January 21, 2019

In the News

2 Miami police sergeants accused of framing fellow officer
 
 
By Glenna Milberg
 

There is a new investigation underway involving a Miami police sergeant who videotaped himself trashing Jewish religious books. Only this time, two other police sergeants are the targets and are accused of plotting to frame their fellow officer.

Copies of texts between the two sergeants show them plotting to concoct and leak the video to ruin Sgt. Roberto Destephan's career. 

Selfie video of Destephan trashing Jewish scriptures was leaked to Local 10 last November, sparking a literal worldwide outcry and fear of an anti-Semitic police officer. 

"Tampering with evidence in order to hurt someone -- that’s pretty significant," said Cristina Beamud, executive director of the Civilian Investigative Panel.

The anonymous complaint to Miami's Civilian Investigative Panel alleges that Miami police Sgt. Max Valdes and Sgt. Justin Garcia doctored and leaked Destephan's years'-old selfie video to influence police union elections last month. 

At face value, a photocopy of the text string is not evidence.

"We would need to authenticate it," Beamud said. 

Miami's police chief is now left with more difficult questions.

"In this case, there's two elements: What the video depicts and then there's the motivation behind who released this and why," Chief Jorge Colina said.   

The attorney who provided the video won't give details. 

John Cunill, himself, resigned from the Miami Police Department 15 years ago after his own drama.

Though Destephan denies any hateful intentions and claimed he was just tossing out old and moldy books, the chief has now served him with termination papers.  

"I wish this never would have happened. But I don't have that option," Colina said. "It has happened and I have to take the action that I think is appropriate, and what I think is best for this police department and the public in general, and the way that they see us and perceive us and the job that we do."

The Miami Fraternal Order of Police's new president and vice president, who are implicated in the CIP complaint, reject the allegations against them, claiming the texts are doctored and they are not taking the accusations seriously.