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Gay Matter

Paul Withers remembered meeting Greg Blue at a Broward health club. After striking up a conversation in the sauna, Blue had confided that he was questioning his sexual orientation. A gay man himself, Withers listened sympathetically. In subsequent chats Blue would confess his sexual desire for Withers, who demurred, advising his troubled acquaintance to seek counseling. Blue had a wife and kids, which posed an obvious dilemma. There was another complication: Blue was a Miami Beach police officer.

Withers would also recall a meeting about a year and a half later, under different circumstances. In October 1992, while on duty, Blue stopped Withers in Miami Beach for a traffic violation. After a computer check indicated he was driving with a suspended license, Withers assured the uniformed officer there had been a mixup. Documents proving his license was valid were at his apartment nearby, he added. According to Withers, as soon as they got inside his apartment, Blue began coming on to him. Despite Withers's repeated protests, the officer rubbed his chest and crotch and motioned for him to proceed to the bedroom. In a panic, Withers fled the apartment and banged on his neighbor's door for help. Blue quickly departed.

Several months later, at the urging of friends, Paul Withers submitted to a tape-recorded interview, signed a sworn statement, and in March 1993 lodged a formal complaint with the Miami Beach Police Department's internal affairs unit. Still fearful of Blue's power as a cop, he opted to come forward because he feared other gay men might have similar experiences at the hands of the muscular six-foot-two-inch officer.

What Withers (who died suddenly of heart failure this past July) didn't know was that internal affairs investigators were already familiar with stories about Officer Blue. This past June, rather than provide internal affairs with a sworn statement, Blue chose to resign. Six weeks ago Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) officials found probable cause to strip him of his state certification.

Despite the disturbing nature of the accusations, official investigations were carried out in virtual silence. Even as then-Chief Phillip Huber was trumpeting improved relations between his force and the local gay community, internal affairs personnel were sorting through a handful of allegations dating back over several years, detailing incidences of sexual misconduct on the part of uniformed officer Greg Blue. This past April the Dade State Attorney's Office quietly resolved not to charge Blue with any crime. Although they had been supplied with the names of four accusers, prosecutors declined to investigate the matter.

Blue's internal affairs file indicates that concern about the 39-year-old patrolman was initially raised by a fellow officer, Ambrose Sims, in October of 1989. Sims had heard secondhand of three incidents in which Blue had made unwanted sexual advances toward men while on duty and in uniform. Because investigators were unable to contact the alleged victims, however, no action was taken. Nearly three years later Sims, an openly gay officer who serves as an informal liaison to the Miami Beach gay community, reported three more alleged incidents to internal affairs. This time one of the stories was more specific, and one accuser slightly more forthcoming.

In an interview with Sgt. Johanna Straight, summarized in the internal affairs file, the alleged victim related how Blue had pulled him over several times. In each instance, the man claimed, Blue instructed him first to park his car into a dark and/or secluded area, and then to approach the driver's side of the patrol car. While he stood outside the driver's door, Blue sat inside and masturbated, the man told Straight. He had stopped visiting Miami Beach, he added, for fear Blue would continue to harass him. Blue's accuser stopped short of providing a formal statement, however, citing possible retaliation by Blue, and when no other accuser came forward, Straight opted not to open a formal investigation.

Ambrose Sims, meanwhile, had grown increasingly alarmed. Working off-duty as a security guard at a gay nightclub on South Beach, he was hearing more rumors about Blue. "It was very frustrating when I realized at a certain point that some of this stuff was probably true," Sims remembers. "I thought about talking with Blue myself, but I had a lot of mixed emotions. I recall wrestling with the possible scenario that by tipping him off to an investigation I might enable him to continue to do this or avoid prosecution. That's why I went to internal affairs."

Straight formally launched her investigation in February of last year, after Paul Withers and another alleged victim came forward. The other formal complaint against Blue, also in the form of a tape-recorded interview and a sworn statement, is both detailed and graphic.

On a Friday evening in July 1992, stated Brad Williams, he was working at a flower shop in the Deauville Hotel at 6701 Collins Ave. when Blue, in uniform, entered the store and requested to use a phone, explaining that there had been a robbery nearby. After Williams directed the officer to a phone, Blue asked if he could come back later to "interrogate" him.

 

In fifteen minutes Blue was back, and in the course of the ensuing conversation, Williams stated, Blue complimented him several times on his appearance and confided that he had been abused as a child. When the officer suggested they continue their talk in a back room, Williams went on, he complied but felt intimidated, worried that the unkempt room might be in violation of a city ordinance. Blue began grabbing at Williams's crotch and "being very aggressive," said Williams. He backed away, but Blue pursued him, then reached inside his gym suit and fondled his genitals. Blue asked Williams to masturbate him and, fearing the consequences of rejecting this request, Williams consented.

"Here's an officer, and here I am a peon and I don't know what's happening," Williams told Straight. "What are you going to do with the officer in uniform? The stigma. The impact. Are you going to have any rights? I mean, if you run out the door, is he going to say, 'Stop!' and arrest you?" He felt sure Blue would have run after him had he tried to leave, Williams added. "It was more or less obey or something else will happen," he said. "I felt like I was being held by some person's authority."

Williams said he did resist, however, when Blue groped his backside and asked, "Can I fuck you?" Shortly thereafter, the officer ejaculated and retired to a bathroom to clean up. "You're not going to say anything about what happened, are you?" Williams said the officer asked before he left. Throughout the encounter, Williams said, Blue had "the look of a crazy person." He also noted that Blue had only one testicle.

Straight was able to confirm that Blue had issued Paul Withers a traffic ticket and had been sent to a robbery near the Deauville Hotel, both on the dates in question. She also discovered that Blue had been diagnosed in 1991 with testicular cancer.

In late February, Maj. Rocco De Leo informed Blue about the allegations of sexual misconduct. "Blue's face twisted, and he immediately sat up straight in his chair," De Leo noted in a memo to Chief Huber. "For the remainder of this session Blue twisted his hands together and cracked his knuckles. His only question was: 'Why wasn't this brought to my attention with the first complaint?'" On the spot, Blue was relieved of duty with pay and ordered to see a psychological counselor.

The next month Straight turned over to the State Attorney's public corruption unit Withers's and Williams's taped statements. She also sent along a memo with the names of two additional witnesses who had come forward but declined to lodge formal complaints. On April 7 Howard Rosen, the prosecutor assigned to review the case, filed a memo concluding that "no violation of criminal law can be proven."

Rosen now says he has no specific memory of the case. But the State Attorney's case file indicates that no investigation was ever opened. According to his four-page memo, Rosen reviewed only the taped statements supplied by Straight. He did not attempt to question any of Blue's accusers, nor did he contact Ambrose Sims. Nor do records indicate that he asked Blue to give a statement. Further, while the allegations might have resulted in charges of battery and/or lewd and lascivious behavior, the criminal charge Rosen listed on his memo was "False Imprisonment," an oversight he now attributes to a clerical error.

Also remarkable is the tone of Rosen's memo, which seemingly blames the victims for their sexual encounters with the uniformed officer. "In view of his prior knowledge of Blue," Rosen wrote, "Withers could have avoided any potential problem by driving from the traffic stop to the police station, but did not." In Brad Williams's case, Rosen reasoned, "if [Williams] felt that something was unusual, he could have run out of the shop once Blue went into the back room, but he didn't." Apparently disregarding Williams's statement that he was intimidated, Rosen wrote, "It was not until Blue asked Williams if he could have anal intercourse with him that Williams expressed any hesitation."

Attorney Michael Finesilver, a former Dade prosecutor who encouraged Withers to file his complaint, says the state's handling of the case was egregious. "This is the office that's so willing to charge cops," Finesilver scoffs. "Here we have civilians being sexually battered by a police officer in uniform and they're not even interested enough to assign an investigator?"

 

Clark Reynolds, Miami Beach spokesman for the gay rights organization Dade Action PAC, questions whether the allegations would have been handled differently had the accusers been heterosexual women, rather than gay men. Howard Rosen bristles at the suggestion. "That's a ludicrous position for anyone to infer," snaps the prosecutor. "The issue is proof -- proving to a jury that these were not consensual encounters."

When Straight received word that prosecutors were not going to press charges, the police sergeant drafted her own list of questions for Blue, and this past June he was called in for an interview. After inspecting the file of allegations against him, he resigned. His attorney, Michael Braverman, told Straight that Blue would prefer not to give a statement. "Chief Huber agreed that no statement was required," Straight noted in her investigative summary, which cites Blue for three administrative violations: guilty of conduct unbecoming an employee of the city; wantonly offensive in conduct or language toward the public; and guilty of actions which amount to disgraceful conduct while on or off duty.

Blue, who lives with his wife and two children in Broward and has launched his own private business since resigning from the force, refused to comment for this article, referring all questions to his lawyer. Michael Braverman, the senior staff attorney for the Police Benevolent Association, says Blue denies the allegations as they were set out by Sgt. Johanna Straight, but that he resigned to spare his family the humiliation of a full investigation. "He wanted to put this incident behind him and move on with his life," Braverman explains. His client has entered therapy, adds Braverman, and has agreed to voluntarily surrender his state certification.

After joining the Miami Beach Police Department in 1988, Blue had a distinguished record as a cop and a personnel file filled with letters of commendation and glowing evaluations that praise his high level of training and initiative. The allegations of improper sexual behavior are virtually the only blots on an otherwise spotless police career. In February 1989 Blue was named Officer of the Month for his part in an investigation that resulted in two men being arrested for having sex with, and taking pornographic photos of, a twelve-year-old boy.

"Due to these officers' aggressive patrol tactics," the commendation reads, "two dangerous child molesters have been removed from our streets, making our city a safer place to live.


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