At Long Last Busted
The effort to bring felony charges against Manuel Diaz was fraught with innuendo, suspicion, and an alleged conflict of interest
By Tristram Korten
Your Honor, the Defense Rests
Crime and politics and Mr. Diaz: Along with attorney Thomas Tew, I represent Manuel Diaz in the pending criminal case that was the subject of Tristram Korten's article At Long Last Busted (August 31). I wish to provide more information than he apparently has on this case.
The thesis of Mr. Korten's article seems to be that the Miami-Dade Police Department has built a solid case against Mr. Diaz and that Chief Assistant State Attorney Trudy Novicki delayed filing charges because of her own political ambitions. Mr. Korten's thesis further seems to be that the police had in fact built a strong case for filing racketeering charges against Mr. Diaz and that Ms. Novicki took the unusual step of permitting Mr. Tew and me the opportunity to persuade her that those charges should not be filed, which resulted in the filing of lesser charges. Mr. Korten's thesis concludes that if not for the pressure of the police department, charges may never have been filed against Mr. Diaz.
The first thesis -- that the police built a strong case against Mr. Diaz on any charges -- is simply and flatly wrong. Over the course of the past year, I presented to the police and the State Attorney evidence from their own witnesses and county documents that proved their theory of criminality is wrong and that no crime occurred.
Last May the police persuaded the State Attorney to prematurely file charges against [former county parks director] Bill Cutie. Only after those charges were filed did the State Attorney finally listen and learn that counts two and four of their initial indictment were wrong. Mr. Korten may wish to ask his police friends and the State Attorney why they dropped those counts. They admitted to Judge Robert Scola in May that those charges would be dropped; they were always improper. That admission was only the first step in the many mistakes in this investigation.
The police now suggest to Mr. Korten that they had built a solid case for racketeering and that Ms. Novicki improperly rejected that charge. First, racketeering charges were never considered until May of this year. They were threatened in May only after the State Attorney learned that the statute of limitations had expired on almost all the other grand-theft charges they were considering. The police were pressuring the State Attorney to consider the racketeering charge in an effort to save their investigation.
Thomas Tew and I submitted a detailed 28-page, factual and legal letter to the State Attorney and Ms. Novicki, showing why the racketeering charge could not properly be filed. I would be happy to provide a copy of that letter to Mr. Korten. Ms. Novicki agreed not to recommend to the State Attorney that the racketeering charge be filed, not because of political pressure but in spite of political pressure from the police. She correctly determined that the state could not properly file a racketeering charge in this case.
Perhaps Mr. Korten overlooked the political pressure on the State Attorney that has been asserted by the police and the Police Benevolent Association (PBA) in particular. Perhaps he overlooked that the PBA has been supporting the challenger to the State Attorney and has accused the State Attorney of being soft on public corruption.
If Mr. Korten were to check, he would also find that the police have assigned at least five experienced detectives, including homicide detectives, to this case and that the police have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money pursuing this investigation. Perhaps he didn't know that in November 1998, two weeks before this investigation was commenced, the State Attorney rejected the police investigation of another landscaper on the same theory and facts. The State Attorney determined that no crime occurred.
As this investigation began, the frustrated police department imposed enormous pressure on the State Attorney to file charges to vindicate their investigation. While I found Mr. Korten's theory about political pressure interesting, I was surprised that he had not considered the real political pressures and motivations behind these charges. After we presented to the State Attorney all the reasons why the racketeering charge could not be filed, the police pressured Ms. Novicki to file grand-theft charges. But the police totally ignored another fatal defect in their case. Grand theft must be charged separate invoice by separate invoice. The invoices in this case were from October 1994 to May 1995. The statute of limitations for a grand-theft prosecution is five years. Thus by May 2000, all but one of the invoices was well beyond the statute of limitations and cannot be prosecuted. We explained that problem to Ms. Novicki in a June letter. I would be glad to give Mr. Korten a copy of that letter.
The law is absolutely clear on this point, and the State Attorney has ignored the law. The real political pressure in this case was the pressure of the police to file grand-theft charges they know are defective. They pressured a State Attorney who is facing a re-election fight because the police need vindication for their work. If the court dismisses the case, the police have the cover they need: They can blame the judge. In the meantime they have their photograph of the notorious Manuel Diaz in court. The State Attorney can show the public, before the election, that she is tough on crime. After the election, when the case is dismissed, it will be too late for the public to evaluate what really happened in this case.
In the end the police will move on to the next case, the State Attorney will begin her next term in office, and Mr. Diaz's reputation in this community will be permanently destroyed. I only hope that when these events occur Mr. Korten will report these facts with as much vigor as he used in supporting the police in At Long Last Busted.
Joseph A. DeMaria
Nightlife on the Edge
There's something distinctly different about downtown Miami's Club Space. Maybe it's that party-animal cop who's beating the crap out of a defenseless customer.
By Victor Cruz
Club Kid's Lament
Just tell us, is it cool or what? First let me get some things clear about me. I don't currently work for Club Space or any other nightclub associated with Luis Puig, even though I did once work as a DJ for his Club 609, as well as other clubs around town. I have not visited the new Club Space, but I have a friend who works there and I have gotten a lot of good feedback from acquaintances.
I occasionally enjoy reading unbiased reviews of new or old nightclubs in New Times, though whether you like a particular club is a matter of individual taste. It is in my opinion as a reader that Victor Cruz's article Nightlife on the Edge (August 31) about Club Space had absolutely nothing to offer.
The subheadline [There's something distinctly different about downtown Miami's Club Space. Maybe it's that party-animal cop who's beating the crap out of a defenseless customer.] underscored the one thing that happens in most clubs, regardless of whether a cop was involved. There are problems in clubs every single night in Miami and anywhere else you sell alcohol. This kind of situation happens. We all know that!
While I was reading, I kept wondering, Is this is all this particular club has to offer: a drunken cop, promoters with hard-ons, and pussycats at the door who would let in Miami's homeless people for the right price? What did you like about the club, Mr. Cruz? Was the music any good? Were the drinks moderately priced, or did they lower your pants and bend you over the bar (price-wise)? What kind of a light show did it have and how was it decorated?
But I guess you could not possibly tell your readers that, because you probably were too busy in the men's bathroom checking to see whether the cop was okay. There is only one word to describe this poor excuse for a club review and that is lacking. Hopefully your readers will have enough sense to experience Club Space on their own and draw their own conclusions.
You Go, Joe
What's a nice Jewish boy like Joe Weinberger doing in a nasty business like rap?
By Tristram Korten
The first thing we do, let's get our story straight: In her letter appearing in the August 24 issue, Lynda Joy Folmar spews criticism of Tristram Korten's portrayal of the rap industry and Joe Weinberger (You Go, Joe, August 10), not to mention the legal profession. Unfortunately there's more smoke than fire in Ms. Folmar's points, and New Times is guilty of perpetuating Ms. Folmar's misinformation by quoting her in bold type.
Luther Campbell may have won a Supreme Court decision but that did not make him a worldwide historical figure. If anything it showed that his music was not original but derivative of someone else's pre-existing work. In fact the Supreme Court decision simply confirmed that he ripped off Roy Orbison's Oh, Pretty Woman, but that the 2 Live Crew version (a parody) fit within the fair use exception to the copyright laws. This enabled him to ride on someone else's creative work and make money off it without having to pay the owner of the copyright for that privilege.
Is this one of Ms. Folmar's examples of black artists being robbed of payment for their creativity, or just the opposite? If anything it was probably Broward County's attempted ban of As Nasty as They Wanna Be (as being obscene) that propelled Campbell to worldwide fame (or was it infamy?). But you can thank grandstander and former Broward Sheriff Nick Navarro for that. As far as Ms. Folmar's reference to Shakespeare, she really shows her ignorance and commits a miscarriage of literary history. In Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part 2, the line The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers was spoken by an anarchist who wanted to overthrow the lawful government of England by inciting a rebellion of the laboring class -- but without drawing any attention to himself.
Let's set the record straight. Shakespeare's use of the let's kill the lawyers phrase was intended as anything but criticism of lawyers. Viewed in proper context, killing the lawyers would eliminate opposition from those who guarded individual liberty. In other words killing the lawyers would make it easier for the conspirators to effectuate their plan of orchestrating anarchy for their own selfish motives.
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In the future, before Ms. Folmar throws darts, she should get the facts straight.
What Do You Call an Ugly Billboard?
Redundant: Thanks to New Times and Kirk Nielsen for taking an active and apparently influential journalistic stance that has encouraged the City of Miami to enforce the ordinance that limits the number of billboards along the expressways (Signs of Negligence, June 1, and A Sign of Victory, July 20). Your efforts certainly work to improve our community.