No Safe Harbor

Daniel Budin owns one of the most famous ships on Earth. Not surprisingly, that didn't stop the Miami police from messing with him.

Budin couldn't find his insurance card in the glove compartment, he says, but did fish out a receipt for the six-month premium (good until March 10, 2000) he had just paid to Fortune Insurance Company. His interceptor deemed that insufficient as well.

"At the same time, two or three [other officers] started searching the car, turning everything upside down. Then someone came to search me," Budin goes on. "I couldn't see who it was, because he was behind me. He patted me down like the first one and also searched in my trousers." Budin relates this in a surprised tone, occasionally at a loss for words. "After several minutes a third one came up and asked me to go against the car. I don't know which one he was; I didn't really have a chance to look at their faces. He told me to take off my shoes and my shirt, and this one put his hands under my underwear and searched in my balls and ass."

Finally the first cop -- the angry one -- ordered him to turn over his car keys. The Taurus was about to be towed. Budin says when he protested the officer replied, "Okay, you want me to handcuff you right now?" So he shut up. He was allowed to retrieve his possessions from the car. Just a few days earlier, he'd loaded the trunk with ship parts he planned to sell, including a $1500 electric transformer and a $500 turbine fan. He dragged everything out on to the sidewalk.

As the tow truck was driving away, the officer handed Budin three citations to sign: one for no driver license, one for no insurance, one for an expired tag. Budin acknowledges the last was appropriate, because he was a month late in renewing the registration. But he refused to sign the other two tickets. "So the guy said, 'Let's go to the police station; I'll arrest you right now.' And I was so tired and upset that I just signed them. I asked him what did I do to make them search me like that. And he said, 'You don't know?' I said I didn't, just tell me what did I do, and he said, 'You don't know because you're stupid.'"

The police must have been convinced Budin had drugs hidden somewhere in his car or person, although he can't think of what might have caught their attention other than the expired tag. But he was not a French connection, and he says the longer they searched, the angrier they seemed to become. As the officers were leaving, Budin remembers gathering enough presence of mind to ask the name of the officer who had first stopped him. The officer turned to show his nametag, but Budin says he didn't write the name down and the best he could remember afterward was a "German-sounding" name, which Miami Police spokesman Lt. Bill Schwartz was unable to track down. Budin will never forget the officer's parting gesture, though: a Nazi salute. "He held up his hand and said, 'Jawohl!' I know it sounds unbelievable, but he did it."

The name of only one officer at the scene could be verified later; his badge number was on the tickets Budin received. But attempts to contact Ofcr. Michael Eagan by phone have been unsuccessful. Budin, however, had little contact with Eagan, who was the driver of the car that stopped him. The police dispatch tapes recorded at the time of the incident have been destroyed.


Left alone on the wet sidewalk, the sky beginning to lighten, Budin looked numbly at his pile of equipment. The transformer weighed 60 pounds, the fan was 50 pounds and huge, and other items were equally unwieldy. He'd have to find something to transport it all to his boat. But right then he was barely able to put his shoes back on. "I walked to the boat," he recounts. "It was freezing. I was really desperate and tired. I made some coffee and looked for cigarettes; I'd stopped [smoking] for five months, but after that I started again. I was feeling humiliated and dirty -- these people putting their hands on me like never in my life."

After about an hour and a half, Budin says, he went to borrow a handcart to pick up his stuff. By the time he reached the sidewalk, though, everything had disappeared. So he had lost thousands of dollars in anticipated income, and to get his car out of hock would probably cost almost as much as the $400 he had paid for it.

The next day Budin asked his dock neighbor, Steve Salem, for a ride to the King's Wrecker Service office. They were informed the ransom for the Taurus would be $160. Salem paid and Budin let him keep the old car. "He didn't feel it was worth getting the car out," remembers Salem, who operates a tour boat out of Bayside and ships donated goods to churches in the Bahamas. Salem plans to put the Taurus on a boat to Andros Island, where it will make a fine addition to some congregation's outreach program. For the time being, Salem says, the car is awaiting repairs near his home in Sarasota, since it broke down soon after he acquired it.

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