In a federal courtroom in Miami this past Tuesday, Chief Judge K. Michael Moore read the arrest history of
Age 19: Forcible rape.
Age 20: Carrying a concealed weapon and disorderly conduct.
Age 41: Assault and battery.
Age 63: Battery.
Age 64: Felony battery.
Age unknown: Threatening a public servant, aiding and abetting.
But when it came time to sentence Vernon for federal gun violations, to which he pleaded guilty, Moore declined to put the 69-year-old behind bars. Instead, Vernon — the former face of the Velocity Network show South Beach Classics — received only three years of probation and a $2,000 fine.
Vernon, a foulmouthed New Yorker with a dealership in Miami's Little River neighborhood, became well known among classic-car buffs after starring in three seasons of South Beach Classics with his wife and business partner, Robin Ziel, who disappeared from the show when the fourth season aired in 2017. Velocity yanked the show from its roster last year after New Times reported that Vernon had been accused of domestic violence and child abuse multiple times by Ziel, his three children, and his late first wife. In the case of Ziel, a Broward County judge found the evidence compelling enough to issue a permanent restraining order barring Vernon from going near her.
As part of the court order, Vernon was required to surrender his firearms. But in October, customs agents at PortMiami found 12 guns — including one that was stolen — in the trunk of a car Vernon was trying to ship to Germany. Somehow the weapons were returned to him weeks before the feds realized he wasn't supposed to have them. Later that month, agents seized the guns from a closet in Vernon's home in Plantation and charged him with violating the terms of the restraining order.
Vernon initially faced up to ten years in prison, but because he has never been convicted of a crime, the sentencing guidelines suggested a maximum of six months. Stunningly, federal prosecutors requested even less at his sentencing hearing Tuesday, when they asked the judge to give Vernon only two months in detention followed by house arrest.
In a sentencing memorandum asking the judge to go easy on Vernon, defense attorney Barry Wax called Vernon a "non-violent first offender, with no significant criminal history." But in court, Moore disputed that characterization and said he worried about what message it sent to Vernon to have multiple charges dropped or abandoned.
"He's had repeated run-ins with the law, and fortunately for his sake, every time he gets in one of those pickles, he's avoided accountability or responsibility," the judge said. "Sometimes I think that it leads a defendant to believe he can get into these skirmishes and find his way out... It breeds a certain disrespect for the law when there are no consequences to it."
In a statement to New Times, Vernon's 28-year-old daughter, Alex, says she worries for her safety and the safety of her stepmother and minor brother.
"Ted is a monstrous man who has continued to lie and cheat his way through the political justice system," she says. "This is not a man that should be able to continuously be invincible and to continuously walk free and put other humans in danger. This is a man that deserves jail time; this is a man that needs to pay for the wrongs he has done."
She also expresses anger at a judicial system she says "has continued to fail us."
"We are disappointed in you, Judge Moore. You have let a dangerous man run free despite your own fears," she says. "What he does next is on you."
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