Cast of Characters
In the book Cigar City Mafia: A Complete History of the Tampa Underworld, Scott Deitche explains that Tampa officials have blatant corruption appearing in front of them, and yet they are “somehow” incapable of finding it.
A Tampa police detective who investigated corruption explained that it should not be assumed that all officials who participate in or ignore corruption are corrupt. He said that corrupt interests tempt well intended officials to do something they should not have done, which is then used to manipulate them, such as pressuring a judge to fix a court case. Only a single impropriety by a public official is needed to manipulate them. The detective said the two most commonly used enticements are sex with a prostitute or taking something one should not have (typically $$$). While sex scandals might seem too obvious, they appear quite common (President Clinton, John Edwards, Elliot Spitzer, etc.). It is a tale as old as time and creates an “ideal” means to manipulate public officials.
Below are officials who either participated in or ignored illegal or perverse practices in Tampa, or, alternatively, attempted to assist me in remedying the practices. I begin with attorneys for the City of Tampa (Kirby Rainsberger, John Makholm and Ursula Richardson), as their actions and decisions illustrate the Tampa police culture and how they attempt to legitimize and sanction Tampa police practices. A Tampa police sergeant described the primary problem as untruthfulness.
The Cast (click names to open)
Kirby Rainsberger has been the Tampa police attorney during the administrations of police chiefs Bennie Holder, Steven Hogue and Jane Castor. By letter, he refused my attorney’s request in 2002 to correct the false entries on my crash report, despite being given the supporting documentation, which precluded me from receiving an auto insurance refund of a few thousand dollars. Florida law makes it a crime to provide false information on a crash report, yet Mr. Rainsberger refused to amend my report, other than the incorrect street name. (In contrast, when deposed, Police Chief Hogue said false entries on a crash report should be corrected.) Mr. Rainsberger’s letter to my attorney also states that crash reports are inadmissible in court, yet Tampa police policy permits their use in court. As general counsel to the Tampa police, he should have input into all policies to assure they adhere to the law. Mr. Rainsberger’s letter also denied the Tampa officer was terminated over the first fabricated traffic ticket that I received (stop sign violation), yet the Internal Affairs report affirms the officer was terminated over my ticket, albeit the officer was subsequently allowed to resign after being fired.
The larger concern is that if the Tampa police are ambivalent about officers writing false tickets and crash reports, which are used as “secret” evidence in court hearings, are they similarly ambivalent about officers fabricating circumstances or misrepresenting facts in situations of far greater magnitude. An example that validates this concern is Mr. Rainsberger’s investigation report on rookie officer David Duncan’s shooting and killing a black teenager in 2000. Mr. Rainsberger was unconcerned that the rookie’s statements were inconsistent with the physical evidence. He documented that the rookie’s account of circumstances was not supported by the physical evidence (page 4), but wrote that it did not matter because the officer was not injured, expressing no dismay that the rookie’s explanation of circumstances was not supported by the evidence. The rookie contended he was standing in the doorway of the stolen vehicle, at close range, and shot the teenager, who was sitting in the driver’s seat, as the vehicle began moving. However, the physical evidence suggests he was not standing in such close proximity, calling into question whether he was at risk for being hit by the door of the vehicle. The rookie was not sanctioned for being untruthful about reporting circumstances that were inconsistent with the physical evidence. The rookie received only a “letter of reprimand” for not abiding by police policies, which required the officer to stay with his vehicle. If the rookie had abided by police policy, the shooting would not have occurred, but this was not a concern to the Tampa police. Similarly, the State Attorney took no action against the rookie for providing a story that did not adhere to the physical evidence.
As another example, a newspaper reported that Mr. Rainsberger advised officers that when reading Miranda rights to arrested persons, to do so in a manner that obfuscates their right to an attorney, in order to create an opportunity to solicit information. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately found Tampa’s practice to be acceptable, in a split vote. Nonetheless, the practice is unethical because it violates the ethical principles of fidelity (truthfulness) and justice (fairness).
John Makholm, Esq. was the Tampa Police Department’s outside counsel. He wrote many of the court filings for the City of Tampa, including the City’s brief to the Appellate Court. He made statements that were untrue, yet there were no consequences.
For example, in his Appellee Brief, Mr. Makholm wrote:
“Judge Fernandez found the Appellant/Plaintiff, Dr. ORBAN Guilty of Careless Driving.”
This is false, as the judge withheld adjudication, which my attorney had previously pointed out since Mr. Makholm had previously contended this. From my perspective, this appears libel, as Mr. Makholm made defamatory untrue statements about me. Instead of noting Mr. Makholm’s error, the federal appellate judges repeated his false statement.
Mr. Makholm admitted Tampa’s practices were unconstitutional when writing the following:
“. . . the proper and most expeditious way for Dr. ORBAN would be to seek a Mandamus from the Federal Courts to stop what she clearly sees as a violation of her’s and other’s due process rights under the Constitution. Dr. ORBAN should seek to stop the policy of the traffic court of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit in and for Hillsborough County and not the policy of the CITY OF TAMPA Police Department that merely complies with that court’s Order.”
This statement is also untrue since it was not a court “Order,” but rather a memo from Judge Stringer that permitted the practice of submitting crash reports in lieu of the officer attending. Judge Stringer did not mandate the practice, as Mr. Makholm suggests. At all times, the Tampa Police Department could have abided by State law and required officers to appear, instead of submitting crash reports as “secret” evidence. Further, Mr. Makholm is incorrect about Judge Stringer’s memo, as the judge’s memo was qualified by the condition that “provided there is nothing that the officer witnessed that is relevant.” In my case, Officer Bowden witnessed wet pavement, which was relevant at the hearing.
Mr. Makholm also made the following untrue statement:
“Another glaring example of Dr. ORBAN’s playing fast and loose with the truth can be found in onto page 28 of the “APPELLANT’S BRIEF”, where Dr. ORBAN incorrectly represents to this Court that: Even Officer Bowden’s trainee, Officer Duncan, knew about Robinson and its requirements for writing a careless driving citation. . . NOWHERE on those pages, or anywhere else does Ofc. Duncan acknowledge ANYTHING about Robinson v. State. ”
Mr. Makholm is incorrect, as Officer Duncan clearly stated on page 32 of his deposition that he expected my ticket to be dismissed because of Robinson. Further, Mr. Makholm misrepresented that I was untruthful about this.
Another untrue statement by Mr. Makholm is as follows.
“Dr. ORBAN here is requesting Federal intervention to “enjoin” members of a municipal police department essentially, from contacting her (and presumably her husband and other family members who have gotten tickets) in the future. In essence she is requesting a special dispensation, a shield if you will from prospective police investigations/enforcement in the future.”
Mr. Makholm knows that I did not request this, as he attended the first mediation where my Proposed Settlement Agreement was submitted. Instead of explaining my proposal to amend Tampa’s policies to conform with the law, Mr. Makholm suggests I sought something personal and preposterous. Regardless, the appellate judges repeated Mr. Makholm’s false assertion.
Further, Mr. Makholm contends I received the ticket because of “fault,” and then he reviews a case pertaining to fault, absent any mention of probable cause for a traffic ticket. He denies the existence of a ticket quota, despite the evidence affirming otherwise.
Mr. Makholm claims there are “no genuine issues of material fact” and that I engaged in “imaginative assertions of fantastical conspiracies and/or schemes to fund the Tampa Police Officers Pension Fund.” Then, he explains the “scheme” (the one he contends I imagined) was actually “devised by the legislature of the State of Florida and not the CITY OF TAMPA,“ thereby affirming the scheme exists. However, Florida law a) does not permit fraud (fabrications and/or omissions) in traffic ticketing or crash reporting; b) bans the use of crash reports in court; and c) does not prohibit access to an investigating officer’s knowledge of circumstances in court – meaning the Tampa Police Department (and not the Florida legislature) violated these Florida laws.
Mr. Makholm contends my attorney’s Appellant Brief was “insulting” to Judge Merryday, whereas it merely highlighted the judge’s errors and omissions, which are facts. Mr. Makholm made other untrue statements, and repeatedly misspelled Judge Merryday’s first name. It is interesting that attorneys employed by the City of Tampa paid Mr. Makholm to file this brief, rather than personally doing so. I have an “imaginative assertion” about why they did not want to sign this.
Ursula Richardson was an assistant attorney for Tampa and attended Officer Bowden’s deposition, such that she was present when he responded. When asked to amend my crash report, she refused to change the contributing cause, claiming Officer Bowden said he had probable cause for the ticket. However, she was present at his deposition when he said careless driving may not fit the circumstances and that the documentation in minor crashes is created for insurance, as it is unrelated to police work.
R. Lanier Anderson, Susan H. Black and Gerald Bard Tjoflat were the federal appellate judges in my lawsuit. They made statements that were untrue. They stated that I was “guilty of careless driving” although I was never found guilty of anything, including careless driving. This statement seemed malicious, since they know their ruling is a accessible public record and yet they documented that I was convicted of a serious traffic violation, even though it is untrue. They wrote that I said the accident was unavoidable, whereas I actually said Officer Bowden told me he concluded the accident was unavoidable. They wrote that probable cause existed for the ticket, because the officer had “trustworthy information” to believe an offense was committed, which is also untrue. Officer Bowden’s deposition states careless driving may not be an appropriate charge, and that the ticket was documentation for my insurance company. The judges granted summary judgment to Tampa, which is only permitted if disputes about facts do not exist, yet the judges ignored the depositions and affidavits from Tampa police officers that affirmed the perverse policies, meaning my case should have proceeded to a jury trial if the truth were told. The judges concluded that failure to stop in time is careless driving, regardless of circumstances, because an even greater following distance could have been used. They wrote that my due process rights were not violated, because I learned of the false report and its secret submission to court and remedied the matter. However, they are contradicting themselves. If a rear-end crash is always careless driving, then a second hearing would not have been granted, because the accident circumstances would not influence the verdict; but circumstances made a difference. They wrote that Tampa did not require a ticket-at-every-crash, even though affidavits and depositions from Tampa officers and their annual evaluations affirm otherwise. They wrote that I was not entitled to any relief that is not afforded to other citizens – pretending I sought something for myself, rather than policy changes for all.
John Bennett was a Tampa sergeant in 2000, working for the police chief, and is now Tampa’s Assistant Police Chief of Operations. Mr. Bennett blocked every attempt I made to resolve my false reporting complaint in 2000 and 2001. In 2000, I contacted Tampa’s police chief by letter, requesting access to Officer Bowden’s knowledge of the minor accident circumstances. Mr. Bennett responded, denying access to the officer and contending the crash report is correct, which is untrue. Mr. Bennett wrote that a lawsuit would be needed to access the officer’s knowledge of accident circumstances (p. 4). He also revealed that he is uninformed about how motor vehicle safety was advanced in the U.S., as he contended traffic tickets are the established means. In reality, automobile and roadway engineering improvements accounted for the major reduction is traffic crashes and injuries, which reveals law enforcement officers can be misinformed when educated by special interests. When I subsequently made a complaint to Tampa’s Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB) about the officers fabricating the ticket and report, IAB Det. Bert Murray told me Sgt. Bennett instructed them to not investigate my complaint. I then sent a letter asking Tampa’s Mayor Dick Greco to investigate my false police reporting complaint. His staff referred my letter to the police department and Sgt. Bennett advised, by e-mail, that he had addressed my complaint and the mayor need not respond. Nonetheless, in federal court, Mr. Bennett’s affidavit denied that he advised the mayor to not respond to my complaint. His sworn statement is untrue, yet there were no consequences. When the appellate court ordered mediation, I requested that someone from the mayor’s office attend. Instead, the City sent Mr. Bennett. He declined to concede on any issues, recognizing Judge Merryday had fully endorsed the Tampa police policies. The federal mediator told me she asked Mr. Bennett to amend the false entries on the crash report, but he refused to do so.
Edward Bowden was an experienced Tampa patrol officer when he investigated my minor accident. He told me that he considered the accident unavoidable, but his supervisor ordered a ticket issued to me nonetheless, consistent with Tampa police policy. In a subsequent telephone discussion, he told me to inform the judge the ticket did not identify a careless driving action, which is required by Florida case law. Officer Bowden believed the ticket would be dismissed, which he affirmed in his deposition. He told me it was my insurance company that wanted a ticket issued and this practice would continue until someone files a lawsuit against the State of Florida. However, a Florida Department of Law Enforcement supervisor told me that I am alleging fraud by the Tampa police, which State law does not permit, such that the Tampa police practices are the problem. In Officer Bowden’s deposition, he said the tickets and reports written in minor crashes were documentation for the insurance company, because minor accidents are unrelated to police work, as there is no crime. Tampa police policies and Officer Bowden’s deposition affirm my allegations. Their policy makes the supervisor, who does not investigate the crash, the ticket decision-maker, and a ticket at every crash is expected, as evidenced in Officer Bowden’s annual performance statistics – the number of crash investigations exactly equals the number of tickets issued in crash investigations. Officer Bowden’s stated careless driving may not fit my accident circumstances in his deposition. He said it was raining and the pavement was wet, yet Tampa police administrators refused to disclose this on the crash report or permit access to his knowledge of circumstances. After my lawsuit, Tampa police changed their policy in accordance with Officer Bowden’s understanding of the law. Officers are now prohibited from writing tickets and crash reports in minor, non-injury crashes.
Bob Buckhorn was the public safety liaison on the Tampa City Council during my 2000-2001 complaint to the police, and was elected Tampa’s mayor in 2011. In 2001, by e-mail, my husband David asked him to intervene and have my police fraud complaint investigated. Bob responded that he contacted Sgt. John Bennett and was not hopeful that anything would be done. David countered by e-mail that a Florida Department of Law Enforcement special agent suggested Bob could intervene, as the City Council has authority to review police policies for adherence to laws, recognizing my complaint alleged violations of State laws. Bob never responded.
Instead, he seems to do whatever the police want. In 1998, he advanced a City ordinance allowing for vehicles to be confiscated for certain crimes (prostitution, drug dealing), which seems double jeopardy for arrested (not necessarily convicted) persons. An $800 fine must be paid for the vehicle’s return, otherwise it became police property. The ordinance permitted a hearing, but the “rules of evidence” did not apply, suggesting a kangaroo court. Bob also advanced an ordinance requiring strippers to remain six feet from clients when performing lap dances, supposedly to deter transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), even though the local health department director explained that naked strippers cannot transmit STDs to clothed clients. Regardless, his ordinance passed and Tampa officers were paid to engage in “stripper surveillance.” Perhaps this was someone’s fantasy job – being paid to watch strippers, then paid to arrest and handcuff strippers, and ultimately attending court hearings with strippers. Mr. Buckhorn’s two ordinances faced court challenges and disappeared over time. In 2011, Mr. Buckhorn had the police union’s endorsement in the mayoral run-off election – promising no police downsizing and continuing the aggrandized police pension benefit. Once elected, he advanced red-light cameras at the police department’s request, which will increase revenue from fines, along with auto insurance rates for some. Tampa now has the most profitable camera program in Florida, which is achieved be setting short yellow light timings at camera sites to force red light running. Also as mayor, Mr. Buckhorn advanced an ordinance where drivers arrested for certain crimes (prostitution, drug dealing) must pay $500 for the return of their confiscated vehicle – great news for the fine and forfeiture fund, albeit not as good as the “old days” when the price was $800.
Once elected mayor in 2011, he chose a black SUV from the Tampa police forfeiture lot to use as his personal vehicle. This occurred despite a 2010 report titled “Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture” criticizing the Tampa police whereby officials use seized vehicles as personal property (http://ij.org/images/pdf_folder/other_pubs/assetforfeituretoemail.pdf).
Jane Castor was Tampa’s Assistant Police Chief when she attended my first federal court mediation in 2005, and she is now Tampa’s police chief. Before the mediation began, the attorneys left the room and we were alone. She began politely chatting about who she knew at the college where I work. However, I was disgusted with her, as I was spending my own money on a federal lawsuit in an attempt to get her department to abide by State laws and the U.S. Constitution. She then confided that they would settle with me, if they could not get my case dismissed or summary judgment granted. She said they would “never” let this go to court. In other words, it appeared she preferred to continue current practices, unless the police practices would be revealed to a jury and the public. The mediation concluded with the City agreeing to continue mediation, waiting to learn how Judge Merryday would rule on their motions to dismiss or for summary judgment. As police chief, she advanced a red-light camera program, despite Tampa averaging only two red-light running fatalities per year. Her camera program is now the most profitable in the State.
Jeffrey Del Fuoco was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the public corruption unit. He promptly responded when I called in 2002 with my complaint of Tampa police fabricating traffic tickets and crash reports. Mr. Del Fuoco had successfully prosecuted sheriff’s deputies in Florida’s Manatee County and police officers in Plant City who used their official capacity to steal from persons they encountered. I explained Tampa’s policies that lead to fraud in ticketing and crash reporting, which then advance convictions and insurance increases. At the time, I had not yet found the kickback from insurers to the police pension. Mr. Del Fuoco said the circumstances were disturbing and he asked that I forward documentation to support my complaint, which I did. Instead of a response, a newspaper article reported that he was reassigned, and no longer worked in public corruption. News reports later suggested he was pressured out of his job, apparently resigning over what appeared to be retaliation over his Manatee County convictions. He filed a lawsuit in federal court pertaining to this retaliation. Judge Merryday presided over his case and dismissed it, providing a crystal ball into what I could expect from the judge. The timing directly preceded the era under President George W. Bush, when U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez was accused of removing U.S. attorneys who pursued certain public corruption cases. Around the same time, a federal investigation of Tampa’s circuit court (over allegations such as case fixing) that had precipitated the resignation of many local judges was abruptly discontinued. After Mr. Del Fuoco’s resignation, I left messages for the public corruption unit, but never received a response. Within about a year, the U.S. Attorney (Paul Perez) resigned to become an insurance executive. Mr. Del Fuoco then vehemently opposed the nomination of his former supervisor in the public corruption unit (Robert O’Neill) as U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida. Nonetheless, President Obama appointed O’Neill. I share Mr. Del Fuoco’s concerns.
David Duncan was a rookie police officer who wrote my crash report in 2000. By telephone, he told me the report was written “per police policy” and not based on an investigation. I filed a complaint with the Tampa police about this before accessing the report or knowing how it had been used as “secret” evidence in court. Initially, I thought Officer Duncan was ignorant for believing he was supposed to write a report that was not based on the investigation. However, it appears this was Tampa’s policy – write a report to justify issuing the ticket. My crash report was the first Officer Duncan wrote as an officer, and it incorrectly reported most every aspect of the accident circumstances. However, Tampa’s police attorney never required him to correct it, despite State law making it a crime to provide false information on a crash report. The false report was used by my auto insurance company to justify a $3,500 insurance increase, which increased funds to Tampa’s police pension. In his deposition, Officer Duncan reported to recall nothing about the accident, but said he expected the ticket to be dismissed, since it did not identify a careless driving action. Regardless, a subsequent affidavit reported he believed probable cause existed for the careless driving ticket – even though he had already admitted to not remembering the accident. In December 2000, Officer Duncan shot and killed a black teenager who was sitting in a stolen vehicle. The police investigation reveals his account of circumstances was not supported by the physical evidence. Regardless, Tampa’s police attorney concluded this did not matter, since the officer was uninjured.
Dick Greco was Tampa’s mayor when I attempted to resolve my police false reporting complaint in 2000-2001. I sent him two letters requesting an investigation of my false reporting complaint, but never received a response. This occurred because the mayor referred my complaints about the police to the Tampa Police Department, meaning the Tampa police policed themselves. When leaving office in 2003 due to term limits, Mayor Greco had not approved the large pension benefit increase (40 percent) sought by the police and firefighter unions.
Steven Hogue was a retired Tampa police major when Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio appointed him as police chief in 2003. Chief Hogue emphasized tickets and arrests, nearly doubling the number of tickets written annually (despite the number having significantly increased before his arrival) and doubling the number of arrests, while reporting crime was significantly reduced. In 2005, the Tampa police wrote 140,000 tickets and had 50,000 arrests – a total of 190,000 tickets/arrests, despite Tampa’s population being only 320,000. Chief Hogue’s deposition said “real police business” is writing tickets and putting people in jail, which is consistent with perceiving the police as a revenue generating business. Hogue’s affidavit and deposition deny the existence of ticket quotas or ticket-at-every-crash policy, claiming quotas are illegal. However, his deposition affirms they exist. He explained that officers who do not write enough tickets will receive low ratings. Chief Hogue said that some traffic accidents are unavoidable, but the “culpable” driver should still receive a ticket. He believed insurance companies paid the police department to investigate crashes, but expressed uncertainty due to my lawsuit. In 2005, he caused a four-car rear-end crash and received a Following Too Closely ticket, which does not appear on the Clerk of Court’s ticket website. Where did it go? Chief Hogue illustrates the underfunding of Tampa’s police pension. His annual pension was about $45,000 when retiring as a major. Mayor Iorio reinstated him to the pension as Police Chief. When retiring six years later in 2009, his annual pension was $126,000. Assuming he lives 20 years after retirement, this pension benefit increase (relative to the original $45,000 per year) is $1.6 million, yet pension contributions on his behalf during his six years as police chief were meager, which reveals the significant underfunding of the pension increase.
Bennie Holder was Tampa’s police chief in 2000 when I first made my false reporting complaint. With regard to the “extra” pension benefit, a Deputy Chief accused Chief Holder of extortion, alleging the chief was negotiating with the union to be included in the extra pension benefit, in exchange for allowing officers to bid on shifts. The Deputy Chief was subsequently forced to retire. Some officers perceived Chief Holder as promoting those with a checkered past, and not promoting officers with exemplary records. Some of his final promotions support this belief. He promoted an officer who had sex with a 16-year-old and another who kicked in the window of a sheriff’s deputy’s vehicle, where her arrested husband was sitting. Another law enforcement agency said that they would fire officers over such behavior. In 2000, Chief Holder caused a rear-end crash that resulted in more than $3,200 in damages to another vehicle. However, the ticket-at-every-crash policy did not apply to him. Instead, the contributing cause was listed as “other.” He was police chief when the quota systems were advanced. Despite Chief Holder’s reign over the large auto insurance increase in Tampa, he retired a few months before the pension benefit increase occurred. His annual pension is $65,000, whereas his successor receives $126,000.
Pam Iorio was elected Tampa’s mayor in 2003. Her campaign manager told me a judge informed them the Tampa police administration needed a “housecleaning” and, as mayor, she would do so. However, prior to any change, Mayor Iorio allowed Chief Holder to promote the individuals with questionable pasts (for explanation, see: Bennie Holder). While Mayor Iorio ultimately replaced top police administrators, a change in ethics or values did not occur, as persons in lower ranks were merely promoted, e.g., John Bennett and Jane Castor, and the police attorney was not replaced. Ms. Iorio had the fire union’s endorsement and, once elected, she readily supported the 40 percent pension benefit increase sought by the police and fire unions. In 2004, she lobbied legislators for the increase, claiming the City could afford the expense. The legislative analysis estimated the pension increase would require doubling to tripling of employee and City contributions, with employees contributing 12-17 percent of salary and the City paying 16-23 percent. This occurs because the benefit was not prorated, meaning senior officers and firefighters could immediately retire and receive the benefit increase, even though it was not yet funded. This also means young officers and firefighters were expected to subsidize the increase for those nearing retirement. However, a doubling of contribution rates occurred for only two years (2004 and 2005). Then, contribution rates plummeted to 1 or 2 percent, meaning the pension was being underfunded. By the time Mayor Iorio departed office in 2011, she complained about pension costs, never acknowledging her role in the gigantic increase. Mayor Iorio also increased the multiplier on the general City employee pension and reduced the vesting period from 10 to six years. This means a two-term mayor and the high priced administrators, who come and go with a mayor, can receive pensions from the City. Mayor Iorio should be remembered for her significant expansion of pensions in Tampa, creating enormous expense for taxpayers, absent any input from the public.
Jill Marks was a Tampa police captain and head of the Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB) when I made my false police reporting complaint in 2000. After not receiving a response, I contacted the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). An FDLE special agent responded to my call and instructed me to make two written complaints. First, he advised obtaining relevant Tampa police policies and making a written complaint specific to policy violations, such as the policy requiring truthfulness. He advised making a second complaint to the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), which accredits the Tampa Police Department. He said CALEA standards require police departments to investigate all complaints. By not investigating my complaint, the Tampa Police Department had violated CALEA standards. I informed the police department that I was making a complaint to CALEA when requesting the policies. Captain Marks responded with a letter to my revised IAB complaint, stating I had no complaint and that Officer Duncan violated no police policies. This is revealing, since submitting a false report to court for the purpose of influencing the outcome appears to be perjury and a color of law crime – both felonies – yet it does not violate Tampa police policies. Meanwhile, the CALEA site visit of the Tampa Police Department reported my complaint was investigated and the officers were disciplined, which is untrue. Captain Marks later retired while being investigated, as Det. Murray had complained that Marks exhibited favoritism, choosing which complaints would be investigated and which would not, based on the officer involved.
Stephen Merryday was the federal district judge who presided over my lawsuit. He did nothing for nearly a year and then ordered my attorney to rewrite the complaint, at considerable expense to me. He subsequently dismissed count 1, which pertained to being detained, but I never cared about this and did not appeal it. Counts 2 and 3 pertained to malicious prosecution. In requesting summary judgment, City attorneys wrote that I could have been “more careful,” which was their definition of careless. Judge Merryday ultimately granted summary judgment to the City on counts 2 and 3 contending the officer had probable cause to write the ticket, despite Officer Bowden’s deposition suggesting otherwise. Judge Merryday concluded that fault (who pays damages) is synonymous with a traffic violation. In 1965, Ralph Nader explained this as the auto insurance industry’s belief and it is incorrect, since accidents occur for other reasons (automobile or roadway factors). The judge claimed Officer Bowden based the ticket on a court case (Clampitt) that had nothing to do with a traffic ticket, and instead pertained to who was responsible for paying damages. Despite the evidence, he denied the ticket-at-every-crash policy existed, and contended the officers relied on Florida’s rebuttable presumption that the rear driver is at fault. Rebuttable presumption pertains to who pays damages, and who paid damages is inadmissible in a traffic ticket hearing. The judge seemed to be attempting to create a federal court precedent that any rear-end crash is evidence of a traffic violation – very advantageous to the auto insurance industry (especially as they promote red light cameras that increase rear-end crashes). He dismissed Count 4, which pertained to due process violations. He wrote that Officer Bowden said there was no ticket-at-every-crash policy, which is untrue. Judge Merryday again wandered off into rebuttable presumption. He wrote that my losses were limited to contesting the ticket, yet he never disclosed my large insurance increase, which was not refunded because the Tampa police refused to correct the false report. Judge Merryday contended the secret submission of crash reports to court is acceptable, pretending it is lawful for a County judge to send memos to the police informing them they need not abide by State law. It was disappointing that Judge Merryday had no concerns about the constitutionality of submitting “secret” reports to court, some of which are false. Judge Merryday endorsed Tampa’s practices as legal, but “forgot” to mention the kickback between insurance and police pensions.
Robert O’Neill was the head of the public corruption unit in the U.S. Attorney’s office when my false police reporting complaint was made to his office. He is now the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida. In 2002, he supposedly forced the resignation of Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Del Fuoco, who had started to review my false reporting complaint. Subsequently, Mr. O’Neill’s public corruption unit never responded to my calls to them. I doubt public corruption in Tampa will be curtailed under Mr. O’Neill’s watch, as I offered police officers who would disclose Tampa’s corrupt policies, yet there was no follow-up.
Mark Pizzo is a federal magistrate judge and the City of Tampa documented that he is an “interested party” in my lawsuit. Judge Merryday asked him to attend the second hearing in my case, affirming he had some role with my case. After attorneys discussed the case, Judge Merryday requested the magistrate’s opinion, who responded that he saw no merit or substance to my lawsuit. Judge Merryday countered that he had some understanding of the issues. As such, I believe Magistrate Pizzo may have written the rulings that Judge Merryday signed, since he perceived no merit to my case, consistent with the rulings. Further, Judge Merryday presented as a pleasant and polite man, whereas the tone of the rulings is condescending, which seems more consistent with the magistrate’s demeanor at the hearing. Alternatively, many other persons working for the federal court could have written Judge Merryday’s rulings.
Pete Pomponio was a Tampa police sergeant who retired while my lawsuit was ongoing. My attorney said that police officers employed by Tampa could not submit affidavits disclosing Tampa’s perverse police practices, even though many wanted to do so. However, if retired, they no longer work for the City and could submit such an affidavit. When Sgt. Pomponio retired, I contacted him and asked if he would explain Tampa’s ticket-at-every-crash policy and the ticket quota in an affidavit. He did so; however, Judge Merryday and the appellate judges ignored his affidavit. The affidavit explains that new officers are taught to write a ticket at every crash and they will not be accountable before a judge since the report is submitted to court in place of the officer having to appear.
Thomas Stringer was a traffic judge in 1985 when he sent a memo notifying local law enforcement agencies that officers could submit crash reports in lieu of officers appearing to subpoenas for tickets written in crash investigations. His memo copied the State Attorney and a Judge Judy Bucklew, who eventually became a federal district judge and colleague of Judge Merryday. Judge Stinger later became a district appellate court judge and then a felon. The judge had assisted an exotic dancer in hiding her money from the IRS. He used her money to invest in a house in Hawaii, failing to report the money as hers, and was prosecuted for bank fraud after a local newspaper disclosed the dancer’s allegations. A plea deal was negotiated in federal court that resulted in no prison time and a $250 fine for bank fraud – bank fraud at traffic ticket prices! Further, it appears he was allowed to keep the items the dancer alleged he purchased with her money – a Mercedes Benz and Rolex watches – as federal prosecutors did not pursue related charges.
Robert Wagner was a Tampa police corporal and is listed on my crash report as the supervisor who apparently ordered Officer Bowden to write a careless driving ticket that misrepresented an injury and checked the box that “personal checks are not accepted,” even though Tampa police policy does not require this. Officer Bowden told me the supervisor ordered the ticket due to my “characteristics,” which I assume was the termination of the police officer over my first ticket. Corporal Wagner became a Tampa officer in 1985, months prior to the Tampa officer who was terminated over my first ticket from the Tampa police in 1999. Supervisors should know the Tampa police expect a ticket at every crash. Thus, they can order a ticket (careless driving and causing an injury) and know that they will not be investigated by police administrators if a complaint ensues. I found police documentation from an elderly driver who complained that Corporal Wagner had fabricated a ticket to her. The woman claimed to stop at a traffic signal and then turn right on the red light. She alleged the corporal then ticketed her for running a red light. A police administrator followed up and confirmed the woman alleged Wagner was untruthful in charging her with red light running. This concluded the Tampa police investigation – yes, the woman was upset – the end. Tampa officers know there are no consequences, unless police administrators are biased against the officer. The real reason they investigated the officer who wrote my first fabricated ticket is because they had already attempted to fire him.