It was nine days before Christmas 2003, but Andrew Marshall was already drunk. Dressed in jeans and a blue T-shirt, he had a whiff of homelessness about him. The 41-year-old sported a bushy beard, uncombed hair, and teeth yellowed by years of cigarette smoking. He lived on a 30-foot sailboat moored just off Dinner Key in a quirky community of washups and dropouts. But on this afternoon, he limped around Pier 7 with an oar in his hands.
Suddenly he swung the oar at a dock light. It exploded. He swung again and again. By the time police arrived, he had shattered eight of the lights, causing $900 in damage. When officers asked for his ID, Marshall said, "Fuck the City of Miami. Yeah, I broke the lights." Then he extinguished his cigarette on his own arm.
When cops ordered him to put his hands behind his back, he balled them into fists. Police tackled him and then pepper-sprayed him in the face. He spent three days in jail but avoided prosecution by entering an anger management program.
Four years later, authorities returned for Marshall. An unnamed source had called the FBI claiming he had become isolated and paranoid. The source questioned his mental state and called Marshall "the next potential Ted Kaczynski," AKA the Unabomber.
Feds raided Marshall's boat and storage shed. In this post-9/11 world, what they found must have scared the hell out of them: two AK-47s, a sniper rifle, 15 grenade casings, a rocket, scopes, four homemade silencers, enough chemicals to make six pounds of explosive black powder, and weapons manuals.
In court, prosecutors claimed Marshall was angry with city hall over several lawsuits he had filed. They also said he had made bomb threats and now had the materials to carry them out. Delayed for years by bizarre legal wrangling that probably cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars, a seven-day trial was finally held last month. On August 3, a federal jury convicted Marshall of illegally manufacturing firearms. He could be sentenced to up to ten years in prison come November.
Between the two arrests, Marshall went from being just another boat bum to a "danger to the community," according to Judge Chris McAliley, who denied him bail July 12, 2007.
But friends and family argue that the City of Miami, where Marshall had worked, pushed him too hard. He was already a sensitive soul with a leaning toward strange behavior. Bureaucrats denied him workers compensation, allegedly covered up an injury, and fought him in court. "He's no terrorist," says friend and former marina resident David Bricker. "They locked him up and got rid of six figures worth of lawsuits."
Marshall was born far from the dirt and grit of Dinner Key. His father was a wealthy corporate attorney with an office on Park Avenue in Manhattan. Young Andy attended Rye Country Day, a private school in leafy Westchester County, New York. He played baseball and tennis as a teenager but never grew beyond five feet seven inches and 135 pounds. "He was a peaceful guy and a good student," his father, Gordon, remembers.
But Andy wasn't interested in becoming a lawyer. He tried studying psychology in college but preferred working with his hands and dropped out. He taught himself how to sail in Long Island Sound. The ocean offered an escape from his sheltered upbringing, and Andy soon had his own boat.
By age 31, he had sailed south and settled in Fort Lauderdale. When Marshall moved to Miami in 2001, he parked his sailboat at the Anchorage, a now-defunct free mooring area in Dinner Key Marina. He fit in among the disillusioned hippies and Vietnam vets. He worked for Shell Lumber for a while before landing a maintenance job with the marina.
Things went wrong on just his third day working there. According to a lawsuit Marshall later filed against the city, he and another employee, Jorge Rivero, took a golf cart out to collect trash around the facility, which is next to city hall. Rivero stopped the cart to talk to Donna Bickle, a local who was walking her dog and pet ferret. As Marshall hopped out to collect trash, Rivero played with the animals. When Marshall returned to the cart, it lurched forward, stopping 18 inches from his foot. When he looked up, he saw the ferret on Rivero's head, the dog in his lap, and a grin on his face.
Marshall's lawsuit — which he wrote himself — reeks of paranoia: "Rivero was trying to get [me] to jump out of the [cart]'s way to 'impress' Mrs. Bickle," Marshall claimed. Then Rivero "smiled... look[ed] directly into Marshall's eyes," and struck Marshall with the cart. The collision allegedly twisted Marshall's right ankle, slammed him to the ground, and wrenched his neck, right shoulder, and back.
Though Rivero apologized, he then backed the cart over his injured co-worker's foot, the complaint alleges. Rivero later told his bosses the dog had caused the accident. Soon co-workers began teasing Marshall about being "run over by a dog."
Marshall insisted he was seriously injured, but his bosses assigned him the usual work of planting trees and construction. Then they allegedly ordered him to work in a basement by himself and told other employees not to talk to him.
Marshall stopped showing up at work. He called in and said he could barely walk. When he returned after a week, he was fired.
New Times couldn't reach Marshall in jail, and his bosses at the City of Miami declined to comment. Rivero died in 2005.
After workers compensation was refused, Marshall complained to federal authorities about the accident and what he called a "coverup." On May 17, 2004, he filed a lawsuit against the city over the injury and workers comp claim. He had sued Miami the previous September, claiming to have been stiffed out of a dollar an hour in pay. In November 2003, he had filed a second suit charging the city refused him access to public records.
His lawsuits quickly became all he had. Only in his mid-40s, Marshall applied for food stamps and lived off the dwindling trust fund his father had left him. When a federal court tossed the workers comp lawsuit back to county court, Marshall snapped. He got drunk, broke the marina lights, and was arrested. But he wasn't chastened by jail time. He desperately pressed on with all three lawsuits.
"Andrew was a brilliant guy with a good case, but the problem was that his case wasn't getting heard," says Bricker, at the time a fellow Anchorage resident and now a professor at Miami International University of Art & Design. "He filed motions that kept the city running back and forth. Andrew was really smart about the stuff that he was digging up on the city, and they were really stupid about skipping over legally required due process."
But Marshall found his cause célèbre in the city's decision to turn the Anchorage into a metered mooring area. City officials had been threatening to expel the hundred or so boats — some of them dilapidated, others completely sunken — since 1996. In 2004, then-city Commissioner Johnny Winton called Marshall and his fellow Anchorage residents squatters. They would have to pay to stay there. "[They're] contributing to the blight, pollution, and destruction of the bay," he claimed. "Those people are going to have to comply — or go away."
Marshall responded by circulating a petition calling the waterfront a "playground of political conflict of interest and price fixing."
"Andrew was fighting for the Anchorage to stay free, but the city wanted to make money," says Marshall's neighbor and friend Steve Bickle. "He was stepping on important toes."
On September 22, 2006, Marshall filed yet another lawsuit, against the state over changes at the Anchorage. "The project will not remedy the environmental and social problems it seeks to remedy," he claimed.
"The city hated him," Bricker says. "As soon as he filed a motion, they said there wasn't enough substance to it. So he filed a 120-page amendment. Then the city said it was too much to read."
The war with the city was taking a toll on Marshall, mentally and physically. He rarely left his boat anymore because of his pain, but he refused to take pills. He couldn't sleep at night. By then, he had filed a half-dozen lawsuits against city hall, but government lawyers were battling to dismiss his complaints. Legal fees had exhausted Marshall's trust fund.
He had even begun dropping hints of his bomb-making abilities to a health-care worker. Marshall was reaching his breaking point.
Asks Bricker: "If the legal system doesn't give you what you're required by law, what are you going to do?"