On Monday, the Miami City Commission called a special hours-long meeting to chastise recently hired Miami Police Department (MPD) Chief Art Acevedo for joking that his department was run by the "Cuban Mafia," an incendiary quip that offended three Cuban-American commissioners — Joe Carollo, Alex Diaz de la Portilla, and Manolo Reyes, often referred to as the Three Amigos.
During the meeting, Carollo called into question Acevedo's high-profile firings and the new chief's outspokenness about the department's history of letting bad cops slide.
Now it seems Carollo is in trouble for his own outspokenness about the department's history of letting bad cops slide — specifically for making incendiary remarks at Monday's meeting about MPD Capt. Javier Ortiz, one of the MPD's most controversial officers, who in 17 years has racked up 58 citizens' complaints regarding offenses ranging from abuse of force to discourtesy to the public.
It started when Carollo's diatribe against Acevedo expanded to include Ortiz by way of collateral damage. In an attempt to discredit the chief's allegations of rampant excessive force in the police department, Carollo cast Ortiz as Acevedo's crony.
"If [Acevedo] would've been telling me that he was talking about his main defender and henchman, Javi Ortiz, I could believe it," Carollo said Monday. "But the worst abuser of our citizens and residents in Miami and the state of Florida, that's his henchman that he's been protecting and given carte blanche to."
Carollo went on to state on the dais that Ortiz "is the number-one abuser of our residents," that he has "the worst record of any police officer of beating up residents," and that "the majority have been African-American, by the way."
Ortiz's attorney, Richard J. Diaz, sent a letter Wednesday threatening to take Carollo to court to sue for defamation if he does not retract the "untrue" and "defamatory" statements made about his client.
After Acevedo was hired in April, he placed Ortiz in MPD's motor unit, following a yearlong suspension amid an FBI investigation into allegations of misconduct, which was dropped owing to a lack of physical evidence. In July, Acevedo told New Times Ortiz was on thin ice and had been assigned a body-worn camera, which isn't standard procedure for officers of his rank. If any instances of misconduct or abuse of power were caught on Ortiz's camera, Acevedo said, it would help make a case for firing him.
In each of Ortiz's cases of alleged excessive force, Diaz states in the letter, Ortiz was cleared of wrongdoing and the city defended him in court. (The majority of investigations into Ortiz's alleged misconduct have been allowed to expire without findings, and MPD's Internal Affairs unit has sometimes failed to even launch investigations into complaints against him.)
"You are hereby notified that if you do not issue a retraction to the statements/comments you made regarding Captain Ortiz within five (5) days of this letter, suit for defamation will follow," Diaz wrote.
Diaz tells New Times he and his client will sue the commissioner, should he fail to take back his words.
"I don't play games and mess around, " Diaz says. "We fully intend to pursue Javier's rights."
When reached by New Times by phone and asked whether he'd received the letter, Carollo did not comment, though he did emit a sinister-sounding chuckle that rose to a cackle before hanging up.
At one time, Ortiz and Carollo were allies; under Ortiz's leadership, the Fraternal Order of Police union endorsed Carollo for city commission. But the two have been feuding since at least last November, when Ortiz criticized Carollo for allegedly meddling in police business.
Commissioner Ken Russell did not attend the special meeting, citing potential legal risk after Acevedo sent an eight-page memo alleging corruption and police interference on the part of city officials — including Carollo — to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Less than 48 hours after the meeting ended, one of the first threats of legal action has emerged — from the city's most controversial cop.