Feud for Thought

Mike is a DUI attorney with a nose for legal loopholes. Alan is a crusading cop with a jones for drunk drivers. Vendetta, anyone?

But Catalano noticed that his adversary was showing uncharacteristic self-restraint. He did not draw his pistol and leap Errol Flynn-like onto Catalano's vessel. He did not even say a word. There were two other officers on board, and the one driving the boat merely warned the lawyer and his guests to stay out of restricted areas. Catalano was free to go, and he did, but the ease of his escape made him suspicious; he could not help but toss one glance back. What he saw enraged him once again: Davis looked him straight in the eye and blew him a kiss. While Davis now denies the allegation, at least one passenger on Catalano's boat says he witnessed the gesture. "[Davis] had a smirk on his face as he did it," says Mike Hannau. "He looked like a real smart aleck. It was one of those little events that was totally uncalled for."

The kiss never happened in Davis's version. He acknowledged that he was on the boat -- as a certified diver, he had been helping driver Randy Hoff and another officer clear hurricane debris in Gables waterways. They were patrolling when the Matheson Hammock ranger flagged them down and told them about the intruding boat. None of the officers boarded Catalano's boat.

Catalano had escaped. He was traveling south in the Bay, putting distance between himself and his nemesis. After about two nautical miles and no signs that Davis was in pursuit, the lawyer decided to turn his Boston Whaler into one of the southern canals to view hurricane damage to expensive homes there. When they hit a dead end, Catalano and his party headed back to the bay. He almost made it.

Coming toward him, growing not just larger but, in his mind, more threatening, was another Coral Gables police boat with inflatable sides and a fiberglass bottom. Deborah Herbst, one of two police officers on board, jumped over to Catalano's boat and began performing what she termed a routine inspection. But according to Catalano, Herbst's inspection was excruciatingly detailed and drawn out -- she even opened his box of flares and checked the expiration date on each one.

After the incident, Catalano decided another complaint was in order. He discovered that Hoff A while making sure that neither he nor Davis boarded Catalano's boat A had called Herbst on the radio to request that she do so because, they later claimed, they were concerned that Catalano's boat was overcrowded. In an October 7 letter to then Coral Gables Police Chief Charles Skalasky, Catalano accused Davis of yet another instance of harassment and the four other officers of participating in the "set-up." The five law enforcement officials, including Davis, denied the accusation, and in June 1993 the internal affairs investigation exonerated all officers involved.

Michael Catalano has tried again and again to persuade some official in some office to take action against Alan Davis. Virtually all his efforts have failed. Still the tenacious attorney refuses to concede defeat. In his newest legal action, he is attempting to widen the battle to include those ultimately responsible for Davis's actions. His complaint in federal court lists the City of Coral Gables and its police chief, James Butler, as codefendants. The complaint for damages recounts Davis's "active 'campaign' of threats and intimidation tactics against [Catalano]." It alleges that Butler and other officials knew about the campaign yet stood by and did nothing to stop it.

Davis says he's surprised Catalano is still determined to carry on the war. He points out that he has not seen the lawyer in over a year. But he is ready to meet Catalano's legal challenge. "Hey, if that's what he wants, I say let's go for it and let the court decide once and for all who's harassing whom," Davis says.

Catalano, too, wants an end to the ugly affair because, he claims, he's fed up with being pursued. "I've been chased in a car and a boat," Catalano says. "Since I sometimes fly an airplane, I just hope the Coral Gables Police Department doesn't have an air patrol. I drive through the Gables now with my asshole so tight you wouldn't believe it. I'm not kidding. I'm so tired. I've even written to the mayor. He and everyone else over there just laugh at me. They think it's all funny. Maybe they'll be satisfied when [Davis] finally shoots me."

No one expects either Davis or Catalano to resort to armed action, but Dennis Bedard, the assistant state attorney, jokes that one or both combatants is likely to be buried before the hatchet is. "I get the feeling that the only way this will stop is if one of them dies," he says. "Their personalities are such that Davis couldn't have chosen a worse attorney to go pick on and Catalano couldn't have chosen a worse cop.

"In all of Dade County you couldn't have found two people more diametrically opposed -- they were just born to hate each other. If I had been either one of them I would have walked away from this and not let it become the thing driving my life. But then I'm not them -- thank God.

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