Doubtless, Miami Beach Assistant City Manager Myra Diaz-Buttacavoli has seen her share of irate citizens over the years, but rarely has anyone devoted as much energy to criticizing her and her family as Miami resident Scott Curry. Since last August, infuriated about what he says was the vicious beating of his seven-year-old son Thomas by her two sons (then ages six and eleven) at the Bayshore Golf Course on Alton Road in Miami Beach, Curry has been out for retribution. He has accused the boys of aggravated battery, demanded that Diaz-Buttacavoli pay $300 in emergency room costs, and was arrested in February for trespassing while handing out defamatory leaflets at the boys' school. He is scheduled to stand trial on misdemeanor charges today (April 20).
Curry doesn't mince words in his harsh view of Diaz-Buttacavoli's children. The leaflet he distributed to parents and students at St. Patrick's School, a parochial elementary and middle school on Garden Avenue in Miami Beach, doesn't merely accuse her sons of beating and bullying other kids and lying: "They have chosen to sit at the side of the Devil," it states. Curry's efforts to bring the alleged perpetrators to justice led to a police investigation in which eyewitnesses and children as young as six years old were grilled about the Bayshore incident, generating almost as much detailed paperwork as a gangland slaying.
The alleged assault took place on a dark and stormy day in mid-August, when a small group of children engaged in a putting contest in Bayshore's clubhouse, under the supervision of the course pro's son. The game involved trying to hit dimes placed on the floor. The Buttacavoli and Curry children had played together at other golf courses many times before, Scott Curry says, with only one earlier fight. But on this day tensions escalated when the six-year-old Buttacavoli boy took a ball hit by Thomas Curry and threw it into the ladies' room and the seven-year-old Curry ran after it.
Accounts differ as to exactly what happened next. Everyone agrees that Thomas Curry bumped into the six-year-old Buttacavoli boy and knocked him down. Thomas says he apologized and that shortly afterward the eleven-year-old Buttacavoli boy grabbed him by his shoulder and called him a "mean name" ("Stupid"), at which point his six-year-old brother wheeled around and hit Thomas with a putter, causing him to double over in pain. Then, the Currys charge, the older brother pushed Thomas to the ground and the two brothers began kicking him. Two more boys joined in, the Currys say, kicking Thomas and hitting him with their putters. "It wasn't a fight," contends Scott Curry, who says he saw virtually the entire incident from a love seat in the lobby. "It was a mugging!"
The accused attackers later denied that they wielded golf clubs, and they blamed Thomas Curry for starting the fracas. They did, however, concede that the younger Buttacavoli child had kicked Thomas.
At some point Scott Curry joined the fray, leaping up from his love seat and hauling the six-year-old Buttacavoli lad away from his son. Curry says he dragged the boy a few feet, wrested away the putter, and marched into the pro shop in search of the golf pro. Others, including the accused boys and a clerk in the pro shop, later told police that Curry flung the youngster into the pro shop A whereupon the clerk asked Curry to leave the premises.
Curry says his son experienced excruciating pain for the next two days, until he took the boy to the emergency room at Miami Children's Hospital, where doctors determined he had bruised ribs. That news spurred the enraged father to write a letter to police, which in turn set off an investigation that stretched over two months. The longest report in the police file on the incident contains six single-spaced pages of interviews, written in deadpan police-blotter style: "At 1715 Hours this writer spoke to [the older] Buttacavoli, W/M, D.O.B. 06/04/83 who advised that on 12 August 94 they were playing a putting game...Thomas putted the ball and [the younger Buttacavoli] picked it up and threw it into the ladies locker room. Thomas yelled [the boy's name] and pushed [him] backwards over a table...."
In late September, in part because the case involved an assistant city manager, Miami Beach police consulted with the Dade State Attorney's Office. Comments in the police file reflect the opinion of the chief of the juvenile division, Assistant State Attorney Leon Botkin: "It was not his office's policy to arrest six-year-olds." In October the case was closed with no action taken against the Buttacavoli children and the two other accused attackers, primarily because they were too young to show criminal intent. When police told Scott Curry about their decision, he angrily denounced it as an injustice.
"Once Myra [Diaz-Buttacavoli] started talking to the police, they stopped investigating the boys and began investigating me," Curry complains, referring to the point in the probe when Beach police Det. Vincent Aprile informed the state Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS) that Curry had allegedly hurled the littlest Buttacavoli into the pro shop. (An HRS investigator told Aprile the agency wouldn't look into the matter because the boy was not injured.)
Though the police had given up, Scott Curry wasn't about to. In November he drove to Myra Diaz-Buttacavoli's house and placed in her mailbox a letter demanding payment for his son's emergency room bills. He followed up in December with an angry phone call to Diaz-Buttacavoli's office, again demanding payment and, she told police two weeks later, shouting abusively at her. (Curry maintains that he merely raised his voice because Diaz-Buttacavoli was using a speaker phone. "I didn't want to be mean to her," he says. "I didn't want to sound like a crazy person.")
Curry also complained about the Buttacavoli children to the principal of St. Patrick's, in an attempt, he says, to see that they received counseling. "These boys need help," he argues.
Finally, on St. Valentine's Day, he went to St. Patrick's and, according to police and one of the nuns at the school, handed out flyers denouncing the boys. Encapsulating Curry's version of the original incident, the flyers went on to list other purported misdeeds committed by the Buttacavoli kids, including shutting small children in lockers. When asked to leave the school grounds, Curry allegedly refused. Miami Beach police Sgt. Andres Soto, who had supervised his department's investigation into the original incident, happened to be visiting St. Patrick's that day to teach an anti-drug class. Soto says he was particularly concerned about the effects the contents of the letter would have on the Buttacavoli kids' peers. "It's pretty traumatic," comments the officer, who arrested Curry and then let him go after he agreed to sign a promise to appear in court.
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Myra Diaz-Buttacavoli declines to respond directly to the charges Curry has made, and will only comment through her attorney, Robert Hertzberg. "Any story you write should be based on the truth, accurate information, credible sources, police reports, the State Attorney's Office, and eyewitnesses," Hertzberg says helpfully. (Through Hertzberg, Diaz-Buttacavoli also asked that her sons' names not be published.)
In March Scott Curry pleaded not guilty to one count of trespassing. But Assistant State Attorney Jim Cobb says his office will seek a court order barring Curry from the school grounds and imposing a sentence of community service.
Curry insists he was never on private property, that he remained on the sidewalk while he passed out his leaflets. Moreover, he adds, "I have the best interests of the Buttacavoli kids at heart. They need to have a talking-to."
But to Andres Soto, there's a different lesson to be drawn: "It was just a fight among kids," muses the Miami Beach police sergeant, himself a father of three. "If the state attorney could seek a felony conviction in every case in which one kid hits another, my own children would be in court every day.