After Miami Cop's Anti-Semitic Video, Cops Claim They Were Smeared by Fake Texts

After Miami Cop's Anti-Semitic Video, Cops Claim They Were Smeared by Fake Texts
Reyes Brothers via YouTube
The Miami Police Department resembles a middle-school playground. Here's proof: Brothers Tommy and Matt Reyes, who recently won the cop union's elections, seem to be suggesting someone tied to the election's losers is now fabricating evidence to smear them.

Yesterday, New Times broke news that MPD Chief Jorge Colina has ordered the termination of Roberto Destephan, a police officer and former Fraternal Order of Police union vice president. Destephan ran for reelection this year — but during the race, someone leaked a self-shot video Destephan had made in which he threw sacred Hebrew texts in the garbage. He said he was "taking out the trash."

Colina said the video was anti-Semitic and last week ordered Destephan's firing. Destephan still has several days to appeal that decision. He's all but certain to do so: Destephan and his pal, former union head Edward Lugo, claimed the video was "doctored" and circulated by the Reyes brothers, who were running for the union's leadership positions, to smear Destephan. The police chief and Miami City Manager Emilio T. Gonzalez, however, did not buy that excuse and are still calling for Destephan's head.

But mere hours after New Times published its story yesterday, a curious new bit of information surfaced. Veteran TV reporter Glenna Milberg of WPLG Local 10 News obtained an "anonymous complaint" sent to the City of Miami's Civilian Investigative Panel (CIP) on January 2, 2019. New Times has since obtained a full copy of the complaint. The anonymous "whistleblower" included alleged text messages showing that Matt Reyes, who was running for FOP vice president, admitted to altering the anti-Semitic film to make Destephan look bad.

On its face, the evidence seems damning: The texts appear to show Reyes admitting the video was going to be cut to "look the way we want." But New Times contacted the Reyes brothers last night, and they have a simple explanation for this: The text messages aren't real.

"It's all fake," Tommy Reyes told New Times last night. "They couldn't even spell my brother's name right." He added: "We know it's fake and are not taking it seriously. We are not worried. Therefore we're ignoring it."

Importantly, Reyes said the chief decided to fire Destephan even though he is aware of the alleged texts. Speaking to WPLG yesterday, Destephan acknowledged he created the video, but stuck to his claims that the books were "moldy" and needed to be thrown away. Colina, who did not respond to a message from New Times last night, told WPLG he found the video offensive regardless of what might have happened behind the scenes. And he said if any officers had hidden the footage, he'd take action against them, too.

The CIP has not yet investigated whether the text messages are real.

Destephan is part of a group of officers aligned with outspoken former union chief Javier Ortiz, a cop who has racked up use-of-force complaints, excessive-force lawsuits, and allegations of racism and harassment during his storied career at MPD. In one of these, former CIP member Danny Suarez said Ortiz had faked a police report that alleged Suarez verbally threatened cops before fleeing.  Suarez later filed complaints with Internal Affairs and the investigative panel. Tommy and Matt Reyes ran a campaign in which they repeatedly claimed that Ortiz and Lugo had mismanaged the union and used the labor organization to enrich themselves at the expense of MPD's other officers — they have promised to audit the union's books this year in order to monitor how Ortiz and Lugo spent the group's money.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.