free trade protesters said
in court that he saw ''no less than 20 felonies committed by
police officers'' during the November demonstrations, adding
to a chorus of complaints about police conduct.
Richard Margolius, 60, made the remarks in open court last week,
saying he was taken aback by what he witnessed while attending
disgraceful what I saw with my own eyes. And I have always supported
the police during my entire career,'' he said, according to
a court transcript. ``This was a real eye-opener. A disgrace
for the community.''
the transcript, he also said he may have to remove himself from
any additional cases involving arrests made during the Free
Trade Area of the Americas summit.
probably would have been arrested myself if it had not been
for a police officer who recognized me,'' said the judge, who
wears his hair in a graying ponytail.
appointed to the bench in 1982, retired as a circuit judge in
2001 but said he still hears cases 15 to 20 weeks a year when
courts are overburdened.
Friday, he chose not to elaborate on the remarks he made from
the bench Dec. 11.
can't comment on pending cases,'' he said. ``It was inappropriate
for me to make the comments I made. A reasonable person could
question my neutrality because of statements I made in open
judge did not single out a police department. More than three
dozen agencies were part of the FTAA security effort. The Miami
Police Department coordinated most police operations.
Calzadilla, executive assistant to Miami Police Chief John Timoney,
said: ``The chief's not going to comment on something this vague.
If the judge would like to file a complaint with the CIP [Citizens
Investigative Panel] he can do that like any other citizen.''
Fonticiella, a spokeswoman for the Miami-Dade Police Department,
which had a large presence during the protests, also said the
judge can file a complaint. ''It would be our hope and expectation
that if this is how he feels, that he would recuse himself from
those cases,'' she said.
had been hearing the cases of Joseph Diamond and Danielle Kilroy,
both arrested during the FTAA protests. Diamond had been charged
with aggravated assault on a police officer, a felony; the charges
were dropped by the state at the Dec. 11 hearing.
also faced felony charges -- battery on a police officer and
resisting arrest with violence. Her charges were reduced to
a single misdemeanor, resisting arrest without violence, according
to members of the Miami Activist Defense, a legal group monitoring
the court hearings.
the Dec. 11 hearings, the judge asked an assistant state attorney,
``How many police officers have been charged by the State Attorney
so far for what happened out there during the FTAA?''
the prosecutor replied.
asked the judge. ``Pretty sad commentary. At least from what
judge also wondered aloud how much the ''whole episode'' had
know one thing. There were police officers from every agency
-- I couldn't believe the sheer numbers,'' he said.
Ripple, a protester who was arrested and is working with MAD,
said she was in the courtroom during Margolius' remarks.
really glad he saw for himself what was happening . . . I'm
really glad he was out there,'' she said. ``As a lifelong Miami
resident and victim of the police during the FTAA, it was really
supportive to hear that kind of affirmation from Judge Margolius.''
FTAA summit, Nov. 20 and 21, sparked marches and protests in
downtown Miami and resulted in 231 arrests. Since then, at least
27 misdemeanors have been dropped, according to prosecutors'
records last updated Dec. 2. Additional cases have been dropped
or the charges reduced, according to MAD members.
citizens' panels plan to hold a joint meeting Jan. 15 to hear
comments and complaints about police conduct during the FTAA,
and both Miami-Dade and Miami police are conducting internal
reviews. Amnesty International, the AFL-CIO and the United Steelworkers
of America all have called for independent probes.
Miami police spokeswoman said officers were instructed to make
arrests only as necessary.
were told to deal with situations that were serious but we were
always told to be very patient with people,'' said Herminia
''Amy'' Salas-Jacobson, a Miami police spokeswoman.
the training sessions we were told to be professional, be patient
and to do everything right. There was one thing that was stressed
at every meeting: Always be professional.''
Margolius' informal speech, he noted that he couldn't recognize
officers because ``everybody had riot gear on.''
hope the state has the good, common sense to deal with these
cases in an appropriate manner, with an eye on justice,'' he
staff writer Charles Rabin contributed to this report.