Miami Beach Police Chief Carlos Noriega is already in hot water. This summer, his cops seized cameras after a fatal police-involved shooting. And two officers on a drunken ATV joyride ran over beachgoers.
So he probably should avoid berating a resident who's simply asking questions — particularly when they relate to former University of Miami booster Nevin Shapiro, who was convicted of running an $880 million Ponzi scheme.
But for the past two weeks, Noriega has waged an escalating email war of words with Steve "Bubba" Cohen, a former Police Athletic League board member.
On August 30, two weeks after Yahoo! Sports published an exposé about Shapiro's ties to the University of Miami athletes, Cohen sent his first email to the chief, who made $208,783.73 in 2010. Shapiro had been appointed to the PAL in 2007, was tight with former Chief Don De Lucca, and was known to dine with Noriega. "Have [you] questioned Mr. Shapiro's involvement with the PAL?" Cohen asked.
"I don't understand the question," replied Noriega, who maintains that Shapiro was not a friend.
Cohen tried again September 2, asking whether Shapiro had provided his yacht for PAL fundraisers or made cash donations. "I understand he was a very generous felon," Cohen wrote.
"I'm sorry this matter has consumed your life... and you feel the need to repeatedly try to attack and slander me," Noriega wrote back. "I feel sorry for you."
Cohen sent a final note September 5, politely but sarcastically castigating the chief for avoiding his questions. "With all your diversionary tactics... we almost forgot about the questions concerning my fellow PAL board member and convicted felon Nevin Shapiro," he wrote.
Noriega was infuriated. He pointed out that, as chief, he didn't oversee the PAL. "You... are making an incredible lawsuit against yourself for me," he replied. "I believe you are in serious need of professional help... I will no longer entertain your slanderous and irrational rants."
"He wants to paint me as disgruntled and unhappy," Cohen says. "But he still won't answer my questions."
Noriega declined to comment further.