Longform

Behind the Badge

Page 4 of 6

According to the internal affairs report, Felton earned $1000 for the charade. (A police incident report says the stop occurred January 6, but the internal affairs report, apparently because of a clerical error, states the date as January 1.)

Griffin thought of the scams as a public service. "In a sense we still did some good, because here was another drug dealer going back to wherever empty-handed," he writes.

Felton's lawyer Sharpstein disputes both Griffin's allegations and the contention that his client profited from the stop. "Any contact made was in a pure law enforcement capacity," Sharpstein snorts contemptuously. "Any discussion of money was Marvin asking to be paid for information."

To his supervisors, the rookie cop continued his hot pace. In March 1994 he led the approximately 200 officers in the north district substation in arrests, prisoners transported to jail, and a half-dozen other categories. His supervisor, Sgt. Cornelius Drane, wrote, "Officer Felton is a probationary employee; however, he has displayed above-average attention to duty." In April Felton again led his sector in arrests. He passed the department's required three months of probation with a backslapping endorsement from Drane: "Felton is a highly motivated young officer. He sets the pace for production in his north district patrol assignment. I recommend permanent police status."

On May 2, while Felton was burnishing his success on patrol to a high gloss, FBI Special Agent Thaddeus Buggs received a tip from a source that "Officer Danny Felton and a drug dealer by the name of Mr. Marvin Griffin had committed several thefts of drugs and money from local drug dealers," according to the Miami internal affairs report. "Agent Buggs advised the [confidential source] to inform Mr. Griffin that a drug dealer was coming to Miami carrying a large amount of money and drugs in his vehicle."

A week later Griffin called Felton again, according to Felton's disputed confession. The con man told the cop that a dealer was coming to town in about two weeks with $10,000 to buy cocaine. The out-of-towner planned to arrive May 19, stay at a Days Inn, and finalize the deal at Jumbo's Restaurant on NW Seventh Avenue and 75th Street. "All I had to do was pull him over," the confession states.

On the designated day, Griffin told Felton to watch for a bronze-color 1988 Lincoln with Florida tag KNV00L, according to the confession and a traffic report Felton later completed. Around 5:00 p.m. Felton parked his cruiser near NW Sixth Avenue and 75th Street and waited. Soon the Lincoln pulled into view. "I can't remember what I stopped him for, but after I looked at his paperwork, I think I arrested him for a suspended license or bad tag," states Felton's disputed confession.

With the Lincoln pulled over by the curb, the six-foot, 160-pound driver tried to persuade Felton to release him, according to an arrest report Felton later filed, and to the confession. Felton replied that he wanted to check the man's driver's license and radioed dispatch. "Can I have a [driver's license and criminal history] check on a black male, first name of Dave, Delta-Alpha-Victor-Echo, last name of Williams, common spelling," Felton said, according to a transcript of that radio conversation. "He has a [date of birth] of 6/23/53." The dispatcher discovered several names under that birth date, some of whom had outstanding warrants. She asked if the man met the description listed on the computer. "I'll ... check these warrants," Felton replied, according to the transcript. "Show me en route to the north station with a black male."

The alleged confession describes the subsequent events: Felton parked the Lincoln in a lot at a nearby housing project. Then he drove "Williams" to the station and dropped him off. Afterward, Felton drove to the KFC on NW Seventh Avenue and 74th Street, where Griffin and a couple of men waited in a black van. Felton gave Griffin the keys to the Lincoln "and told him to hurry up because I had to bring them back to the guy," the confession states. The three retrieved the Lincoln; one of Griffin's associates drove it to a spot on the expressway. Felton watched from a distance as they combed through its interior. Then Griffin called Felton's pager -- his signal they had found the money.

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Tristram Korten
Contact: Tristram Korten