In March 2013, Chicago resident David Schlessinger was at the Calle Ocho music festival when he tried to take a group of friends to a restricted area. He mentioned his Clear Channel connections and flashed old BET credentials, but a guard refused to let him pass. "'That guy's an idiot,'" Schlessinger told a friend as he walked away.
When the guard overheard and confronted him, it sparked a truly bizarre fight now playing out in Miami-Dade circuit court. On one side: Schlessinger, a music producer and reality-show creator who is also a sex offender convicted of molesting three boys in the '90s. On the other: A Miami Police lieutenant with a documented brain injury and dozens of citizen complaints.
"It's an unfortunate situation where you have a police officer who believes he has the... discretion to use his power however he sees fit, without any repercussions," John de Leon, the lawyer representing Schlessinger, tells New Times.
The heart of the legal fight goes back to that confrontation in Little Havana. The way Schlessinger tells it, the angry security guard threatened to kill him. So the producer complained to police, including Lt. Jeffrey Locke. Schlessinger says Locke told him he would arrest him for being "fucking stupid" and screamed so closely that Schlessinger "could feel the spray of [Locke's] saliva."
Schlessinger was arrested for trespassing and resisting an officer without violence, then taken to Miami-Dade County Jail, where he spent the next 19 hours. When asked about the confrontation by New Times, Locke dismissed any allegation he had abused Schlessinger. "Oh well, people want to lie," he said. "It's a frivolous lawsuit."
Locke, who retired last year, joined the force in 1984 and amassed 56 citizen complaints and 15 use-of-force allegations in his career. The majority were cleared or ruled inconclusive, but in 2008, he was reprimanded for manipulating overtime pay slips; in 2002 the Miami Herald found Locke was among the department's most prolific shooters, firing 47 bullets in four shootings; and in 2010 an 18-year-old told WSVN: "He just grabbed me and threw me to the floor and started choking me and beating me up."
Locke has testified he has a brain injury from two car crashes. In sworn statements he made related to a federal complaint against the City of Miami, Locke said that the damage affected his "thinking, sleeping, speaking, memory, learning, reading, and ability to handle stress," according to Schlessinger's complaint. Because prosecutors failed to disclose his condition, dozens of his DUI arrests were ultimately overturned.
When asked by New Times about the reported mental condition, Locke grew incensed. He answered angrily, "get your facts straight," and abruptly hung up the phone.
But the city isn't likely to contest the case without mentioning Schlessinger's own record. According to the Chicago gay news site GoPride.com and records obtained by Miami Police, Schlessinger was convicted in 1998 of assaulting three boys. "I have and always been truly sorry for the mistakes that I made 15 years ago," Schlessinger told the site.
MPD did not return a request for comment.