Marabini's arrest report states the five-foot eleven-inch, 230-pound man refused to move out of the street, used profanity, and "took a fighting stance and pushed [Ofcr. Octavio Santiago]." The report says the officer kicked Marabini, then he was pepper-sprayed, handcuffed, and arrested for battery on an officer, resisting arrest with violence, and disorderly conduct.
The female attorney admits she didn't see the very beginning of the incident because she had her back turned. She did hear Marabini mouth off to the cop. Then she saw an officer kick Marabini and another place him in a choke hold. Two officers in uniform and four men in plainclothes then dragged him to the ground. "Two cops were holding him down while the other punched him in the face," she remembers. "It seemed to go on for two or three minutes. A girl was crying. A lot of people in line were screaming, “Fucking stop! You're hurting him!' Then the cops dragged him around behind some cars so we couldn't see exactly what happened. It looked like they were stomping and kicking him and macing him."
According to Kowalski, what the attorney apparently didn't see was a large, angry man who wanted to fight. The sergeant says after the man calmed down, he apologized for his behavior. "I remember the people yelling, “Oh, it's not right!'" Kowalski asserts. "They just saw the tail end of the policeman wrestling with him. That guy wasn't hurt, and he would tell you that. Everything was done right that day." Marabini did not return messages left with his attorney. An internal-affairs investigator told New Times that photos taken by police after the arrest did not show injuries consistent with the beating the attorney described. "He was not injured; he was pepper-sprayed," explains Lt. Daniel Dominguez.
The four other complaints are less dramatic: two allegations of discourtesy; a man who claimed an officer stole his jacket, sneakers, and baseball cap from him; and one complaint that an officer didn't do anything about a bouncer beating up a patron. The first three were classified as inconclusive, and the fourth was found to be untrue.
Is a handful of complaints over several months at an all-night club that routinely packs in thousands every weekend an indication of a larger problem? Kowalski doesn't think so. He says cops routinely make several arrests every weekend at Club Space. "At five o'clock in the morning, that place is out of control," he maintains. "The [nearby hotel] Howard Johnson is complaining about the noise, bums are breaking into cars, then you got bouncers beating up people inside -- a million things going on at once."
The internal-affairs records of several officers who regularly worked Club Space reveal that most of them have drawn only a handful of complaints in their careers, and most of those were inconclusive. Kowalski's record, however, shows a long and pervasive pattern of complaints for discourtesy, abusive treatment, and improper procedure throughout his twenty-year career, although only a few were sustained.
Seniz Miseroglu, who witnessed the June 17 incident involving the Brazilian man, says the experience radically changed her perception of police. She hasn't been back to Club Space since. "I was so scared," she remembers. "Now I distrust police. Whenever I see a cop now, I know that anything can happen."
Miami ACLU president Lida Rodriguez-Taseff says the public's dissatisfaction with the way Miami police handle allegations of police misconduct is the reason voters approved the Civilian Investigative Panel on November 6. "If we have a process that's fair and open, the public is more confident in the results," she reasons. "There's not much credibility when it's police investigating police in secret."