Letters from the Issue of March 11, 2004

Art and ethnicity and cops with nothing better to do

Tom Swavely

Miami Springs

Editor's note: Max Castro's essay was a paid advertisement sponsored by Progreso Weekly (www.progresoweekly.com).

Way Too Much Time on Their Hands

Maybe that explains why the cops threw me in jail for no reason: Thanks to Humberto Guida for his very insightful "BuzzIn" column called "Bouncer Bully" (February 19). I recently moved to Miami and experienced something very similar on Saturday, February 21.

We were pulled out of a club (Soho Lounge) by an extremely aggressive bouncer. I was just trying to get some air but the bouncer didn't let me exit the club and roughed up my boyfriend for no reason. The cops were already waiting around the corner and arrested him in no time. The bouncer claimed we'd started a commotion inside the club.

When my boyfriend was arrested, I asked the police officers why they arrested him and where they were taking him. They didn't answer but instead arrested me too. We both spent a night in jail and I can assure you it was the worst night of my life.

We were never informed of why we were actually arrested. It was exactly as Humberto wrote -- they simply cuffed us and I got shoved in a cell for the entire night without being told what was going to happen to me. This kind of incident is obviously quite common. It makes one wonder if Miami law enforcement has nothing better to do.

Rima Gerhard

South Miami

The Defenders: It's No Accident

Why do you think Bennett Brummer has been there 28 years? I read Rebecca Wakefield's article "Sustained Objections" (February 19) with astonishment. I recently retired after 31 years of public service in Miami-Dade County. During most of that time my job involved working closely with key stakeholders within the human-services and criminal-justice systems, including the Office of the Public Defender and its chief, Bennett Brummer.

My work was primarily in the juvenile-justice arena, where I have for years witnessed the heartfelt sensitivity and tireless client advocacy by public-defender administrators and staffers in the interest of children. The characterization of Mr. Brummer and his office presented in this article is completely inconsistent with my own professional experience and the general high regard in which Mr. Brummer, his senior staff, and the Office of the Public Defender are held within the criminal-justice community.

It is not by accident that Mr. Brummer has served in this elective office for 28 years, all but once reelected unopposed. Rather it is a testament to the dedication and personal integrity he brings to the office and demands of his staff. I would expect a fair-minded journalist to give at least equal weight to the public record of a distinguished 28-year public servant, as it appears this article has given to a group of young attorneys supporting his political opponent. I don't know any of these young attorneys but I had to ask myself if it is possible they could have their own less-than-altruistic agenda.

Paul T. Sweeney


Editor's note: Additional letters in reaction to "Sustained Objections" follow below.

I was surprised by the nature of Rebecca Wakefield's article in the New Times as it pertained to the Public Defender here in Miami, Bennett Brummer. I was a member of that Office for eight years and worked closely with Mr. Brummer. I found Mr. Brummer to be an excellent leader and administrator who surrounded himself with capable and hard-working individuals who cared deeply about the representation of indigents. Every year Mr. Brummer went to Tallahassee and brought us back a sufficient budget to allow us to do our work ... no easy feat, when his job was to ask politicians for money to enable us to defend the poor, the disenfranchised, and the outcasts of our society.

Peter Raben


Reading Rebecca Wakefield's article raised the ultimate irony: that the man elected by the citizens of Dade County to defend the constitutional rights of our community has so little regard for the First Amendment rights of his own lawyers. The firing of Lonnie Richardson, a young, hard-working lawyer, shows that after 28 years in office, Brummer seems to have lost sight of his obligations to his clients and is instead focused solely on preserving his power. The young lawyers opposing him ought to be applauded for taking a principled stand, not bullied. As an attorney in private practice, I know that any of these lawyers could easily be making two to three times their current salaries in private practice. The fact that they choose to stay as public defenders and try to improve an office whose quality is declining shows that their complaints are not "just another political smear tactic" as Brummer claims, but a sign that at least some people in the Public Defender's Office think their clients deserve better than what they're getting.

Cristina Alonso, Esq.


As a former member of the Public Defender's office (I left with deep regrets last summer to move to California), I was disturbed by last week's article and the misleading impression it gives of the office.

Bennett Brummer is a nationally respected public defender who is committed to the politically unpopular but constitutionally vital mission of providing zealous, quality representation to indigent criminal defendants. Bennett embodies what it truly means to be a public defender. He is not only an able administrator but a passionate defender of civil liberties. He has consistently been willing to take unpopular positions to protect the rights of our clients, and he fought hard for the office to have the independence, authority, and resources it needed to represent its clients well. Bennett's accomplishments in defending civil liberties were recognized by the Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which awarded him its highest honor -- the Nelson Poynter award.

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