Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Miami Beach Police Chief Dan Oates declines to be interviewed by Miami New Times because the reporter has already made up his mind...and besides, it's Christmas

Miami Beach Police Chief Dan Oates


What follows is an email Miami Beach Police Chief Dan Oates sent to members of his department explaining why he declined to be interviewed by Miami New Times for a story it's doing on Tasers.

Dear Colleagues,

Please see the dialogue, below. You will see that the New Times is planning an article on use of Tasers by our Department, as well as by other agencies in our area. For reasons expressed in my response to the reporter, I have declined to do the interview.

I don’t expect that the article will be favorable to our Department. As you all know, we are in a business where criticism is often directed our way. This is part of our job and something we have to occasionally deal with.

This email is shared for your information only. My request is that you not release it outside the Department. If any of you have any questions or doubts about how I have handled this response, I encourage you to talk to me about it. No emails, please. Stop by and see me in the office or call Tricia and she’ll arrange for us to talk by phone. Thank you.

Chief Oates


From: Oates, Daniel J.
Sent: Tuesday, December 23, 2014 8:39 AM
Cc: Thayer, Vivian
Subject:Response to Request for Interview

Mr. Miller,

The Miami Beach Police Department will not participate in your offer of an interview for several reasons.

First, the matter of the death of Israel Hernandez is still under review by the State’s Attorney’s office. Until that investigation is complete -- and is followed by a full investigation by my office into any potential policy failures or possible misconduct by the officers involved -- it would be inappropriate to offer any public comment in any forum. This does not diminish my feeling, and that of every officer in my Department, that the death of Mr. Hernandez is a tragedy and that we grieve for his family in their loss.

Second, your email implies that you have already rendered judgment on the Miami Beach Police Department and its use of Tasers. You appear to be less than objective about the subject. So I see no point in responding, given that you have already made up your mind about so many elements of this complex subject.

As with other aspects of my new job here, the matter of the MBPD’s Taser policy and the devices themselves are under review. Having worked in three other departments, and having participated for many years in the national discussion with colleague police chiefs about this particular tool, I will tell you that I have seen great value in the deployment of Tasers during my career. This is obviously true of other police chiefs as well. The majority of modern large police departments issue these devices to their officers. I believe that on the whole, these devices have saved lives and lessened injuries for officers and suspects. If I did not believe this, I would have removed Tasers from Miami Beach police officers when I arrived here in June.

Finally, your request for a response by Friday of this particular week is unreasonable. I believe you know this to be so. While this is not per se a reason to decline further comment, I do object to the artificiality of your “deadline” on a story you have obviously been working on for months. The fact that you give me just a few days during Christmas week to respond to so many questions regarding such a complex topic suggests that you are not serious about gaining my perspective. You appear to be going through the motions of objectivity without actually being objective about this subject.

I will deal with the Israel Hernandez matter as it comes before me, after the decision by the State’s Attorney. I will deal with the further review of our Taser policy as best I can in the days ahead.

I have asked Officer Thayer to collect for you basic statistics on major index crime in Miami Beach for the past 10 years. This information is published on the FBI’s website, but she will try to find it for you as well.

Chief Oates


From: Michael Miller []
Sent: Monday, December 22, 2014 04:06 PM
To: Thayer, Vivian; Rodriguez, Nannette; Yarbough, Julia; Berthier, Melissa
Subject: Urgent request for comment - Miami New Times article on Taser use by MBPD officers

Good afternoon. I'm a reporter for the Miami New Times. My newspaper is publishing an investigation into Taser use by Miami, Miami-Dade, and Miami Beach police officers. I have several questions for your department, listed below. Please provide answers to these by Friday, Dec. 26 at noon. I know this is a holiday week but that is my deadline. Thank you for your assistance.

According to records provided by your department, Miami Beach Police have used their Tasers more than 584 times in the past eight years. At least one person – 18-year-old Israel Hernandez – has died from being Tasered by a MBPD officer.

Is Chief Oates concerned that his officers are overusing their Tasers?

There is mounting evidence that Taser use can be deadly, even if the suspect is completely healthy. Hernandez was the first person in Florida whose death has officially been attributed to Taser use.

Is your department concerned about the potentially deadly effects of Tasers? Does your department consider Tasers “non-lethal”? Or “less lethal”?

Recently, an outside audit recommended that MBPD call its Tasers “less lethal” and limit some uses of the weapons. Has your department followed these recommendations? Why or why not?

My investigation has found multiple instances in which Miami Beach Police appear to have misused their Tasers. In addition to the case of Israel Hernandez, I mention two other worrying incidents involving MBPD officers and Taser use.

On Thanksgiving weekend of last year, Miami Beach officer Enrique Rios spotted a homeless man named Michael Franks on Lincoln Road, asking passersby for change. When Rios told him to get lost, Franks insulted the officer. When Franks refused to let himself get handcuffed, Rios “was forced to drive-stun the defendant for approximately three separate cycles in order to gain the defendant’s compliance.”

Does MBPD allow its officers to Taser suspects simply to obtain compliance with an officer's orders? Franks was neither fleeing nor physically threatening the officers.

New Times has also found other instances of homeless men being Tased by Miami Beach police for misdemeanors such as refusing to pay for a $13 meal.

Does Chief Oates believe these are appropriate uses of a potentially deadly weapon?

This January, Miami Beach Police tased a young man for skateboarding. Thadeus Duval, 23, and five friends were filming a music video in the parking lot of Nautilus Middle School after midnight during Christmas break when officer Steven Cosner arrived. Duval told the cop to leave them alone and that all they were doing was skating. Then he said he lived a block away and started walking home.

“I was outnumbered 6 to 1,” Cosner wrote in his report. “I had to step up my presence and yelled at [Duval] to put his hands on the car.” The cop pulled out his Taser and pointed it at the skateboarder, then called for backup. Duval obeyed and put his hands on the car. But when cops tried to handcuff him he took off running. That's when Cosner hit him with the Taser.

Duval hit his head on the ground. He was treated by paramedics, then arrested for trespassing and resisting arrest without violence. There was no sign of vandalism or a break-in at the school. Both charges were quickly dropped.

“It was really outrageous,” says Adrian Garcia, who was there that night. “The cop acted very aggressively.”

Was Officer Cosner disciplined for this use of force? If he wasn't, why not?

Does Chief Oates believe these two cases reflect appropriate and reasonable uses of potentially deadly weapons?

My investigation has also found other incidents in which the homeless and/or mentally ill were Tased by Miami Beach Police for minor, non-violent offenses. Is your department using excessive force against these most vulnerable Miamians?

In the case of Israel Hernandez, his family has accused MBPD of using “unnecessary, excessive and unconstitutional force.” MBPD officers “had no reasonable basis to fear for their own safety or the safety of the public” and no reason to suspect that the unarmed teen was “a danger to them or anyone else,” according to the family's lawsuit. Please comment on this incident. Is it a reflection that MBPD officers too quickly use their Tasers?

Many civil rights groups have called on police departments to only use Tasers in life-threatening situations. Is Miami Beach Police in favor of this policy change? Why or why not?

Given that police-involved shootings have gone up in Miami since the introduction of Tasers (your department has not made Miami Beach numbers available yet), have these weapons proven to be a failure? If they don't reduce fatal police-involved shootings, why does MBPD continue to use them?

Finally, please provide statistics on Miami Beach crime rates in the past five or ten years. Has crime and violent crime fallen during this period? If so, by how much?

Thank you for your assistance. I want to be sure to provide the City of Miami Beach and MBPD with ample opportunity to comment for this article. My deadline is this Friday by noon.

Michael E. Miller
Senior Writer
Miami New Times
(305) 571 7544

Nine boys and young men were shot in Miami last night, but because the shooting didn't happen in Coral Gables....


Here are two tweets I sent out Monday evening....


....and here's the story as it appears on page 3B in this morning's Miami Herald...just as I predicted.

Miami Herald, Dec. 23, 2014,
page 3B.


Earlier on Random Pixels: Question for Miami Herald staffers...

'We are unglued' - Miami Herald continues to treat some South Florida neighborhoods as though they don't exist

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Marco Rubio has a selective memory when he talks about Cuban terrorism

LIFE Magazine, Dec. 10, 1971.


In 1971 - the same year U.S. Senator Marco Rubio was born - LIFE magazine published a piece that highlighted the successes of newly-arrived Cubans in Miami.

At a rate unprecedented among America's major immigrant groups, the 350,000 Cubans in the Miami area have transformed themselves into a thriving prosperous community. They comprise a fourth of the area's population, and their average income has risen to a healthy $8,000 for each family. More than half own their own houses, and they pump a total of $600 million a year into the local economy. Cubans own more than one out of three retail businesses in the city, and have created 6,000 new ones.

The Cuban presence is everywhere in Miami. Much of the city today looks, smells and sounds like Havana...
Today many Cubans still talk wistfully of returning to their homeland. But it is doubtful that many would return if they had a chance.

Marco Rubio is understandably proud of his Cuban roots.

In 2011, the Washington Post reported his parents "came to the United States and were admitted for permanent residence more than two-and-a-half years before Castro’s forces overthrew the Cuban government and took power on New Year’s Day 1959."

However, on his website, Rubio says he "was born in Miami to Cuban-born parents who came to America following Fidel Castro's takeover." [Emphasis mine.]

Rubio told the Miami Herald's Marc Caputo, “I didn’t lie about the date. I wasn’t aware of it.”

In his recollection of history, Rubio tends leave out the parts that don't fit his narrative.

Perhaps that accounts for Rubio's memory lapse last Wednesday, when, in reacting to President Barack Obama's decision to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, the Senator said this: "Cuba, like Syria, Iran, and Sudan, remains a state sponsor of terrorism."

And what Rubio leaves out in his recounting of the Cuban-American success story in Miami, is the ugly and violent side of the saga.

The fact is that while many newly-arrived Cubans were building new lives and fortunes in Miami, some were engaging in terrorism that kept the city on edge for almost three decades.

In an article posted Friday on Foreign Policy magazine's website, journalist Tristram Korten writes:
For decades, Miami has been a city with its own foreign policy. Local politicians could not get elected unless they towed the anti-Castro line, and their complicity enabled a violent history. Since the 1970s, there have been more than 30 bombings in and around Miami, against individuals and press outlets that dared to broach the subject of rapprochement, not to mention death threats and physical assaults. Too often, it seemed, those pushing for freedom in Cuba were willing to suspend them here. As a result, civic life, the free exchange of ideas, art, all suffered.


Miami News, Oct. 19, 1960.

Miami News, Nov. 20, 1962. 

Miami News, June 11, 1965. 

Miami News, April 2, 1966. 

Miami News, Sept. 16, 1968. 

Miami News, Sept. 19, 1968. 

Miami News, May 29, 1974. 

Miami News, Oct. 20, 1975.

Miami News, Oct. 31, 1975.

Miami News, Dec. 4, 1975.

Miami News, May 1, 1976.

Miami News, Sept. 19, 1977.

Miami News, Feb. 24, 1978.

Miami News, Jan. 14, 1980.

Miami News, Jan. 5, 1981. 

Miami News, Jan. 5, 1981.

Miami News, Sept.12, 1981.

Miami News, Feb. 22, 1982.

Miami News, May 28, 1983.

Miami News, Feb. 21, 1984.

Note to Senator Rubio: Next time you want to use history to make a point, why not include all of it?

Friday, December 19, 2014

15 members of Brooklyn's GS9 street gang arrested and charged with murder and other 'non-fatal shootings' including an October drive-by shooting on Ocean Drive

Alex Crandon.


Alex Crandon, a 20 year-old Brooklyn man who was arrested and jailed briefly following an October drive-by shooting on Ocean Drive, is one of 15 members of the Brooklyn-based street gang GS9 who were arrested by the NYPD on Wednesday and charged with a slew of crimes including murder, assault, conspiracy, weapons and narcotics crimes.

An October Miami Beach police arrest report says that Crandon, and 22 year-old Dimitri Mara Bastien, were stopped by Miami Beach police in the 1500 block of Washington Ave. because the 2014 Nissan Altima they were riding in matched the description of a vehicle wanted in connection with the shooting at Fat Tuesday.

Crandon was arrested for knowingly driving with a suspended license, and Bastien was arrested for marijuana possession and possession of counterfeit currency.

Charges against Bastien are winding their way through the court system, but a search of the Miami-Dade Clerk of the Courts website turns up nothing on Crandon.

At the time I wrote that "police believe that Bastien and Crandon were involved in some way with the drive-by shooting, but aren't being specific. At this point they have not been charged with the shooting."

Following the shooting at Fat Tuesday, Miami Beach police immediately linked the GS9 gang to the shooting but apparently weren't able to make a connection between Crandon and the Brooklyn-based gang.


From the Washington Post:
For Bobby Shmurda — the baby-faced, 20-year-old hip-hop artist arrested in a drug trafficking sting this week — life allegedly seems to have imitated art all too closely. On Thursday, Shmurda, born Ackquille Pollard, and more than a dozen others were charged in a 69-count indictment that included murder, attempted murder, dealing drugs, weapons possession and a list of other crimes in connection with a long-term investigation into shootings and narcotics dealing in Brooklyn.
The investigation allegedly turned up 21 guns. One was allegedly a handgun concealed in a duffle bag on Shmurda’s lap when police arrested him in a car outside Quad Recording — the same studio in Manhattan where Tupac Shakur was shot in 1994. A second gun and a small amount of crack cocaine were also allegedly found in the car.

The two members of the group charged with murder, Alex “A-Rod” Crandon and Rashid “Rasha” Derissant, are accused of killing a member of rival gang, “Brooklyn’s Most Wanted,” on Feb. 8, 2013, outside a Brooklyn bodega.

Shmurda, meanwhile, is accused of firing shots at a crowd outside a barbershop in Brooklyn early this year, and of being present when shots were fired during a confrontation with a rival gang outside a courthouse in January. His friends allegedly had a habit of firing wildly into crowds, prompting bystanders at nightclubs in New York City and Miami to run for cover on multiple occasions.

From a Dec. 18 press release from the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York:

15 Members of “GS9” Gang Indicted and Arrested: 21 Firearms Seized

Indictment charges Murder, Assault, Conspiracy, Weapons and Narcotics Crimes

BRIDGET G. BRENNAN, New York City’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor, New York City Police Commissioner WILLIAM J. BRATTON and Brooklyn District Attorney KENNETH P. THOMPSON announced today the arrest and indictment of 15 members of “GS9”, also known as “G Stone Crips,” a street gang based in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. As charged in the indictment, members of GS9 engaged in violent disputes with rival gangs, committed murder and carried out numerous non-fatal shootings. GS9 members are also charged in multiple instances of gunfire in public locations in which no one was shot in both New York City and Miami, Fla. Twelve indicted defendants are charged with narcotics trafficking and using the proceeds to further the criminal activities of the gang.

The 69-count indictment contains charges of Conspiracy and substantive charges of Murder, Attempted Murder, Assault, Attempted Assault, Weapons Possession, Criminal Use of a Firearm, Reckless Endangerment, Narcotics Sales and Criminally Using Drug Paraphernalia.

Police seized 21 guns during the course of the long-term investigation, which was conducted by New York City Police Department’s (NYPD) Brooklyn South Violence Reduction Task Force and the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Narcotics Gang Unit, with assistance from the Kings County District Attorney’s Office.

Innocent Bystander Shooting, July 12, 2014: 128 East 52nd Street, Brooklyn

On July 12, 2014, a 22-year-old woman bystander was shot in the neck outside 128 East 52nd Street in Brooklyn. The investigation revealed that a member of BMW who was the intended target had been standing near her. The investigation revealed that RASHID DERRISANT and ALEX CRANDON ran up the street firing multiple rounds. DERRISANT is also charged with mistakenly shooting CRANDON in the arm during this incident.

The indictment charges DERRISANT, CRANDON, BRIAN HARVEY, aka “Meeshie” and DESHAIN COCKETT, aka “D-Boy”, aka “Larry Bird,” aka “Mitch”, with Attempted Murder in the Second Degree, Assault in the First and Second Degrees and other crimes in connection with the July 12, 2014 shooting 
Shots fired outside nightclubs: Miami and New York

On October 11, 2014, the indictment charges that RASHID DERISSANT and other GS9 members brought their dispute to Miami where they spotted a rival Brooklyn gang member near the club Fat Tuesdays on Ocean Drive in South Beach. DERISSANT fired shots through a window of the club. Video captured the mayhem that ensued as the large crowd of people in front of the club ran and ducked for cover. However, no one was shot.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Grading the Miami media's coverage of the Alan Gross story: The good, the bad and the ugly

The good...

There's probably no one in Miami more qualified to anchor coverage of an important story like a thaw in U.S/Cuba relations than Local 10's Michael Putney. He's covered thousands of stories in this town in his almost 40 years as a journalist. Channel 10 hit it out of the park by tapping Putney to anchor the station's coverage of the Gross story. Kudos also to WPLG for sticking with the story past 1 p.m. while other stations went back to regular programming.


The bad...

This morning, all those recent staff cuts at the Miami Herald came back to bite the paper in the ass. Miami's newspaper of record was slow out of the gate in its coverage of a story it should have owned.

The Herald's first mention of Gross' release was in a tweet sent out shortly before 9 a.m. that was based on information from "multiple outlets." Embarrassing.

Sometime after 9 a.m., the paper finally posted a three-paragraph wire service story that stayed on the Herald's website until well past 10 a.m.

A retired Herald editor emailed this to a former colleague:
What a sad commentary that Cuba news explodes and the Herald knew nothing about it ... And has to quote other media reports even now because it can't independently confirm. The Herald should own this story. Breaks my heart.

It appears that ABC News was first with the story just before 9 .a.m. with this report from Jim Avila in Miami that aired on Good Morning America.

ABC News Video


The ugly...

The Herald also gets a failing grade for posting a picture with one of its stories of Cuban douchebag Miguel Saavedra and his band of idiots. This guy is an amateur agitator who represents no one but himself. Posting a picture of this moron adds nothing to anyone's understanding of a complex and important story.

Miguel Saavedra, center, at the Versailles Wednesday morning.
(Miami Herald photo)

Sadly, it's my duty to report that while Local 10 bested everyone by putting Michael Putney in the anchor chair for this story, someone at the station screwed up big time by deciding it was a good idea to pair Miami's most experienced political reporter with the station's early morning dim-witted Traffic Twinkie, Constance Jones.

Jones looked out of her element sitting next to Putney. A fact that was made abundantly clear anytime she opened her mouth.

During one segment with Putney and Local 10's Cuban-American anchor Victor Oquendo, Jones sat by silently, staring off into space and nodding like some kind of tarted-up bobble head doll.

Jones' contribution to the discussion comes at 1:12 and 1:14 on the video below when she utters the word "wow."

That's insightful, Constance. But Christiane Amanpour you're not.

Perhaps your bosses should have you stick to taking and posting stupid selfies and let the grown-ups handle the important stories.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Question for Miami Herald staffers...

Here's a question for any Miami Herald staffer who cares to answer: Who in the hell is in charge over there in Doral? And when did the Herald stop covering news? 

I ask that because for the past month and a half I've been reading the print edition of the paper...something I haven't done in almost 15 years.

But after holding the print product in my hand for the entire month of November and part of December, I'm not at all surprised that subscribers are abandoning the paper in droves.

Sunday night, five people were wounded after someone fired shots from a Chevy SUV into the courtyard of an Overtown apartment building. Sunday's shooting was just the latest incident in the ongoing orgy of violence that continues to plague the Overtown/Liberty City neighborhoods.

Herald editors gave the story three paragraphs on page 3B.

Chuck Rabin's online version of the story made mention of three other shootings that have taken place since 2012 that have left four dead and dozens wounded. But that information was edited out of the story that appeared in print.

Miami Herald, Dec. 16, 2014. 

So what story did Herald editors decide was more important than one of heavily-armed thugs continuing to hold a neighborhood hostage? Some idiotic nonsense on the most popular Google searches performed by Miamians in 2014.

Also relegated to the inside pages of Tuesday's Herald, was the horrific story of seven men arrested for allegedly kidnapping a 16-year-old schoolgirl and forcing her to take drugs and have sex with as many as 16 men over the course of a week.

Of course, had the 16-year-old rape victim been a student at Ransom Everglades, the story would almost certainly have been treated with a little more urgency and given more prominent play.


Earlier on Random Pixels: 'We are unglued' - Miami Herald continues to treat some South Florida neighborhoods as though they don't exist

And what story did Herald editors decide was more important than the kidnapping and repeated gang-rape of a 16-year-old schoolgirl?

This crap....fluff...

Miami Herald, Dec. 16, 2014, page 1A.

But by now, long-time readers of the Herald have grown accustomed to skimpy, or non-existent coverage of certain kinds of stories. And things are bound to get worse.

Over the past few months no fewer than 9 long-time staffers, most with decades of experience, have either retired or taken buyouts.

One staffer - a photographer with more than 30 years of service - was fired under mysterious circumstances.

Reporter Ina Cordle - a 20 year Herald veteran - is leaving the paper's skeletal business staff to join The Real Deal, a real estate website. Her last day at the paper is December 26.

Cammy Clark, the Herald's long-time Key West bureau chief lost her job after her position was eliminated.

For coverage of Keys news, the Herald will now rely on dispatches from the weekly Florida Keys Reporter, and twice-weekly Keynoter.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Michel du Cille | 1956-2014

Photograph by Michel du Cille / Miami Herald (1987)

"A man looks through a broken window of an empty apartment. 

Unoccupied apartments became the crack den for many of the addicts 
at the apartment complex turned crack cocaine supermarket 
on the corner of Northeast Second Avenue and 71st Street. "
Via the Miami Herald. 


From the Boca Raton News, Oct. 6, 1986
(Click to enlarge.)


Every profession has its giants....those who set the standards for all the rest. In photojournalism, that person was former Miami Herald photographer Michel du Cille. Thursday night, his friends and colleagues learned that Michel - a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner - died of an apparent heart attack while covering the Ebola crisis in Liberia for the Washington Post.


Michel du Cille, Post photojournalist who won Pulitzer three times, dies at 58


Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The way we were...police horse gets the boot because of 'bad attitude'

Miami News, Dec. 4, 1984.

30 years ago this week the Miami News reported that Travelin Gambler, a 10 year-old Appaloosa assigned to the Metro Police Department's mounted patrol unit, was being kicked off the force after just two years of service.

In a memo to Metro commissioners, County Manager Merrett Stierheim wrote that the horse had "developed behavioral problems and has become very aggressive and uncontrollable, unseating riders."


Friday, November 28, 2014

'We are unglued' - Miami Herald continues to treat some South Florida neighborhoods as though they don't exist


Last August, after seven teenagers walked through an open door and gave themselves a self-guided tour at the multi-million dollar Coral Gables home of former Miami Heat star Ray Allen, the Miami Herald published no fewer than seven stories on the incident.

The highlight of the paper's Pulitzer-worthy package of stories was an insightful column by the Herald's Crotchety-Old-Lady-in-Residence, Fabiola Santiago.

And just last month, the Herald ran a 2,000 word piece on the rise in the number of burglaries in Coral Gables.

“You don’t feel safe in your home. We decided to live in Coral Gables because it’s safe. But the minute you start feeling insecure in your home, that’s where it all changes,” PR executive and lobbyist Freddy Balsera told the Herald.

The Herald does an excellent job of covering Coral Gables, because that's where its moneyed readers live. And it's probably just a coincidence, but the Herald's publisher, Alexandra Villoch, also lives in Coral Gables in a very nice 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom, 2,000 sq. ft. home that's a million miles away from some of Miami's grittier neighborhoods.

And maybe that explains why when it comes to covering some of those gritty, impoverished South Florida neighborhoods, the Herald continues to come up short.

What follows are a series of text messages sent earlier this week by a Herald editor to former colleagues.
"We are now copying even the most basic stories from CBS4."

"A mother is killed and we lost the ability to do our own story. We are unglued."

"We scour CBS4 for stories we miss and lift them."

"If victim had lived in Coral Gables it would have been on front page."

"Mother of 3 gunned down -- dead -- no apparent ties to anything nefarious, works 9/5 and she's just another inner city killing."

"An 8am home invasion and a mother of 3 is executed and [we] cannot muster a team of reporters."

Miami Herald, Nov. 26, 2014, page 3B.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Miami Beach Commissioner who bent the rules so he could to apply to become a cop, has withdrawn his application

Miami Beach Commissioner Ed Tobin
has dreamed of becoming a cop
since he was knee-high to a grasshopper.
Less than a month after Miami Beach commissioners voted unanimously to grant fellow commissioner Ed "Mad Dog" Tobin a waiver that allowed him to bypass a city rule and apply to become a Miami Beach cop, his lifelong dream of wearing a badge and gun has crashed and burned.

The Miami Herald's Joey Flechas reports today that the 53 year-old Tobin has withdrawn his application to become a police officer.

Tobin told Flechas that he made the decision “in the best interest of me and my family.”

But Random Pixels has learned from a high-level City Hall source that Tobin's application never made it past first base.

Last week, Tobin appeared before an oral board that's the first part of the police department's screening process designed to weed out and eliminate unfit candidates. My source tells me that Tobin incorrectly answered an important question relating to ethics.

A few hours after his appearance before the board - and in what sources term a highly unusual move - Tobin got a phone call from Miami Beach Police Chief Dan Oates who informed him that his application was dead in the water.

My City Hall source tells me that after receiving the bad news, Tobin decided to withdraw his application rather than risk the embarrassment of being rejected by the department as unfit.

Last year the Miami Herald reported that a Miami Beach police major filed an ethics complaint against Tobin.
A Miami Beach police major who was wrapped up in a politically-charged internal affairs probe has filed an ethics complaint against City Commissioner Ed Tobin.

Maj. Angel Vazquez claims that Tobin used his political office to influence hirings and firings of a police chief and city manager, as well as two police recruits.

Tobin denies the allegations and said Vazquez is just a disgruntled employee.

Vazquez’s complaint to the Miami-Dade ethics commission, says that Tobin “used his official position to influence and secure special privileges” for a friend who was being considered for Miami Beach’s chief of police job. The friend was former Bal Harbour Police Chief Tom Hunker, who was later fired from that city as the U.S. Department of Justice investigates questionable spending of millions of dollars confiscated by Bal Harbour from drug dealers and money launderers. [Vazquez's complaint was eventually dismissed.]
By withdrawing his application, Tobin can apply again at a future date. His term as commissioner expires next year.

Last month Miami New Times reported that "it's been [Tobin's] dream to be a cop since was a kid."
Miami Beach Commissioner
Ed "Mad Dog" Tobin.
From the age of 13 to 18, [New Times reported] he was a Miami Beach Police Explorer, a kind of traineeship facilitated by the Boy Scouts. As part of the program, Tobin did community service and tagged along on midnight patrols with officers.

"I was in uniform," Tobin says. "And we were trained -- we would use the radio, and a lot of times they would let us drive."
If he's hired, Tobin says, he'll give up his commissioner benefits and start as an entry-level policeman, just like anyone else would.

"Just wait till you see," he says. "I'm going to be great at it."
So what's Tobin's next move?

He told the Herald's Flechas, "I have something else I’m looking into, which I can’t get into.”

Monday, November 24, 2014

The way we were...'Little blonde girl lawyer' in 'sweaters and tight skirts' puts hoods in jail

Miami News, Nov. 4, 1962.


Girl Puts Hoods in Jail

by Miller Davis
Reporter of the Miami News

A little blonde with a tough mind is helping State Attorney Richard Gerstein send bad people to jail.

Assistant prosecutor Ellen Morphonios ... is 105 pounds of bad news to women who get in trouble...

"Most jurors melt under her tender gaze," says one of Miami's top criminal lawyers who has several clients behind bars, courtesy of perky Ellen.

Adds the same attorney ruefully, "and in a good old-fashioned cat fight between Ellen and a lady defendant, the defendant usually leaves the witness stand with tears and mascara dripping down her face."

Almost every weekday Mrs. Morphonios stands in front of Judge Jack Falk's bench, hands on hips, tapping a high-heeled pump, and her voice is as warm and gentle as a Minnesota frost.


Born on the outer banks of North Carolina, Ellen grew up to a pleasant-looking 35-22-37 and came to Miami with a high school education, a legal pad and pencil, and a fierce interest in the law.

She served as a legal secretary for seven years for veteran Miami attorney Roscoe Brunstetter and used her natural endowments profitably as a part-time photographers' model.

But pride gleams in her blue eyes, as she recalls that she was admitted to the bar on a Thursday in 1957 and tried her first law case the next day before the Florida Supreme Court...

Gerstein named her an assistant in 1961, and her batting average for successful prosecutions is 94.1 per cent.

Sweaters and tight skirts help in some cases, claims prosecutor Morphonios, and then there are times when a girl lawyer comes to court in something demure.

"It's a simple matter of when and how you want to distract somebody," she noted, with the matter-of-factness of an infantry officer sizing up a battlefield.


"Right now I'm happy...I think I'm doing a man's job..."

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Key West 'True Crime' writer gets a little too involved with true crime in Key West

Terry Schmida
Booking photo.
Terry Schmida is a reporter at the Key West Citizen newspaper where he covers education and social services.

Schmida tured 45 on Friday, and apparently decided to cap off a night of celebration by stopping in at the Denny's on Duval Street in Key West.

Larry Kahn of KeysInfoNet has the story:
A Key West Citizen reporter skipped out on his meal tab and tried to run a restaurant manager over with his car early Saturday morning, Key West police say.

Terry Schmida .... turned 45 on Friday. [...] He remained in the Keys jail early Saturday with no bond allowed.

Schmida posed for a gag photo at the old
Monroe County Jail in Key West in 2005.
Via Facebook.
(Click image to enlarge)
According to a report from Key West police officer Michael Diaz, Schmida was at the Denny's at 925 Duval St. When it came time to pay his $9.23 bill around 2 a.m., all he could produce was a stack of his business cards and a $5 bill. He told manager Nicole Estep he would go to his car, a white Toyota, to get money.

She and another employee went outside, as well. That's when Schmida decided to drive away, Diaz wrote. He allegedly accelerated his car with Estep in front of him, forcing her onto the hood. Then he took off, with Estep left on the ground.

But the story doesn't end there.

The cops eventually caught up with Schmida and arrested him. He's been charged him with "felony aggravated assault ... misdemeanor drunk driving and theft."

Kahn also reports that officers at the jail pepper-sprayed and Tased Schmida because he was "noncompliant."

By the way, Schmida is also the author of a trilogy of books appropriately titled "True Crime Stories of Key West and the Florida Keys."

_______ Citizen writer arrested

Thursday, November 20, 2014

What's killing the alligators of the Florida Everglades?

Via CBS News:
Alligators have thrived in the Florida Everglades for years, but scientists studying their population are now finding fewer and smaller gators.

"The best of them are skinny," said Frank Mazzotti, a wildlife ecologist with the University of Florida. "They weigh maybe 80 percent of what an alligator should weigh, but what is of greater concern to us is the proportion of alligators that are emaciated."

A classic Don Wright cartoon from 30 years ago...

From the Miami News, Nov. 21, 1984.

Click image to enlarge.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Drone footage of snowstorm in West Seneca, NY

Why we live in Florida.....

Video by James Grimaldi.

A Random Pixels investigation reveals that an 8-week-old kitten is more popular than Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine

It's been two weeks since Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine gave his State of the City address. One of my Facebook friends called it an "over the (big) top State of the City Broadway production."

Here in the Random Pixels newsroom, we were impressed by the mayor's ability to transform a usually dull affair into something resembling a Presidential inauguration, Papal Coronation and Heisman Trophy ceremony, all rolled into one spectacular, self-aggrandizing, dull affair.

But the mayor is worried that some may have missed it.

In the two weeks since he gave the speech, he's been promoting it ad nauseam on social media.

He's even paid for an ad that's running on the state's most widely-read political blog, SaintPetersBlog.

Click to enlarge. 

But despite all that promotion, the mayor's speech has been viewed just slightly more than 1,700 times.

By comparison, a YouTube video posted just two days ago of a tiny kitten battling its reflection in a mirror has been viewed more than 80,000 times.

This kitten is infinitely more popular than Miami Beach
Mayor Philip Levine. 

But back to the speech. At about 17 minutes into his 45 minute snooze-fest, the mayor talks about the city's search for a new police chief with "ability and an enviable record."

"We found those qualities in Chief Dan Oates, who only five months into the job, is already making a difference and you can feel it," the mayor said.

Last April, Levine was quoted as saying, "We believe that a culture of excellence should be in every [city] department head and Police Chief Dan Oates exemplifies that."

But if I had one wish, it would be to listen in on the conversation that Mayor Levine is almost certain to have very soon with his "world-class" police chief.

While the mayor was concluding his trip to Israel, someone broke into a house on Sunset Island.

The burglary might have gone unnoticed except for the fact that it occurred just two blocks from the mayor's house.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall when the mayor has that talk with the chief.