Behind the Badge

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Felton received $2000 for his part in the rip-off, according to the internal affairs report. Some of that episode was recorded on FBI videotape.

Sharpstein terms the May 19 events "an FBI setup." He contends that Felton did not take any money from Griffin. "He didn't take money from Marvin; Marvin was soliciting money from him," he says. "Marvin Griffin convinced Danny Felton that he could provide information that could be used in a law enforcement capacity to arrest criminal violators. The relationship was cop-informant."

On April 12, 1995, nearly a year after the alleged $10,000 rip-off from the Lincoln, Danny Felton was driving at NW 23rd Avenue and 183rd Street when Metro-Dade Internal Affairs Sgt. Charlie Triana, the FBI's Buggs, and Miami Police Sgt. Clyde Rimes pulled him over, according to the internal affairs report. Felton was off-duty. The trio hauled him to nearby FBI headquarters and grilled him. That's when he wrote his confession, according to the internal affairs report.

It seems likely the FBI then offered Felton a deal if he cooperated. Neither details nor timing of the offer are clear from documents obtained by New Times.

A horn honks and music plays. It's April 13, the day after Felton's bust, and the soon-to-be ex-cop pulls up to NW Eleventh Avenue and 79th Street wearing an FBI wire. According to a transcript, here's what the agents heard:

"Marvin!" Felton says. Then there's a pause. "Do you know where I can catch him at?"

"He's over at Reba's house. Know where Reba stay at?" someone from the street shouts back.

"On 75th?"
Felton takes off for a house on NW Eleventh Avenue and 75th Street belonging to Reba Jackson. At Jackson's house he rouses Griffin from a nap.

"What's up, man? You asleep?"
"You asleep?"
"Where you been at?" Griffin asks.

"Chillin', man. Shit, you know I got moved, right? I'm in a different spot now," Felton says. "You know I got off patrol? Since the last time on 75th Street? I'm upstairs now."

"You work in the office?" Griffin asks.
"Yeah. Me and my boys, shit, the other day, we did something like that, stopped a guy ..."

Griffin's waking up now. "Yeah?"
"And he had, you know, a couple of blocks [of cocaine] in there ..."

"So, uh, we, like, we got some money and some block, but we ain't turn the shit in. You know, I wanted to know if you wanted to, you know, get rid of this shit."

Then the dealmaking begins. Felton asks Griffin if he can sell six kilograms of cocaine. Griffin offers to sell the drugs for $15,000 per kilogram, which he says is about $3000 less than street value.

"All right," Felton says.
Griffin later told an FBI agent he never intended to pay Felton for the drugs. He planned to rip off his partner.

The next day at a north Miami-Dade flea market Felton gave Griffin a gym bag with six kilograms of flour tightly wrapped in plastic, according to court documents from Griffin's trial. Griffin promised to deliver the money as soon as possible. After they parted, police and federal agents swarmed over Griffin, cuffed him, and loaded him into a car. In the chaos, Griffin managed to wriggle free, open the the door, and disappear.

The feds didn't immediately issue an arrest warrant for Griffin because they wanted him to work as an informant, law enforcement sources says. The investigators believed other police officers were involved in the same scam. Griffin met with the FBI once, then backed out of another appointment. The feds got a warrant.

On October 25, 1997, more than two and a half years after Griffin's escape, a Miami-Dade patrol car pulled a car over on NW 28th Place for an improper lane change. Griffin was a passenger. He gave police a fake name, Ken St. Rifle, and said he was in town from Georgia to buy a car. Police found $9204 in cash in his pockets. At police headquarters, officers took fingerprints and discovered his identity, according to the arrest report. He was charged with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, as a result of the flea-market affair.

Though the feds tried to persuade Griffin to work as an informant even after he was charged, negotiations were unsuccessful, court sources say. The reason is unclear. Either Griffin couldn't implicate other officers or the feds were unwilling to cut a deal acceptable to Griffin and his attorney, Jon May.

After a career hustling the hustlers, Griffin himself had been hustled.
The trial was held in U.S. District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro-Benages's third-floor courtroom in the downtown federal courthouse. It lasted a week. FBI agents testified, a bureau videotape of Griffin meeting Felton in a parking lot was shown, and transcripts of the pair's other meetings were read. But prosecutors never called Felton to the witness stand. Perhaps prosecutor Tom Mulvihill thought the ex-cop's testimony was unnecessary. Or maybe Mulvihill was concerned about the FBI's alleged promise not to prosecute Felton.

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Tristram Korten
Contact: Tristram Korten