Speaking to a jam-packed room of reporters, cops, and politicians yesterday, Mayor Tomas Regalado trumpeted eight corruption arrests as proof of his commitment to cleaning up city government.
"For the first time ever in the City of Miami, we have an anti corruption department," Regalado crowed. "Today we're seeing some of the first results."
In the cold light of morning, it looks instead more like business as usual in the shadiest sunny city on earth.
Turns out that the police didn't get warrants for five of the eight arrests -- and in fact ignored State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle's direct warning that two of the cases weren't strong enough to merit state charges.
Rundle quickly fired off a letter to Regalado after the press conference demanding to know what, exactly, was going on.
"I am sure that you all know very well that based on the evidence presented to my prosecutors and their analysis of the law there is no state criminal charge that can be filed," she wrote to Regalado.
Here's her full letter, emailed at 6:13 p.m. to Regalado, Police Chief Miguel Exposito and Carlos Migoya, the new city manager:
To: 'Tomas Regalado (email@example.com)'; 'firstname.lastname@example.org'; 'Miguel Exposito (email@example.com)' Subject:
I was trying to reach you gentlemen earlier to clarify and or correct a misstatement.
The news media has been contacting us all day regarding a person by the name of Vicent Cobham who is the grandson of Georgia Ayers and a person by the name of Johnnie Brown. They said that the Miami Police Department had arrested them for violations of state laws. I am sure that you all know very well that based on the evidence presented to my prosecutors and their analysis of the law there is no state criminal charge that can be filed. Your officers had been advised of that by the head of our Public Corruption Unit, Joseph Centorino and Assistant State Attorney Johnette Hardiman. Therefore, I can only assume that the media misspoke and meant that the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office would be handling these cases.
Please advise if the media is mistaken or not.
Katherine Fernandez Rundle
We've called Regalado's spokesman for a response to Rundle's letter, but haven't heard back yet.
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So, in lieu of more information, this is what yesterday's grand brouhaha boils down to, in Riptide's view:
Regalado's new era of public accountability has kicked off with a mildly outrageous case against two cops who abused their positions to get tenants to pay rent in an Overtown apartment building; a so-so federal case against another cop who allegedly stole $460 from a car-crash victim; three corruption cases against city officials that apparently weren't strong enough to go to the state attorney before making the arrests; and, finally, two corruption cases that are in fact so weak that the state attornery herself warned the cops not to pursue charges.
In a city facing an SEC probe over possibly bungled finances, and where the cops are on the trail of mysteriously shredded documents, let's just say that we're waiting for something a bit more substantive next time around.