Linda McDermott, manager of the police department's Fiscal Services Department, gave a declaration too. McDermott argued that the payroll system used by the department was unreliable and not an accurate record of the hours Ghent worked that night. McDermott claimed Ghent worked ten overtime hours the week Phillips was arrested, although she offered no documents to support the claim. Department policies required that any overtime or corrections to a payroll record must be made in the Oracle system.

Many of the declarations filed by LeClainche include an identical, boilerplate defense of Ghent. Several of the cops wrote, "During my time I spent working with Agent Ghent on the CAT [Criminal Apprehension Team], I found Ghent to be reliable and trustworthy. Based on my years of experience as a law enforcement officer, I have seen individuals under the influence of narcotics. While working with Ghent on the CAT team, I never saw Ghent under the influence of narcotics." It had been three and a half years since Ghent had been arrested and forced to turn in his badge.

Phillips's records requests and subsequent appeals to the courts produced mixed results. Based on the CI's assertion that LeClainche had pressured her into saying she'd witnessed the crime, Phillips filed a complaint with the Florida Bar against the prosecutor for tampering with a witness. The U.S. Attorney's Office has since removed her from the case.

Elroy Phillips was known as "Eighty-Six" on the streets of Miami. In prison he's now known as "Law."
Eric Barton
Elroy Phillips was known as "Eighty-Six" on the streets of Miami. In prison he's now known as "Law."
Private investigator Ralph Marston helped Phillips dig up documents and scored a key interview with the government’s lone witness.
Michael McElroy
Private investigator Ralph Marston helped Phillips dig up documents and scored a key interview with the government’s lone witness.

But his other maneuvers were met with setbacks. Phillips filed a 99-page motion in October 2008 asking for his sentence to be set aside and has followed it up with dozens of documents detailing his new evidence. Judges are inundated with requests like this, and Lenard could have quickly denied it with a one-page ruling. Instead she turned the filings over to U.S. Magistrate Judge P.A. White for a second opinion. White returned with a 67-page report on June 14, 2010, and it wasn't good for Phillips.

White wrote that Phillips's motion is full of "patently frivolous claims" and that he had been unable to show that "the government engaged in prosecutorial misconduct." Phillips's request to have his sentence set aside, White wrote, should be denied.

Phillips is undeterred by the report. Speaking in the visiting room at the Federal Medical Center, a prison in Lexington, Kentucky, he points to the new evidence he has since filed in the case, including the tape-recorded interview with the CI.

"This was never heard before. None of it was," Phillips says, gripping an accordion file holder full of his new evidence. "Judge Lenard, she didn't do this to me. The cops lied. It's not like Judge Lenard did anything wrong here."

Phillips now fears that Lenard could rule without first conducting a hearing on his new evidence. That could happen any day — Lenard, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1995, has full discretion in the case, and it's unlikely her ruling can be appealed.

Legal experts who reviewed the Phillips case for New Times all concluded Phillips at least deserves a new hearing on his evidence. Ric Margolius, a senior circuit judge in Palm Beach County, points out Phillips was convicted on a charge that, in state court, would have equaled six months or less in jail. The three crack rocks Phillips allegedly sold weighed .77 grams — less than a dollar bill. "I have been involved personally in many hundreds of these cases (and possibly thousands). I have never seen or heard about a sentence of this duration until I read your article," Margolius writes in an email.

If Phillips's evidence is right, "then an unconscionable miscarriage of justice has occurred," Margolius writes. "My view is simply that as a judge, I would exhaust every possible remedy, with an eye on legal creativity, to absolutely ensure that no innocent person ever be incarcerated."

After reviewing the evidence, Terri Backhus, a Tampa attorney who specializes in criminal appeals cases, says it's rare to find evidence that appears this definitive. "You hardly ever have affidavits from people saying the arresting officer was not there," she says. "The police will go to any lengths to cover up what they've done, and it appears they're doing that here."

Marston, the PI (and former cop) hired by Phillips, says he took on the case because he saw it as an example of a failure of the justice system. He says it's not uncommon — it's rare for cops or prosecutors to admit to a mistake, even when there's new DNA evidence or witness statements that contradict them. "Prosecutors do not like to cut their losses and admit a mistake," Marston says. "But with Elroy, they know Ghent was a dirty cop. Why not blame this all on him and be done with it?"

For his part, Phillips says he simply needs to focus on the fight. He has a calm personality and has remained certain that his case will meet a good end. "Sometimes when you get upset, you make bad decisions. And I can't get angry right now. I need to be focused."

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10 comments
P_Nis
P_Nis

Unfortunately police and prosecutorial misconduct is rampant throughout our justice system. Cornell West says "Justice is what love looks like in public". Considering what we've seen in this case and in many other similar cases, that's a pretty sick thought isn't it?

john
john

Beyond a 'reasonable doubt'. It's easy for love-boat to talk with such callousness, as one enjoys' their freedom and privileges. Reverse rolls, and let's see how cavalier they are. Corruption, cover-up, lack of integrity and criminal conduct by the prosecutor and police is not uncommon in our judicial system. I've been involved with the Innocence Projects, and unfortunately there are many, very innocent, individuals in prison. Innocent people have been murdered by the government for crimes that they had no part in. This is a Truth, which reflects poorly upon us. Hopefully we are evolving into a more compassionate society; it appears that love-boat needs to put a little more love in that boat; and a little less contemptuousness. Great story Eric. I'm just coming off of a victory against the Florida Department of Corrections. The DOC charged an inmate with committing 3 crimes, that each had a life sentence. He was 300 yards away from the alleged crime scene, when this offense supposedly occurred. This innocent inmate was thrown into solitary confinement and isolated on the notorious Q-Wing at Florida State Prison, confined with murderers, psychopaths and the criminally insane for 3 years, for crimes that he had no involvement with. We won our case and I believe Elroy Phillips will win his case. Mr. Phillips is a rich man now; he will be a wealthy man upon his release.

loveboat2010
loveboat2010

Both phillips and the dirty cop should be sitting together in a cell. I dont think either one is innocent. Drug dealers ruin communities and attempt to paint this robin hood character.The dealer in this story admitted he did not do street level sales he delt with Colombians, which means he brought trafficking amounts of drugs into the inner city. To say he quit that life to do landscaping is BS. Although, there is a small percentage of corruption I dont think this story portrays the people that risk there lives everyday in extremely violent drug land of south florida. You have to be an idiot to be a corrupt cop eventually, you are caught or turned in by a real criminal.

Amber Phillips
Amber Phillips

My name is Amber Phillips & Elroy Phillips is my father, your comment is ignorant and narrow minded my father does not deny his wrong doings but he has served 10 years in prison for a crime that he did not commit. I have not seen my father since i was 8 years old I am now attending college on a full 4 year scholarship and my father from behind bars has been there every step of the way a decade is an extreme sentence for the alleged charges, and drug dealers do not ruin communities but the addicts themselves do. Drug abuse is a self detrimental crime if they didn't get the drugs from my father they would get it from someone else so do not blame him but blame the people who seek out drug and the dealers.

The Pulp Blog
The Pulp Blog

You have a good point, loveboat2010. Maybe he was still a dealer and, the logic goes, deserves his fate. But the justice system simply can't work that way. The cops are supposed to have the evidence to convict you, and when they fabricate evidence, as they may have done here, you ought to be set free.

shjanita_j
shjanita_j

@Amber Phillips i understand what you are saying and have been following your Dads story for a little bit. The last statement you made..." if they didn't get the drugs from my father they would get it from someone else so do not blame him but blame the people who seek out drug and the dealers."is a deep statement and since as he says was back when he was in High school, that should have been added at the end  or better yet, not posted because these same narrow minded folk, will take that statement and use it against you as  if you are confirming that this is the reason he is where he is now.

I am praying for him and your family. This case has bothered me for years. FLORIDA is a hot mess!! What do they do , put the sentences in a hat and whatever is pulled out is it? I just don't understand but know God has the final say.HONEY, DON'T LET THESE FOOLS ON HERE PUSH YOUR BUTTONS! Focus on school 

loveboat2010
loveboat2010

Your right Eric, my point is I dont feel sorry for either one of them. I grew up in the inner city and I know first hand how this life of a drug trafficker is glorified by the media. He chose to live a criminal life, you "live by the sword" and there is a price you pay for that, Karma. Drug dealers live by a "stop snitching" rule which makes the drug industry thrive with violence that plagues communities. On the other hand we have become a society that believes CSI Miami is real life you simply send a hair sample to washington and the facts of any case are revealed. This same menatlity set Casey Anthony free. It is the law to look at the totality of the circumstances. This idiot may be innocent because of a crooked cop but he is not innocent for the life he chose and the harm he has caused hundreds of people that suffer from addictions, not to mention the families he has ruined. Therefore, this attempt to portray a story of poor inncoent man can get to the back of the line of the millions who suffer from addiction and violent crime at the hands of drug dealers. I know one thing growing up in overtown I didnt worry about violence from a police officer but my family did suffer crimes at the hands of local criminals who will do anything for a buck. Guys like this that have a long rap sheets know how to manipulate the system and people who wil read and believe this criminals story.

Lucky Lieberman
Lucky Lieberman

loveboat2010, only a person of ignorance, who has no respect for the democracy of America woukd write such a cold, distorted and hateful comment. Your actions put you in the same category as the arresting police officer and the assistant U.S. Attorney in this case. They are the real criminals.

Lucky in South Beach

ivxx
ivxx

I get it, we should focus on 1 strike and your out then. If you get a speeding ticket, revoke your license.

Obviously this man made mistakes and he's paid for them. Hell those mistakes contributed to the image that the judge and jury saw when he sat in that court room.

"Oh lord, another wanna be gangsta drug dealer."

The difference is this man made his mistakes and moved on, then was dragged into this because god forbid someone make a legit living and live in the ghetto. Do you still live in Overtown? I bet you shot out of there like a bat out of hell once you got some money.

Whether he made bad decisions in his life is irrelevant, this man has been railroaded into the prison system. For you to sit there and insinuate that he deserves this because he "worked with Colombians" is ridiculous.

loveboat2010
loveboat2010

Let me get this straight, I write a comment on The New Times expressing my opinion as provided by the constitution and you are putting me in the same category as a corrupt cop and notorious drug trafficker? wow, you have gone a little above ignorance and into dumb ass category. Put down the bong and admiration for street life which you know nothing about. I grew up in Overtown, I never sold or aquinted myself with drug dealers which thanks to hardwork and drive I have a beautiful family and legal career. You my friend watch MTV and think these rappers actually care about community and live the life they portray. Glorifying the life of a drug trafficker has ruined many cultures and lost youths. When you live in such despair all you know is cold and straight facts. STop watching tv and walk these neighborhoods for yourself.

 
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