Behind the Badge

Danny Felton was a decorated cop and local hero. Then drug dealer Marvin Griffin showed up.

"All right," Felton says.
Griffin later told an FBI agent he never intended to pay Felton for the drugs. He planned to rip off his partner.

The next day at a north Miami-Dade flea market Felton gave Griffin a gym bag with six kilograms of flour tightly wrapped in plastic, according to court documents from Griffin's trial. Griffin promised to deliver the money as soon as possible. After they parted, police and federal agents swarmed over Griffin, cuffed him, and loaded him into a car. In the chaos, Griffin managed to wriggle free, open the the door, and disappear.

The feds didn't immediately issue an arrest warrant for Griffin because they wanted him to work as an informant, law enforcement sources says. The investigators believed other police officers were involved in the same scam. Griffin met with the FBI once, then backed out of another appointment. The feds got a warrant.

On October 25, 1997, more than two and a half years after Griffin's escape, a Miami-Dade patrol car pulled a car over on NW 28th Place for an improper lane change. Griffin was a passenger. He gave police a fake name, Ken St. Rifle, and said he was in town from Georgia to buy a car. Police found $9204 in cash in his pockets. At police headquarters, officers took fingerprints and discovered his identity, according to the arrest report. He was charged with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, as a result of the flea-market affair.

Though the feds tried to persuade Griffin to work as an informant even after he was charged, negotiations were unsuccessful, court sources say. The reason is unclear. Either Griffin couldn't implicate other officers or the feds were unwilling to cut a deal acceptable to Griffin and his attorney, Jon May.

After a career hustling the hustlers, Griffin himself had been hustled.
The trial was held in U.S. District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro-Benages's third-floor courtroom in the downtown federal courthouse. It lasted a week. FBI agents testified, a bureau videotape of Griffin meeting Felton in a parking lot was shown, and transcripts of the pair's other meetings were read. But prosecutors never called Felton to the witness stand. Perhaps prosecutor Tom Mulvihill thought the ex-cop's testimony was unnecessary. Or maybe Mulvihill was concerned about the FBI's alleged promise not to prosecute Felton.

May argued that the government improperly enticed Griffin with sham drugs. Mulvihill countered that Griffin believed he was receiving cocaine and was willing to sell it. The jury returned a guilty verdict. After this Friday's sentencing Marvin Griffin will likely spend the rest of his productive life behind bars.

Felton's alleged crimes weren't mentioned in his personnel file because the FBI hoped to snare other officers, say police sources. That file is available to the public. He resigned May 5, 1995. Less than a year later, in January 1996, he got a mortgage broker's license.

Felton's father Willie didn't know the purported reason his son resigned from the department until New Times called to requested an interview. "He told me he was resigning because he was doing undercover work and it was too dangerous."

Ladson, the band teacher, recalls running into Felton's sister-in-law outside a bank recently. "She said Danny resigned from the force because it was getting so dangerous."

In 1996 Felton bought a modest single-story house in Opa-locka. His neighbors there remember him as a quiet, well-groomed man who kept to himself. Every so often a police car would park in his driveway, the neighbors recall.

In 1997 Felton sold that house for $78,000 and bought a house on NW 187th Street and Tenth Avenue.

Despite his conviction, Griffin says he has tried to move on with his life. He recently asked Ungaro-Benages to allow him to marry Jackson in prison: "I've been with Reba for almost ten years. We had been plan to marry, but every time we ready to, something comes up. Well, again, something has come up."

Coincidentally, Felton is also engaged to be married this November, Sharpstein notes. The former officer is ever confident things will continue to go his way. "Just because there's a bend in the road doesn't mean it's the end of the road," he tells New Times before hanging up .

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