By Michael E. Miller
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When the irate cops arrived at the gathering, Maroño reportedly held up a pair of decorative chrome testicles ("truck nuts" given to him by Toledo) and dared them to complain to their union. "I wipe my ass with the PBA," he announced, holding the nuts aloft. (His preferred catch phrase, it's said, is "Por mis cojones" "For my balls.")
Several officers interviewed by New Times accused Maroño of staffing officer positions with hatchet men and incompetent cronies. Maroño has recently taken to promoting favorites to the rank of "corporal" (a position that is not recognized in the town's PBA contract) and doing away with merit exams for sergeant positions in favor of mayoral appointments. During Maroño's term as vice mayor, his uncle was promoted to director of the city's maintenance department. While he was mayor, his ex-wife (with whom he currently lives) was promoted to manager of the city's "special projects."
"They run this town like a bootleg mafia," one officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Throughout his term, Moroño has had a penchant for police work, spending lots of time at the station. He has his own call sign SW 1000 and admits to occasionally driving through the city in an unmarked police car: a black Intrepid equipped with lights and sirens. His own vehicle, the Excursion, is also equipped with lights and sirens.
"He's a cop wannabe," says PBA president John Rivera.
In June 2003, Maroño was subpoenaed by the officers' defense attorneys. His account of the evening went like this: From 8:00 to 9:00 p.m., he presided over a special meeting of the Sweetwater City Commission. After the meeting, he went home, showered, and returned to the station just to hang out. He took a dispatcher out for coffee, and when he came back, he offered to drive Peter and the officers to Danny Izquierdo's house because they needed an unmarked car, and his trailer hitch seemed ideal for recovering the Jet Ski.
In a deposition given to state investigators, Maroño made a special effort to convey his innocence. "I [was] so uncomfortable at that time," he said, describing a moment when he and Peter sat side by side in the Excursion. "I wanted to jump out of the truck, run back to the station."
But there are inconsistencies in Maroño's description of the night Peter was beaten. Maroño recently told New Times his evening came to an end when he dropped off Peter, Izquierdo, and the officers at the station. He forgot to mention he took officers out a second time to investigate a third suspect. "Oh yes," he remembered when prompted. "I took them out there and then went straight home."
But Officers Churchman and Parra say otherwise. They insist the mayor was at the station well after Izquierdo's 3:00 a.m. release. They believe the order to beat Peter came from Maroño.
The mayor initially kept quiet about his involvement in Peter's ordeal. But then TV news reported that his call sign, SW 1000, had figured prominently in Alvarez's and St. Germain's paperwork from the incident.
Soon afterward, Miami-Dade cops seized his Excursion and ran forensic tests on his floor mats for traces of Peter's blood. In an early version of his story, Peter had claimed he'd been hit inside the mayor's car and was bleeding from his head. The tests came back negative.
"I still haven't gotten my floor mats back," Maroño says, smiling behind his broad mahogany desk. He denies any wrongdoing and looks back on the night as "a learning experience." He adds that he has given up involvement in police work since the incident, but he is never far from his police radio.
Peter's case took three years to try and continues to be investigated by the FBI, the U.S. Attorney's Office, and MDPD's public corruption unit. County police investigator Miriam Gordils told New Times her agency is trying to build a case based on federal civil rights violations. Peter's injuries yielded nearly three million dollars in various settlements and lawyers' fees plus an avalanche of litigation, retaliation, and terminations. The city is battling Alvarez's and St. Germain's lawyers over the officers' legal fees, which continue to grow.
The event clearly left its mark on Peter. If he was a punk before, he is an unhinged punk now. His mother says she doesn't know what to do about him. Since the incident, he has seen therapists and analysts and has been prescribed numerous psychiatric medications. His mother argues he's not the same person and that, since the trauma, he has been afraid to sleep alone.
During negotiations preceding the averted civil trial in 2005, a Miami-Dade cop pulled Peter over for driving around Coral Gables with his headlights off. When Peter rolled down his window, a strong whiff of marijuana poured out of the car, according to the police report. The county cop peered inside to discover a bag of leafy green in plain view.
This past May, Peter, driving with a suspended license, was speeding west on SW Eighth Street when an MDPD cruiser caught up to him. At a red light on SW 122nd Avenue, the cop flashed lights and sirens. Peter gunned it, making a frenzied U-turn and heading east. According to the incident report, the cop followed at a safe distance until Peter went sailing off the Dolphin Expressway exit ramp, totaling his black 2006 Ford pickup against a palm tree. As the officer approached the wreck, Peter climbed from the cab and fled into a nearby apartment complex. Back-up officers had to drag him out in handcuffs.