|Coral Springs Officer Tim Coker|
BY BUDDY NEVINS
A Coral Springs Officer arrested a homeowner while he was negotiating a mortgage modification. The officer then bought the house from the lender while the man was in jail.
Public Defender Howard Finkelstein said this week the case of Coral Springs Officer Tim Coker was just one of five alleged cases of police misconduct to justify unlawful arrests.
Finkelstein has asked State Attorney Mike Satz to prosecute the six officers.
In several cases, the officers were caught by using computer technology.
“We all know (what) has been happening to my clients for years – illegal and unjustified stops by law enforcement for DWB (driving while black)…Technology shed light on an ugly fact: some police officers lie to justify the means to an end,” Finkelstein wrote in a letter to Satz.
The cases of alleged wrongdoing by officers include :
* Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Marc Berman said he checked the tag of a vehicle on April 3 and found that the owner did not have a valid driver’s license, justifying a traffic stop. The driver was arrested when the deputy claimed he found an active arrest warrant.
A check of the state archived report system in Tallahassee found that Berman never checked drivers license information prior to the traffic stop.
The case was dropped by prosecutors.
* Hallandale Officer Chris Goulding said he stopped a van after a check of the tag indicated the driver had a suspended license. The driver was jailed.
The van was registered to the driver’s wife, whose license was suspended. There was no way for Goulding to know the driver also had a suspended license before the traffic stop. A judge granted a motion to supress.
* Coral Springs Officer Tim Coker saw a man leaving a house and searched him. Several prescription drugs were found and the man was arrested.
The defendant had been in the house at the invitation of his wife. He told the officer the couple was in negotiations with a bank to modify their mortgage.
“By arresting (the defendant), Officer Coker had prevented him from doing anything related to further negotiating with his mortgage lender,” states Finkelstein’s letter to Satz.
The defendant was arrested May 4, 2010. A few months later while the defendant remained in jail, Coker contacted the lender and purchased the property out of foreclosure, according to the letter.
Coker refused to answer questions during a deposition about the house, saying it was his personal business.
“When presented with these facts, this case was dropped by the State. This case is also under review by the Coral Springs Police Department/Internal Affairs,” states Finkelstein’s letter.
* Fort Lauderdale Officers Ian Sandman and Jose Dejo said they ran the tags of a vehicle before stopping it and charging the driver with driving with a suspended license.
A check of the state system disclosed the tag was never run prior to the traffic stop.
The case was dismissed.
* Officer Jefferson Alvarez in a probable cause affidavit said that he observed the defendant in an abandoned gas station, ran the tag and found out the driver’s license was suspended.
The defendant’s explanation that he had pulled in to change a tire was ignored. He was arrested.
A check of the state system indicated another officer ran the tag. A check of a GPS system indicated two officers arrived on the scene before Alvarez. The officers allowed Alverez to take credit for the arrest.
“I urge you to use the power conferred on you by virtue of your position to prosecute police officers who lie,” Finkelstein wrote to Satz.