A South Beach Love Story
In the hours after Nancy met Anwar Zayden, the two entered one of those sybaritic South Beach society hazes that hovers over beautiful voluptuaries as they eye one another like prey. Zayden, a playboy with a ponytail and money, spied the 31-year-old stewardess over dinner at the cacophonously chic China Grill. She looked right back at him before dumping her date and changing tables. That move, she calculated, would help her sputtering modeling career. In fact she introduced herself to the five-foot ten-inch tall, dazzlingly handsome 36-year-old as "Coco," her modeling name.
Zayden was jubilant that night. Ocean Drive magazine had awarded him a plaque for his charitable contributions and he was celebrating with friends. The drinks flowed freely.
Afterward the Lebanese gallant invited Nancy and several others to join him at the Living Room, a few blocks away. They drove to the nightclub in his white Rolls Royce, which mightily impressed her.
At the club Zayden forked over $100 for a VIP room. Then he and his entourage reclined on couches and quaffed champagne. As they were leaving hours later, the valet decided Zayden was too drunk to drive, so Zayden's friend Alex Perez took the wheel. Perez dropped off Nancy at her Meridian Avenue apartment before delivering home the big spender.
Twenty-four hours later the party was over and no one was happy. At 11:30 p.m. on September 20 Nancy stumbled into the Miami Beach Police Department tearfully recounting a tale of kidnapping and rape. (New Times is not printing Nancy's last name because she alleges a sexual assault.) Zayden contends her characterization of their tryst is pure fiction. The two had consensual sex, he asserts. "She was all over me, that woman. She kept pressuring me to find a hotel room. But I don't like hotel rooms. She kept saying what she would do to me. She wanted to give me a massage."
Nancy couldn't be reached for comment. Friends say she is living in New York City.
Early the next morning Miami Beach Det. William Turner investigated, then arrested Zayden. But his inquiry didn't clear up things. Almost as soon as Zayden was behind bars, the case against him started to fall apart. A month later the State Attorney's Office (SAO) dropped the charges.
Since then the investigation has taken on a life of its own. Another Miami Beach police officer, Charlie Seraydar, alleges Turner purposely ignored exculpatory witnesses in an effort to collar an affluent and well-known Miamian. Seraydar was even suspended from the Miami Beach force for 30 days this past month because he allegedly steered witnesses to the defense. Now the two officers accuse each other of lying and more. Their actions provide insight into the subjective nature of law enforcement.
The police department administration declined to comment for this story because of pending litigation. But Capt. Charles Press, commander of Miami Beach's Internal Affairs Unit, says he has found nothing improper in Zayden's arrest and the investigation that ensued. (The department opened an internal review of the case after New Times called.) Even police know when desire and money meet behind the velvet ropes in South Beach, truth is often left off the guest list.
Detective Turner is no dummy. His supervisors have noted his intelligence in the past. After joining the police force in 1981, he earned a law degree from St. Thomas University.
But he has struggled over the years with physical and ethical lapses. When he first joined the department, supervisors cautioned him at least twice about his weight problem. In 1987 internal affairs officers caught Turner abusing his position as a cop. They taped him offering classified police information from the department's computer system to private investigator Phillip Hobbs in exchange for lucrative off-duty jobs. According to the disciplinary report, Turner told Hobbs he was being permanently assigned to the Special Investigations Unit. "For your purposes that will be good because I'll have access to all the computers in the fucking world," he said. He was suspended for six days.
But the episode didn't derail his career. On several occasions Turner's superiors recommended him for officer of the month. He was cited in May 1988 for arresting and coaxing a confession from a child molester. In 1991 the brass promoted him to sergeant and in 1995 he became a detective. Obviously the police department trusted that Bill Turner could handle anything that came his way.
Then Nancy walked into the station and every decision Turner made came back to haunt him. (Turner declined to talk to New Times, explaining that his superiors forbade him to discuss the investigation.)
The morning after Nancy met Zayden, he invited her to lunch at the News Cafe on Ocean Drive. Zayden showed up on Rollerblades and told her he had to skate around for a few minutes to ease a hangover. Then he sat down opposite Nancy and ordered a Lite beer. They chatted until Napoleon Pacheco, the owner of a local hair salon and a friend of Zayden, walked up to their table. The playboy asked to borrow Pacheco's Ocean Drive apartment so he could take a nap. Nancy said she wanted to get a haircut, but Zayden convinced her to join him until he fell asleep.
On the way to Pacheco's place in a black Mercedes Benz 500 SL, they stopped to buy a bottle of vodka.
Once inside the apartment, Nancy claims her companion spent two hours alternately raping her and ordering drinks as if she were a cocktail waitress. After demanding his first beverage, Zayden stretched out to take a nap. She laid down next to him and waited for him to doze. Instead Zayden ordered her to remove her top. She refused. He told her to make another drink, then grabbed her hair and started kissing her. Next he forced her to give him oral sex, then pushed her down and raped her vaginally. He stopped, mixed another drink, then compelled her to give him oral sex again. He raped her vaginally another time and made her say that she was a "whore." After she prepared a weak drink, he threw it against the wall and raped her again.
Eventually Zayden called Bobby Drummond, who Nancy described as the playboy's bodyguard. Drummond arrived at the apartment in the Rolls and they switched cars. Nancy stated she drove the Rolls to Zayden's while Drummond followed in the Mercedes. At his house Zayden told Nancy she was free to go after helping him upstairs. He allegedly broke the promise, though, after locking the bedroom door. Soon Drummond called from the first floor and told Nancy that Zayden's girlfriend Regina Ujhazi was on her way over. Without warning the playboy became enraged and yanked the phone from the wall.
Ultimately Drummond got word to Zayden of Ujhazi's imminent arrival. The so-called bodyguard ushered Nancy out the back door and into a waiting taxi. To Nancy's surprise cabbie Friedun Homayountash said he knew the playboy; he had driven him home from the Delano Hotel one night. Nancy then told Homayountash about the alleged rape. She returned to her apartment, then turned around and proceeded to the Miami Beach Police Department.
Nancy's gripping narrative was good enough for Turner. He sent her to the rape treatment center at Jackson Memorial Hospital for tests. A counselor described the shaken stewardess as expressing "feelings of disbelief and horror," and "fear and anxiousness." Both a police officer and a counselor noted she couldn't make eye contact with anyone.
Test results indicated she had sex recently, but there was no sign of force. What appeared at first to be a bruise on her breast turned out to be makeup. Turner wrote in his arrest affidavit that "forensic medical evidence [was] retrieved ... consistent with semen." Yet the hospital report specifically states no semen was recovered because the parties involved used a condom.
Next Turner and his partner Det. Milva Doyle sped to Zayden's Pine Tree Drive home. Zayden greeted the officers in his underwear, then invited them in and agreed to talk. Turner first interviewed Drummond. "He stated that he makes it a point to avoid getting involved in his employer's private relationships with the opposite sex," the detective later wrote. "He could not say whether [Nancy] was acting strangely or not."
Then Turner added: "I attempted to locate the witness 'Alex' and the maid... but they were not present and no information was developed that would allow us to locate them." Six hours after interviewing Nancy, Turner brought Zayden to the police station and charged him with kidnapping and sexual battery.
Zayden's lawyer Neil Taylor maintains Turner didn't look very hard for witnesses: Both Perez and the maid, Ligia Urieta, were in the house that morning. There were other important observers whom the detective failed to question; many of them contradicted Nancy.
At 5:30 a.m. the cops tossed Zayden into the county jail, where he spent twelve days. He was dressed in a shirt, pants, and velvet shoes designed by Gianni Versace. As all of Miami knows, Versace was killed on the steps of his Ocean Drive home in 1997 by Andrew Cunanan. Zayden says the designer's logo drew comments from the inmates. "They put me with the worst criminals. They saw Versace, the only thing they knew was Cunanan," Zayden recounts in his thick accent. "They love Cunanan in there!"
If Anwar Zayden didn't exist, Miami Beach would have to create him. He is a frenetic bon vivant who needs the glitter and excess of South Beach in the same way a narcissist needs a mirror. What you see with Zayden is pretty much what you get. He drinks too much (he denies using drugs), he is painfully vain, and he's preoccupied with physical beauty, fancy clothing, and expensive cars. He is also without irony. Interviewed in lawyer Neil Taylor's office, Zayden holds up a photograph of himself. He is bare-chested, tan, and has his arms around two svelte women. "Look at me. Do I look like I need help getting women?" he queries. He is fidgety and garrulous. The words pour from him in a frenzied rush. Although some might disapprove of his lifestyle and value system, he says he is not a rapist. "I know I've got a drinking problem. I'm a partier, a playboy, but none of this is a crime."
Police records show his past scrapes with the law had mostly to do with his excessive drinking. In the late 1980s police charged him with driving under the influence. The case was dismissed. In July 1997 police were called to his address because he was acting strangely, again after drinking too much. When the officers arrived, they found him passed out on the floor. Upon being awakened by them Zayden fled and jumped into Indian Creek. After he came ashore, his family sent him to the hospital.
The son of Lebanese developer Alfredo Zayden, he was born in Miami but raised in Spain for fourteen years. He returned here as a teenager, and dabbled in modeling. In 1985 he even achieved poster-boy status as "Mr. Love 94" for the romantic radio station Love 94 (WLVE-FM 93.9). A decade later he took over the art-framing business he had started in 1981 with his father and brother. The store has been lucrative and has built up a celebrity clientele including Sylvester Stallone and Paul Newman.
In 1990 Zayden bought a $338,000 home on Pine Tree Drive in Miami Beach. After extensive renovation it became a columned mansion with a circular marble driveway. During construction in the early 1990s, police were called to the house eight times for everything from a lost beeper to a vandalized car. At one point an armed intruder scaled a wall that surrounded his property and stole a Rolex watch from Zayden's wrist while he was in the back yard.
The officer who responded to many of those calls was Charlie Seraydar. The stocky, well-groomed patrolman had once been a detective. But the long hours left him pining for the more regular routine of patrol work. So in 1989, after eleven years as a detective, he went back to wearing a uniform. Seraydar, who's partial to pinkie rings and gold bracelets, distributes his pager number to many people. "I call it community policing," he comments. "A thousand people have my pager number." One of them is Anwar Zayden.
Seraydar's only significant reprimand in 25 years as a cop came in 1991, when he admitted doing unauthorized work for an insurance company. (All outside police work must be approved by superiors. Seraydar failed to obtain a necessary signature.) Otherwise he has received heaps of praise from supervisors and others whom he's helped. He was the Beach force's officer of the year in 1979 and he's been chosen as officer of the month twelve times since 1976. In 1997 Detective Turner was just another name to Seraydar, but now he thinks he knows his fellow officer well. "[Turner] should be criminally prosecuted for what he did," Seraydar blasts.
Seraydar became involved in the case at 3:12 a.m. on September 20, when the insistent sound of his pager pierced his slumber. "I didn't recognize the number," he recalls. He returned the call and Drummond answered; he said Detective Turner was questioning Zayden and his cohorts about Nancy's claims.
"What should we do?" the would-be bodyguard asked.
"[Zayden] needs an attorney," Seraydar replied. Then he hung up and went back to bed.
During the next two days, Zayden's friends constantly called Seraydar's beeper and cell phone. The cop maintains he advised callers to talk to the playboy's defense lawyer or Turner. "I did whatever I could to avoid becoming involved in the case," Seraydar recalls.
On September 24, four days after the arrest, Zayden's friend Alex Perez again called Seraydar. He said Turner refused to see him. "I finally convinced [Perez] that ... he had to camp out in the police department until he found the detective," Seraydar comments.
Perez called back a few hours later. He claimed Turner had ejected him from the station. Seraydar was appalled. "I told Perez that if that's [Turner's] attitude, and he doesn't believe you, go to the State Attorney's Office." Perez went to see the prosecutors on September 30.
Only after the October 1 SAO meeting did Turner record his interview with Perez. Perez had stated he saw the couple before and after the alleged rape, and Nancy never appeared distraught or frightened. It is the first piece of evidence in the police file that buttressed Zayden's case.
Seraydar feared the investigation was being improperly conducted. So on September 28 he agreed to help Pat Franklin, a friend and former cop who Zayden hired as a private investigator.
Seraydar not only located a witness, cabbie Friedun Homayountash, for Franklin, but he helped the driver contact Zayden's lawyer, Neil Taylor. The officer acknowledges he knew his department might think the contact was out of line. "I was concerned that the detective on the case was not interviewing potentially exculpatory witnesses who showed up to give voluntary statements."
Homayountash provided explosive testimony. He claimed Nancy had confessed she was mad at Zayden for not paying her $5000 for "babysitting" him for two days. But there was a problem: Police wanted the cabbie on a domestic violence charge. Taylor helped him find a lawyer.
A few days later Seraydar testified as a character witness for Zayden after meeting with prosecutors. Michael Band, who headed the SAO's Major Crimes Unit, saw no conflict of interest in the patrolman's court appearance. Band later recounted the conversation in a memo: "Officer Seraydar was concerned that an innocent citizen had been arrested falsely by his department and that exculpatory information provided by witnesses was not being acted upon by investigators."
Turner, meanwhile, suspecting collusion between Seraydar and the defense team, filed a complaint with internal affairs.
By now the playboy's defense team had assembled an impressive list of witnesses, who told a tale drastically different from Nancy's.
*Napoleon Pacheco, who lent Nancy and Zayden his apartment, said the couple was intimate before the alleged rape. She sat on the playboy's lap, kissing him. Pacheco's neighbor Spencer Saffran said the pair "appeared to be on friendly terms" when exiting the apartment.
*Drummond said Nancy did not appear frightened or injured when he met the couple outside Pacheco's apartment afterward. She may have been drinking. Drummond called his own quotations in Detective Turner's report "bullshit."
*Alex Perez said he saw the couple after the alleged incident at Zayden's house. He said he saw Zayden reclining on the couch as Nancy kissed him.
*Real estate agent R.S. Schmitt, a friend of Zayden who stopped by the Pine Tree Drive house that night, said Nancy "kiss[ed Zayden] amorously, lovingly" as he lay on the couch. Then the couple went upstairs together.
*Zayden's maid Ligia Urieta said she saw the couple kissing and hugging at the house, adding that Nancy gave no indication she was being held against her will. She added that no one could be locked inside Zayden's bedroom -- the locks don't work that way.
Perhaps most telling is testimony from the man with whom Nancy stayed for a month after the alleged rape. He is a photo imagist who asked not to be identified. "I wasn't sexual with her at all, but she was flirtatious and I thought to myself, If I was just raped, I wouldn't be flirting around like this." He asserts he helped her create a phony modeling portfolio by superimposing her face on the cover of Marie Claire magazine and in Chanel and Missoni ads. Nancy paid $300, then canceled the check, he says. (She eventually paid.) "When she came to me, I believed her. Now I don't," the friend says.
Nancy's ex-husband Hans, a former model now living in North Carolina, describes her as a "gold digger." She has not been in touch with him or their young son since 1993. She was obsessed with dating famous people, he says. In fact she went out with Mike Tyson and a Swedish soccer star.
Chris Brown was the assistant state attorney in charge of Zayden's case. Now in private practice, he recalls Nancy sobbing in his office. "Either she was very scared and felt very violated -- she was a very good actress -- or she was very unstable," Brown recounts. "She convinced me something had happened."
But Brown's interview with cabbie Homayountash raised doubts on several counts, he says. The driver cast doubt on Nancy's case by claiming the model told him she expected payment from the Zayden, making it seem as though she was an escort. Then the cabbie aroused the prosecutor's suspicion by admitting Zayden's attorneys had taken care of the domestic violence warrant.
The driver's statement apparently had been exchanged for the lawyer's help, a conflict of interest, Brown comments.
Taylor counters that he did nothing improper: "I can understand Chris thinking that. Every time Chris got to a witness, I had been there first. It drove him crazy."
On October 29, 1997, Brown dropped the case against Zayden. "It was going to be his word against hers. It was almost unprosecutable." More specifically as his close-out memo states, "sworn testimony of cab driver ... directly contradicts victim's allegations. Victim's version of events does not lend credence to rape charge."
Yet Zayden isn't satisfied. He contends police had improperly arrested him. He contends he was depressed for months following the incident and he couldn't work. He entered therapy for a short time, and claims he's still scared police are out to get him. "I won't go on to an elevator alone with someone I don't know," he says. He claims he no longer goes out at night.
Drummond died from an apparent heart attack April 5. Zayden says Drummond was never a bodyguard or a chauffeur, just a friend.
Seraydar is still fuming about his 30-day suspension. He claims Turner committed official misconduct and perjury, yet no one investigated his charges. He has prepared a whistle-blower lawsuit against the department. "I look at guys like Turner and I think to myself, Why doesn't the department do anything?" he says. "I saved an innocent guy from jail, and my own department went after me for it.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Miami New Times' biggest stories.