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Patrick Dorneval was unwinding at Fat Tuesday's, a touristy theme bar on the second level of Cocowalk, one night this past December. He got into an argument with two men on the dance floor who kept bumping into him. Words were exchanged. Just before 1:30 a.m. on December 29, Dorneval left the club. The men, who as it turned out are brothers, were outside waiting for him. According to a police report about the incident that followed, the younger of the pair pulled the 31-year-old Dorneval down Cocowalk's stairs and the two began punching him. A passing Miami police officer broke up the beatdown, but not before Dorneval's face was a bloody mess of broken bones.
Just another evening in Coconut Grove, except the brothers weren't just liberated Midwesterners out on the town. The alleged assailants are Ryan and Russell Crew, sons of Rudolph "Rudy" Crew, the vaunted superintendent of the Miami-Dade County School district. Russell Crew, age 26, is a tank of a man at five feet nine inches and 290 pounds. He is the spitting image of his round-faced dad, who is reputed to have quite a temper, although one limited to verbal expression. Ryan Crew, 28, is also a formidable presence at six feet and 200 pounds.
From the police report: "As the victim [was] leaving the club, [Russell] pulled him down the stairs while [Ryan] punched the victim in the right eye and in several areas in the body."
That was just the capper of the evening for the Crew men. Earlier, the pair had approached Joe Lett, who was sleeping on a porch behind a Grove restaurant. Lett told authorities they asked him for a cigarette and while he looked for one, Russell Crew snagged his wallet. Crew turned the wallet over to the officer who later arrested him. Neither Crew gave a statement to police, but the State Attorney's Office later added petit theft to Russell Crew's charges. Both Crews were charged with aggravated battery.
The brothers were bailed out of jail, with Papa Crew's promise to pay the $7500 bonds if they didn't show in court. Dorneval, who says he's a market consultant for a Miami invention company, had no idea who the Crews were. He was surprised to learn they were the sons of his mother's employer. "I think my mom must know him," he says. "She's a teacher."
Dorneval's cuts and bruises have healed, but he has some related chronic health problems. "My doctor said there's a good chance I'll lose my sight in a couple of years," he says. "I have a detached retina." (Dorneval also has a criminal record. In 1998 he was charged but not convicted of marijuana possession. This past November he was hit again, this time for cocaine possession. That case is pending. A public records search didn't turn up any previous criminal charges for either brother. )
Ryan Crew's driver's license lists his address as the Crawford Avenue home in Coconut Grove sold to his father for $840,000 when the former New York City schools chancellor won a lucrative contract to head the school system. (One part of the package was a $240,000 forgivable home loan offered by local businessman/philanthropist Paul Cejas.) Russell Crew's license gives the address of Rudy Crew's last home in San Rafael, California. Contacted at his father's home, Ryan Crew declined comment. "All's I would say is there was a fight," he acknowledged. "But it takes two to tango."
Russell and Ryan are two of seven offspring belonging to the Crew household. The four eldest are those of Crew and a former wife. The youngest three are from his wife Kathy's first marriage.
"I've responded to this incident the way any good father would, by talking with my sons and supporting them appropriately," Crew said when asked about the incident. "I'm proud of the men they've become because I know the full measure of their character. It's regrettable that the fact they are my sons is drawing attention to an incident that wouldn't merit it otherwise."