> Sat, Dec. 20, 2003
> FREE TRADE MEETING
> Judge: I saw police commit felonies
> A judge who said he witnessed some of the anti-free trade
> protests complains in open court about how police handled
> the demonstrations.
> By AMY DRISCOLL
> mailto:[email protected]
> 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.
> Judge Richard Margolius, 60, made the remarks in open court
> last week, saying he was taken aback by what he witnessed
> while attending the protests.
> "Pretty 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."
> In 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.
> "I 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.
> CIRCUIT JUDGE
> Margolius, 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.
> On Friday, he chose not to elaborate on the remarks he made
> from the bench Dec. 11.
> "I 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 court."
> The 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.
> Angel 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."
> Nelda 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.
> Margolius 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.
> RESISTING ARREST
> Kilroy 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.
> During 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?"
> None, the prosecutor replied.
> "None?" asked the judge. "Pretty sad commentary. At least
> from what I saw."
> The judge also wondered aloud how much the "whole episode"
> had cost taxpayers.
> "I know one thing. There were police officers from every
> agency -- I couldn't believe the sheer numbers," he said.
> Laurel Ripple, a protester who was arrested and is working
> with MAD, said she was in the courtroom during Margolius'
> "I'm 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."
> The 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.
> Two 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.
> A Miami police spokeswoman said officers were instructed to
> make arrests only as necessary.
> MIAMI POLICE
> "We 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.
> "In 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."
> During Margolius' informal speech, he noted that he couldn't
> recognize officers because "everybody had riot gear on."
> "I hope the state has the good, common sense to deal with
> these cases in an appropriate manner, with an eye on
> justice," he added.
> Herald staff writer Charles Rabin contributed to this report.