Showing posts with label Miami. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Miami. Show all posts

October 24, 2019

Cubans in Miami Had Castro, Puerto Ricans Have Maria, They Want to Follow The Same Recipe




                       





{By Luisita Lopez Torregrosa}

MIAMI —

Puerto Ricans in this city, who have long felt like a sideshow in Florida politics, are mobilizing to gain a larger voice at the ballot box, motivated in part by the devastation and the response to Hurricane Maria, which “showed our powerlessness," as one attorney and activist says.
“Puerto Ricans are galvanized and unified for the first time,” says Natascha Otero-Santiago, a publicist and community activist, referring to the aftermath of Hurricane Maria and the drive for political empowerment. “I’ve never seen anything like it here in my 25 years in Miami.”
Otero-Santiago points to the “summer revolution,” the popular uprising that drove Puerto Rico’s then-Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló from office. “It brought us all together, Puerto Ricans on the island and Puerto Ricans here in solidarity and gave us the incentive and energy to raise our voice.”
Some longtime residents and activists see an opening as the parties, especially Democratic presidential candidates, see the growing potential of Puerto Rican voters ahead of 2020.
Democratic presidential candidates are showing up in the state with an eye on its 29 electoral votes and the key to victory are the state’s 3 million eligible Latino voters. Puerto Ricans, the fastest-growing Latino group in the state with 1.2 million people, command one-third of that vote, about the same as Cuban-American voters.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, who had been here for the first debate in July and for private fundraisers, recently timed his first public rally in Miami to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D- Mass., visited San Juan early in her campaign and unrolled a debt-relief plan to stabilize the island. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., enlisted the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, as one of his campaign managers. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg recently held a grassroots rally and a private gathering with Puerto Ricans in Orlando and has expressed support for statehood. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, the only Latino presidential candidate, made Puerto Rico the first stop in his campaign.
While candidates court prospective voters, Otero-Santiago and other political organizers and activists say voting is just part of it.
“We must elect more Puerto Ricans to local and state offices and Congress,” she says. The 27-member Florida congressional delegation has one Puerto Rican member, Rep. Darren Soto, a Democrat from Central Florida, which is home to a substantial and growing Puerto Rican population.
Only three Puerto Ricans hold seats in the state Legislature and there's only one Puerto Rican mayor, Joel Flores, of Greenacres in Palm Beach County.

Growing numbers, but voters?


The number of island-born, eligible Puerto Rican voters in Florida has increased 30 percent since 2016, according to Pew Research. But that doesn't immediately translate to votes. During the recent midterm cycle, the four Florida counties with the largest Puerto Rican populations had slower Latino voter registration growth, and Puerto Ricans lagged behind other voters in the midterms.
Frederick Vélez III, 29, a Puerto Rican activist who got his start in politics as a scheduler for Rep. José Serrano, D-N.Y., came to Miami last summer after working to get out the vote in Orlando. He said that among some of the approximately 50,000 to 70,000 Puerto Ricans who have settled in Florida in the two years since Maria, there is still a lack of familiarity with mainland and state politics, and some speak little English.
“On the island, they vote every four years, no midterms, no school board, and city council elections," Vélez said, adding that voting on the island is a holiday and turnout can be as high as 80 percent. "Here, they don’t vote up to their numbers," and activities such as fundraising or getting involved in local campaigns have not been part of their past experience.
Advocacy organizations such as the Hispanic Federation and the Alianza for Progress have been mobilizing to reach out to prospective voters. On Oct. 16 in Orlando, the Hispanic Federation launched Que Vote Mi Gente, a voter registration drive aimed at the Puerto Rican community.
The kickoff included Broadway star and "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose father Luis Miranda founded Hispanic Federation, as well as salsa singer Frankie Negrón. The organization is planning a full-blown campaign deploying social media, television advertising, and get-out-the-vote rallies, according to Otero-Santiago, a member of the Hispanic Federation.  

Appealing to Puerto Rican voters means focusing on issues that are specific to their community. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, so while immigration is not a priority, the question of Puerto Rico's reconstruction and financial recovery, as well as the prospect of statehood are key issues.
For the GOP, Florida is fertile ground. President Donald Trump won the state by 112,000 votes in 2016 and has the support of the state’s two Republican U.S. senators, Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Rick Scott, as well as Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and dozens of state and local officials.
In targeting Latino voters, Republican organizers and officials are sticking closely to the president's playbook, slamming Democrats and their policies as socialist and talking up the economy.
“President Trump values the Hispanic community and the strong Latino support for him and his policies will be instrumental to his re-election in 2020,’’ Danielle Alvarez, a Trump campaign spokeswoman, says. So far in this cycle, according to the campaign, GOP volunteers and organizers participated in Puerto Rican faith fairs and festivals; promoted anti-abortion and other conservative social issues that appeal to evangelical Puerto Ricans and launched Latinos for Trump in Miami, where the president lost in 2016.
Democratic presidential candidates are countering the GOP message, attacking the president's record regarding island issues.
"Vice President Biden is absolutely making a concerted effort with the Puerto Rican community,” Isabel Aldunate, Biden’s Hispanic media press secretary, says. She pointed at a Biden campaign video lambasting Trump’s careless handling of Puerto Rico after and since Maria. The campaign recently hired Laura Jimenez, a Floridian with experience in the Puerto Rican community as its national Latino vote director.

Warren named Kimberly Diaz Scott, a Latina, as state campaign director, the first such appointment by a Democratic presidential candidate in this cycle.
Democratic organizers concede that amid conflicting goals, groups and fundraising issues, prospective voters are responding to the attention with varying degrees of enthusiasm.
“Puerto Ricans who relocated after Maria and the economic collapse on the island are tired of politics and polarized,” Nicole Rodriguez, 42, president of the Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Miami-Dade, says explaining why some are disengaged. "They have soured on politics on the island, on the corruption and the bad economy and come here to get away from that and want nothing to do with politics here.”
But Rodriguez is optimistic. “The numbers are there. The issues are simple. We need to make more noise.”
Republican political strategist and commentator Rick Wilson, who's fiercely critical of Pres. Trump, says that when it comes to Puerto Rican voters, Democrats need to learn a lesson from Republican Sen. Rick Scott's victory in November.
"He won a surprising amount of the Puerto Rican vote by going out to them, spending millions of dollars and to his credit, going repeatedly to Puerto Rico," said Wilson, adding it would be "political malpractice" if Democrats don't have hundreds on the ground registering Puerto Rican voters. "They lose it because they get outhustled."

Will they gain clout?


Cuban and Puerto Rican comparisons are inevitable in South Florida. Puerto Rico’s political power here reached its peak in 1973 when Maurice A. Ferre, a member of a prominent Puerto Rican family, became the city’s first Hispanic and the first Puerto Rican mayor in the United States. But after his twelve years in office, it was the city's growing Cuban American population which become a powerful political voice in the city and the state.
“Cubans always had a North star, Cuba, Castro,” explains Francisco J. Cerezo, 49, an advocate for Puerto Rican issues and a law partner at DLA Piper, who studied law and worked in New York City until moving to Miami 20 years ago. “That unified them gave them a common purpose ... We did not have a North star until recently. Our North star may well be Maria.”
“The hurricane tore apart our illusions,’’ he says, looking over Biscayne Bay from his 25th-floor office downtown. “It showed our weaknesses, our powerlessness. It affected the rich and poor. It brought Puerto Ricans together on the island and on the mainland. It may be the closest thing we’ll have to a North star. It may be our rallying cry.”
It was for Gabriela De Jesús, 28, a Florida International University master’s candidate who is running for a Democratic seat in the state Legislature. “The treatment Puerto Ricans received after Hurricane Maria infuriated me,” she says.
De Jesús, who prefers to be called Gaby, was born in Puerto Rico and grew up partly in the Dominican Republic (her father is Puerto Rican, her mother Dominican). When she was 25, she endured a yearlong illness that forced her to give up a small catering business but inspired her to run for office.
“She’s a force of nature!” Otero-Santiago says, watching Gaby speak to a crowd of supporters gathered in a South American restaurant in a shopping mall near downtown. The youngest and the first Puerto Rican woman to run for office in South Florida, she couches progressive ideas in moderate terms, emphasizing human capital and the need to fight racism and culture shock that she says many Latinos feel in this country.
Days later, over coffee at Joe’s Take Away in South Beach, De Jesús recalls her early years in the U.S. “I was shocked, unable to speak and relate when I arrived at Manhattan College in the Bronx. It was all so different and I didn’t speak good English and felt lost.”
About newly arrived Puerto Ricans, she says, “they are suddenly here and they don’t speak English well and they don’t vote because they don’t know the system and they are afraid. I know what that feels like.”
Apart from De Jesús, there are two other Miami Puerto Ricans running in local races: Eleazar Meléndez, running for a district seat in the City Commission, and former state Rep. Robert Asencio, who's running for a Miami-Dade County Commission seat.
For her part, De Jesús is officially kicking off her campaign this month, with Frederick Vélez as her manager. She talks about the need for transparency and unity, about a broken system. In doing so, she's hoping to win a voice for Puerto Ricans in the state — and perhaps a boost to her party.

NBC News

June 30, 2019

The Four Man Accused of A Hate Crime At Gay Gala in Miami Face A Judge




Duration 0:56
Group who beat up gay couple are charged with a hate-crime

BY MARTIN VASSOLO
Miami Herald

The four young men accused of attacking a gay couple on South Beach face stiffer penalties after prosecutors charged them Thursday under Florida's hate-crime enhancement law. 
A South Florida LGBTQ group came under sharp criticism this week after attendees of a gay pride gala in Hard Rock Stadium learned they had been joined at the event by an unlikely — and largely unwanted — bunch of visitors: four men accused of hate crimes in connection with the beating of two gay men after an annual gay pride parade in Miami Beach.
The board of directors of SAVE, a Miami-based LGBTQ rights and advocacy nonprofit, apologized Thursday to the gay community and the victims of the April 8, 2018, attack, which was captured on surveillance footage. The four suspects — Juan Carlos Lopez, Luis Alonso Piovet, Adonis Diaz and Pablo Reinaldo Romo-Figueroa — were charged last year under Florida’s hate-crime enhancement law.
Each of the young men was charged with three counts of aggravated battery committed with prejudice. All the suspects were 20 or 21 years old at the time of the attack. 
They have pleaded not guilty, but police said Lopez and his companions called the victims maricones, an anti-gay slur in Spanish, before repeatedly punching the two gay men, Rene Chalarca and Dmitry Logunov, in the face. The punches briefly knocked out Logunov. 

A witness to the attack, Helmut Muller, chased the men and was also beaten up. He sustained a gash to the back of his head that would require four stitches. Miami Beach officials honored him as a “hero” for helping the beaten couple.
So it came as a surprise to some members of the LGBTQ community in South Florida that the accused men attended the SAVE Champions of Equality Gala on June 14 — during Pride month no less.
Their appearance there was first reported by South Florida Gay News. The news outlet additionally reported that SAVE Executive Director Tony Lima announced from the stage of the gala that the men had been “wrongly accused.” Lima later said he didn’t recall saying that, but if he did, he apologized.
In a post to Facebook on Thursday, the group’s board of directors said it did not intend to “support, exonerate or justify the actions of these individuals” and that it would investigate the circumstances surrounding their appearance and any recognition they may have received from staff.
“We want to extend our deepest apologies first, to the victims, and equally, to the community for any insensitivity that may have been conveyed on our behalf by their attendance and mention at the gala,” the statement reads. “We are currently investigating this matter more thoroughly to determine the facts around the attendance and recognition of these individuals and will be providing an update to our supporters and the community at large as soon as we gather all the appropriate information.”
Lopez’s father, who is gay, said in an interview last year with NBC 6 that he does not believe his son acted out of animus toward the LGBTQ community.
The men have volunteered in a limited capacity with SAVE since their arrest and subsequent release, the group said. SAVE said the men were not invited to the gala and bought their own way into the event.
Lima apologized via a video statement on Facebook posted Friday night.
He said Lopez’s parents contacted him about six weeks ago to inquire about volunteering with the group. Each man volunteered about two to three hours each, and helped with data entry and some preparations. The men and Lopez’s parents bought tickets, he said.
Lima said he welcomed the group during the program but did not recall claiming the men had been wrongfully accused. 
“If that’s what I said in haste, I apologize for that,” he said. “I am no one to pass judgment on the case.”
He said he acted alone and should have consulted with the board of directors.
In his video statement, Lima told the men it was positive they were “trying to support the community and trying to really rehabilitate themselves.”
“When I saw them at the event, I wanted them to feel welcomed and I wanted them to really be able to have the opportunity to engage with our community at a deeper level,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Miami state attorney’s office said the case remains an active criminal prosecution.
“We believe we have sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the charges against them: Aggravated Battery with Prejudice/Weapon or Bodily Harm, Aggravated Battery, Assault with Prejudice/or on Religious Institution Grounds, and Assault,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “If that were not the case, the charges would have been dropped in the past.”
Miami Herald staff writer David Smiley contributed to this report.

Read moe here: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/gay-south-florida/article232093047.html#storylink=cpy

October 31, 2018

What If Because You Are Gay Get Attacked By This Ugly Couple Wielding a Big Ugly Knife?


By Tim Fitzsimons

As they wound down a “lovely” day of snorkeling, picnicking and hiking on Wisteria Island, Keith Miller and Jeff Pellissier were preparing to head back to Key West. The recently married couple from West Hollywood, California, then saw a boat traveling toward them at high speed.
“I heard loud people in a skiff coming toward the island, and I mentioned to Keith, ‘I hope they’re not going to be landing near us, they sound noisy, they sound a bit drunk,’” Pellissier said. “We started to put things away in the boat because I thought something might be happening, so I wanted to be ready.”

Christopher Yarema and Stephanie Burnham
Christopher Yarema and Stephanie BurnhamMonroe County Sheriff's Dept

Christopher Thomas John Yarema, 43, and Stephanie Lynn Burnham, 35, arrived quickly. The pair hopped out into the knee-deep water, where Miller was standing.
“The man yelled, ‘Hey, Speedo man, what are you doing here, get the f*** off my island, you fag,’” Pellissier, 59, said in an interview with NBC News.
According to the Miami Herald, the island is a “makeshift community for the homeless,” and Burnham’s address in the police report is listed as the “streets of Key West.” Wisteria Island is also popular with day-trippers from Key West.
“The only thing we said is 'We are leaving, and we want nothing but peace,'” Miller, 61, said.
Pellissier said Burnham punched him in the face, broke his sunglasses and hit him with an oar. She also shouted that the couple had “five seconds” to get off the island, or she would kill them, Pellissier recalled. Then Yarema brandished a four-inch blade at Pellissier but missed because Miller pushed their inflatable dinghy in between them. After Yarema missed and sunk his blade into the dinghy, he stabbed it multiple times, deflating several of its compartments, the men said.
The two men managed to get back into the dinghy and made it back to their sailboat before the smaller craft sank. The Coast Guard, responding to the tourists’ call for help, said it found the dinghy “completely deflated,” according to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office report. Yarema and Burnham were both arrested.
According to the police report, Yarema “remembered his wife getting into an argument with the people near his campsite, but does not remember anything else. He stated that when he woke up, Coat [sic] Guard was requesting him to follow them to the station.” Burnham was charged with battery and causing property damage, while Yarema was charged with third-degree aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without the intent to kill and first-degree battery.
Adam Linhardt, a spokesperson for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, said that Florida state attorneys will determine whether hate crime charges would be filed.
“The words they used left little to the imagination,” Linhardt said. “Whether or not a hate crime is what these people are ultimately charged with would be up to the state prosecutors.”
Reached by telephone Monday by NBC News, Val Winter, the assistant state attorney for Monroe County, said his office does not comment on pending cases. “We typically have 30 days to make our filing decision” regarding hate crimes, Winter said. The couple told NBC News that they felt certain Burnham and Yarema intended to kill them. “They stabbed with the intent to kill me,” Pellissier said. “Jeff and I are just grateful that we got away [with] our lives,” Miller said.
Stratton Pollitzer, the deputy director of statewide LGBTQ rights group Equality Florida, said the group has seen a “dramatic surge in hate violence impacting many communities. Worse, the flames of hatred are being fanned by the current administration.”
“Thankfully, arrests have been made in this incident which helps to reinforce the vital message that hate crimes will bring action and accountability,” Pollitzer added. “We all need to cultivate the courage to intercede when we see anyone being verbally or physically assaulted like this. We have to be a counterbalance to the swaggering hatred."
According to the most recent FBI hate crimes data, 17 percent of all hate crime victims in the U.S. in 2016 were targeted because of their sexual orientation, and most of those victims were gay men.

NBC News

May 15, 2018

4 Attackers At Miami Beach Pride Charged With Hate Crime Which Will Extends Their Sentences





 










Juan Lopez (left), Luis Alonso (center left), Adonis Diaz (center right) and Pablo Reinaldo Romo (right)

CBS MIAMI MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — Hate crime charges have been filed against four men accused of attacking two men and shouting anti-gay slurs following Miami Beach's gay pride parade. Charged in the attack are Juan Carlos Lopez, 21; Luis M. Alonso Piovet, 20; Adonis Diaz, 21; and Pablo Reinaldo Romo-Figueroa. 



They have pleaded not guilty.
The enhanced hate crime charges mean the four could face as much as 30 years in prison if convicted, rather than 15 years on previously filed aggravated battery charges. The Miami Herald reports that prosecutors brought the hate crime charges Thursday.



The attack happened April 8 and was captured on surveillance video. Authorities say the video showed the suspects punching two men in the face and knocking them down. The beating left the victims with multiple cuts and bruises.
One alleged victim, Rene Chalarca, told CBS Miami that he and a companion, Dmitry Logunov, were both repeatedly punched. 
"We were coming out of the bathroom and they started hitting on us, punching us, and kicking us when we were on the floor. They had no reason to," Chalarca said, who added that the men allegedly used an anti-gay expletive during the attack.

March 1, 2018

Miami Cop Allowed to Resign on Rape Case Goes After His Accuser, She Became EaSyPrey


On Our Tenth Year Anniversary 2008-2018




The detective prematurely ejaculated on her clothing, she says, pointed to his penis and told her to “suck it.



Sitting in an unmarked police car in a dark lot outside her Allapattah apartment, Sara was crying and shaking uncontrollably. The dashboard clock glowed 2 a.m. Three weeks earlier, she had called 911 to report that her boyfriend had violently raped her.

Now she was the victim of another sexual assault. But this time her attacker was Miami Police Det. Michel Toro, the lead investigator who had promised to arrest her attacker. As he put a finger inside her and she sobbed, he suddenly stopped and asked if he’d “done anything wrong,” she says. 

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Sarah decided not to confront him. She had already ignored the creepy texts Toro had been sending for days and the hugs and kisses he had pressured her to accept every time he visited to talk about her rape case.

“I wish I could find the right words to explain how I felt at that moment. It was almost like, I’m aware I’m alive because I can feel myself breathing, but the rest of my body is paralyzed,” Sarah says. “Besides... there was no one else to turn to. So I had to hope that he does what he’s supposed to do, just pull his finger out and do his job.”

But according to Sarah, Toro’s assaults grew only bolder after that first attack February 12, 2016. Over the next two weeks, the detective raped her four more times in her apartment, she says, penetrating her vagina with his penis while on duty and wearing his police-issued gun and radio.

I had to hope that he does what he’s supposed to do, just pull his finger out and do his job.”
When Sarah finally found the clarity to report the detective, MPD’s internal affairs investigators collected DNA, cell-phone records, and surveillance footage that all verified he had regularly had sex with her while he was on duty. By June 2016, IA had found probable cause to believe Toro had broken multiple state laws, including sexual assault and pressuring her into sex through his power as a detective.

But when investigators took the case to Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, her office allowed Toro to quietly resign with no criminal charges. When they reached this agreement — despite hints that Toro's behavior had been troubling in the past — Sarah’s worst fear was realized: Her boyfriend’s charges were also dropped.

“I tried to hang myself when I learned that [my boyfriend] wouldn’t be charged,” says Sarah, who provided New Times with records verifying an extended stay in a mental health facility after the incident. (New Times is not publishing her real name in keeping with our policy of protecting the identity of sexual assault victims.)

But prosecutors say they had no choice. They paint Sarah as an unreliable accuser. A hospital test performed two days after she said her boyfriend had raped her came back negative, and friends they interviewed cast doubt on her story that he had violently attacked her. Prosecutors say that although Toro clearly had sex with Sarah multiple times, it would have been nearly impossible to prove to a jury that it wasn't consensual.

“The only evidence available in this matter is the victim's testimony, however, her credibility would be easily attacked by a defense attorney,” Assistant State Attorney Johnette Hardiman wrote in a close-out memo clearing the boyfriend of criminal charges. “The fact that the lead detective, in this case, took advantage of the victim is reprehensible, but would unfortunately also serve to detract from the victim's credibility.”

But Toro’s story, which has never before been reported, raises new questions for MPD and Fernandez Rundle, who has never charged an officer with an on-duty killing (though she has charged cops with rape). It also shines a spotlight on the queasy area of police officers having sex with witnesses and victims under the officers' influence. Though Florida bans cops from engaging in sex with anyone in their custody, the law doesn't cover cases such as Sarah's in which a cop has sex with a witness or victim.

“The fact that the lead detective, in this case, took advantage of the victim is reprehensible, but would unfortunately also serve to detract from the victim's credibility.” 

Before her story imploded in violence and police misconduct, Sarah had lived an international life of intrigue. Born in England in 1972 to a Southeast Asian mother and a British father, she was raised in Germany and later moved to the Caribbean. With a lilting accent, caramel-skinned good looks, and a deep, melodic voice, Sarah built a career as a popular radio host on several islands. She had three children along the way and began regularly traveling to the United States for media work in 1999.

A few years ago, she met a Trinidad-born airline employee who was based in Miami. In 2015 — with her children grown and living back in Europe — she moved to South Florida to live with him. The relationship was stable, she says until they took a ten-day trip to Trinidad. When they returned, her boyfriend was agitated. And on January 22, 2016, something snapped: As she was getting ready for bed, he attacked, raping her anally while she screamed for help.

Sarah says she went into shock. “I was very traumatized. I was waking up in panic, and I couldn’t breathe,” she says. “And I didn’t really know where to go. I always heard that medical care here in the U.S. is expensive. I’m thinking, How much will they want for me to visit an ER?”

So she waited two days before going to Jackson’s rape treatment center, where counselors pressed her to call the police. But she was leery.

“In the Caribbean, the way it works, since I was living with this guy and all my stuff was there, they’re just going to tell me I have to leave,” she says. “I’m thinking, Where the heck can I go in this state? So I didn’t say anything to the police.”

On January 29, a week after the attack, a social worker finally convinced her the cops could help. Her boyfriend had disappeared after the attack, Sarah says, but was still texting her regularly. She says she feared he would return and hurt her again. So she relented, and that afternoon a team from MPD’s Special Victims Unit interviewed her and took photos.

The next day, Toro showed up at her apartment. The young Cuban-American detective had close-cropped hair and wore a leather jacket. He told Sarah his backstory: Born in Havana, he moved to Miami with his mother. In 2005, he found work as a guard in Miami-Dade’s prison system. He spent six years there before joining MPD in September 2011, working as a street cop until September 2015, when he joined the SVU.

Sarah felt better after that meeting. But when he returned the next day, she says, Toro began acting inappropriately. “On the second visit, he said, ‘You know, you really look like you need a hug,’” she says. “Every time he would come after that, he’d insist on giving me a hug and kissing me on the cheek.”

Then the texts started. On February 4, he texted Sarah to warn that sexual assault charges were unlikely but that he was hopeful to make a domestic battery case against her boyfriend. The next day, he texted, “All u need is a nice message to put you to sleep.” Over the next week, he sent a barrage of texts, telling her that she would fall in love with him, offering to “warm her up” and promising to “bite soft, kiss, and lick” her from “head to toe.”

Toro seemed to know it was wrong to hit on Sarah, who says she was barely functional while suffering from a posttraumatic stress disorder.

He admitted her vulnerability in a text: “Your such a beautiful and attractive woman and I’m handling your case, which it’s not to professional from my part if I tell u those things and your mind is not in the right place to even accept those comments from me,” he wrote. “But I just wanted to let you know that I’m someone you can trust. Because I really care about what you're going thru. [sic]”

Sarah knew his behavior was wrong, but she felt trapped. He was the only investigator assigned to her case, and she was terrified that her boyfriend could come back any moment. She wanted him locked up.
“That’s the horrible thing with my emotional state at the time. I didn’t know how to process it,” she says. “It’s him and him alone dealing with the case.”

So when Toro’s insistent texts and hugs turned into an outright sexual assault in his parked car early February 12, Sarah felt “paralyzed.” She didn’t know who to turn to, and the last thing she wanted was for the case against her boyfriend to collapse. She hoped that her crying had warned Toro. But hours later, he texted her a shirtless photo of himself and wrote, “You know, I still smell like you.”

Toro, who worked the night shift, returned the next day just before 5 a.m., supposedly to talk about the case. But once he was inside her apartment, he began grabbing her breasts and vagina. This time, Toro exposed his penis and tried to penetrate her. “I can’t do it!” Sarah says she yelled. The detective prematurely ejaculated on her clothing, she says, pointed to his penis, and told her to “suck it.” When she said no, he cleaned up and left.

Sarah was terrified, she later told investigators. She even texted him to apologize for not orally pleasuring him “in an attempt to not upset Detective Toro and keep him from adversely affecting the investigation into her pending sexual battery case.”

The detective prematurely ejaculated on her clothing, she says, pointed to his penis and told her to “suck it.” 

On February 16, Toro delivered for Sarah. The boyfriend was arrested and charged with felony sexual battery. But the detective warned her that he still had to produce the evidence to convict him. Toro had powerful leverage over the emotionally battered woman. Soon, she says, he used it again.

On February 21, he again showed up at her apartment. Sarah knew what he wanted. As she later told investigators, she had “psychologically prepared” herself to have sex with the cop. Toro showed up at 2:54 in the morning, dressed in a shirt and tie with his radio, gun, and badge attached to his belt. He had sex with her three times that morning, leaving his clothes on each time because he was on duty and “it would take him too long to get dressed if he got a call,” she remembers.

With the criminal case still pending against her boyfriend, Sarah had no intention of turning in Toro. But then she began going to counseling classes, which she says caused her to question what the detective was doing.

Six days after Toro raped her three times, she says, she was waiting for coffee at a Starbucks when she noticed a female officer nearby. Sarah made a snap decision: “I didn’t spell everything out but kind of told her what had happened,” she explains. “She said, ‘You need to tell the police about this. I’ll go with you.’”

The officer drove Sarah to MPD’s internal affairs bureau. Sarah spoke for several hours to investigators, who took a sworn statement and opened an investigation into Toro's behavior.

Toro had a relatively clean record, his record shows. He had been arrested for petty shoplifting in 1997 before he found work as a prison guard. In December 2015, he had been cited after Hialeah Police were called to the scene of an argument he was having with the mother of one of his children. He was supposed to be on duty at the time. His only other citations were for missing traffic court several times.

But on the anonymous online police message board LEO Affairs, there were warnings about Toro as early as 2014. One post warned he was fond of “sending pictures of his *** to every female he comes across,” while another wrote that “if IA is really up to it, they should look into Toro cellphone & see all those wonderful pictures he sends of his mini-**** and how he tries to [hit on] anything wearing a bra to the point of harassment.”

With Sarah's complaint in hand, investigators moved quickly. They collected clothing that Toro had ejaculated onto and the text messages from her phone. On March 3, IA obtained a court order for Toro’s cell-phone records — with FBI help, they turned up location data that showed the detective traveling to Sarah’s apartment the dates she said she’d been assaulted. The data also showed Toro was spending “prolonged periods of time” in her apartment when he was supposed to be on duty. And video surveillance confirmed he had stayed for hours the three dates Sarah said she had been raped.

IA did find a red flag while investigating Sarah’s claims — a concern that matched prosecutors' worries about her credibility. A retired MPD lieutenant, Marlene Hines, said she was concerned about Sarah’s story. Hines had met Sarah years earlier on a trip to the Caribbean, and the two became friends. She claimed Sarah had falsely accused a boyfriend of sexual assault and another man of stabbing her in a fight. Hines was worried Sarah might be doing the same to Toro because she wanted legal protection to stay in the United States.

Sarah says she has no idea why Hines would tell the police that story. “I believed we were friends. I still don’t know why she would tell them that,” she says. Sarah says she had been assaulted by a previous partner; in the stabbing case, she provided documents to New Times suggesting that, in fact, the man had been found guilty in 2006.

But Hines' concerns weren’t enough to derail IA’s case. After all, the evidence was virtually airtight against Toro. On June 21, IA closed its case, finding that Toro had broken at least 11 departmental policies and that there was evidence he had broken the two Florida laws. They recommended he be fired, and they took their investigation to Rundle’s office.

But Hardiman, the assistant state attorney, had already elected not to proceed with the case against Sarah's boyfriend. The state's three-month investigation had poked holes in her claims, Hardiman later wrote in a close-out memo. Doctors at Jackson found no evidence that she'd been raped anally (though she did wait two days to go). What's more, they interviewed a roommate who said Sarah had been planning a wedding with her boyfriend and then had become erratic after he called it off. Prosecutors also talked to another acquaintance who warned that Sarah wasn't reliable before concluding they had no case. “There was no DNA evidence, nor any injuries,” Hardiman wrote in a July 1, 2016 memo. “There were no witnesses to corroborate her statement.”

Hardiman and a team of prosecutors broke the news to Sarah in person June 15. She was “visibly distraught,” Hardiman wrote, but “did not seem as concerned with the outcome of this investigation as she was with the other serious problems she was experiencing,” such as the lack of a job or a place to stay in Miami.

But Sarah says the news was a crushing blow. On June 23, according to records, she provided New Times, she checked into a psychiatric facility, listing “suicidal thoughts” as a primary symptom. She spent more than two months there, she says, under nearly constant watch and treatment.

She lost complete contact with her relatives abroad, who became concerned when she stopped responding to Facebook messages and texts. But she says she had no idea how to explain to them what had happened.

“How do you tell someone that on the phone?” she says. “[My boyfriend] attacked me. They’d be like, ‘What do you mean — he beat you up?’ It’s hard enough to tell someone you were raped, but then the police officer... no one knew.”

Finally, more than a month after her suicide attempt, one of her daughters in Europe reached her by phone. “That’s when she learned not just about the first assault but also about the detective afterward,” Sarah says. “She said, ‘Mom, why didn’t you talk to me?’”

Worst of all, she says, prosecutors never let her know that six days after clearing her boyfriend of rape, they had also negotiated terms with Toro: If he gave up his state certification and resigned, they wouldn’t charge him. Toro quickly agreed and the next day submitted his resignation.

Prosecutors say Sarah's credibility issues would have made it impossible to prosecute the case against Toro. But Sarah's attorney, Adam Horowitz, says they never even interviewed her about the detective's assaults. 
“The fact that she wasn’t consulted on the deal with Toro is unbelievable,” he says. “Crime victims should be able to weigh in on a decision like that.” 

Worst of all, she says prosecutors never let her know that six days after clearing her boyfriend of rape, they'd also negotiated terms with Toro 

Sarah is still in therapy and has applied for a U visa, which is granted to victims of violent crime so she can find work in the United States. “I have really bad flashbacks all the time,” she says. “I used to travel very extensively, mostly alone... and now I have trouble crossing the street.”

She says she decided to speak about her story because she worries Toro could do what many other disgraced cops have done: move to another state, get recertified, and abuse his power again. She also hopes MPD reconsiders its rules and requires more than one detective to be in the room with sexual assault victims at all times.

“I think they give officers too much power,” she says. “I know maybe they’re stretched for personnel, but in such a sensitive thing... they need to have someone else in the room.”

April 7, 2017

30 Yrs for Two Men Running Gay Slave Sex Ring in Miami











Two Hungarians will spend 30 years in prison each for forcing young gay men into sexual slavery in Miami, a judge ruled on Friday.

Gabor Acs and Viktor Berki received their sentences after earlier being convicted of human trafficking, conspiracy and racketeering.

 Gabor Acs, left, in Miami-Dade court on trial in January , was sentenced to prison for human trafficking. He kept three gay Hungarian men enslaved as prostitutes in a North Miami-Dade home.

Gabor Acs, left, in Miami-Dade court on trial in January , was sentenced to prison for human trafficking. He kept three gay Hungarian men enslaved as prostitutes in a North Miami-Dade home. 
Friday’s sentencing concludes a case that was hailed as a first for Florida prosecutors because the victims were gay men forced into prostitution after being lured from Hungary to the United States.

It was the second trial for the victims who testified. The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Human Trafficking Unit earlier won a conviction against a third man involved in the ring, Andras Janos Vass, who was sentenced to just over 11 years in prison.

Prosecutors said that Berki and Acs met two of the victims in Hungary through a website called GayRomeo.com. Another victim was “living with gypsies” as a prostitute, meeting Acs through Facebook. The three men testified that in 2012, they were flown to New York City to work in what they believed was a legal business in the United States.

In New York and later Miami, the men, then in their early 20s, were forced to live in cramped conditions while performing sex acts around the clock, sometimes with johns, other times on live web cameras, prosecutors said. The three were given little food and threatened with violence if they left , the state told jurors.

At trial, defense lawyers portrayed the victims as willing prostitutes who cooperated against Berki and Acs simply to get visas to remain in the United States.

February 1, 2017

Two Hungarians in Miami Get 11 Years for Importing Sex Slaves







I have been watching this story for a couple of days but it wasn’t until today that there was confirmation from the Miami Herald. I wonder how many other things are going on in front of us and we don’t see it. 

                                                                           _*_

Two Hungarians are guilty of luring young gay men to the United States to serve as sex slaves, a Miami-Dade jury decided late Wednesday.

Gabor Acs and Viktor Berki were convicted of human trafficking, conspiracy and racketeering in a case hailed as a first for Florida prosecutors because the victims were gay men forced to prostitute themselves for months in New York and Miami.

Jurors deliberated just four hours. The two men will be sentenced at a later date but face more than 200 years in prison, if given the maximum.

This week’s trial was the second for the three victims who testified. The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Human Trafficking Unit earlier won a conviction against a third man involved in the ring. In 2015, Andras Janos Vass was convicted at trial and sentenced to just over 11 years in prison.

Jurors this week weighed whether the three young men were true victims of a brutal sex ring — or willing participants who conned authorities in an attempt to avoid deportation back to Hungary, as defense lawyers claimed.

Investigators said Berki and Acs mets two of the victims in Hungary through a website called GayRomeo.com. Another victim was “living with gypsies” as a prostitute, meeting Acs through Facebook.

The three men testified that in 2012, they were flown to New York City to work in what they believed was a legal business in the United States.

In New York and later Miami, the men, then in their early 20s, were forced to live in a cramped conditions while performing sex acts around the clock, sometimes with johns, other times on live web cameras, prosecutors said. The three were given little food and threatened with violence if they left , the state told jurors.

“These victims were no match for these defendants. They were 20-year-olds who didn’t have enough education, who were desperate for money, who came over here without speaking the language, barely any U.S. money to their name” prosecutor Brenda Mezick said in closing arguments.

She added later: “Human trafficking, modern-day slavery, is not tolerated for anyone, and all are protected.”

But defense attorneys blasted the three men as opportunists who turned on Berki and Acs simply to get visas to remain in the United States.

“What they said about the coercion never happened,” said Berki’s attorney, Ronald Manto. “They were doing what they wanted to do and they were doing it the way they wanted to.”

 

August 25, 2016

Man Caught Eating Another man’s Face Was an Above Standard Student




 Austin Harrouff
One will be amazed that in this environment in which unarmed people get shot to death by police, the latest victim was someone who could not hear nor speak to the cop who stopped him for going over the speed limit, he was shot to death for getting out of the car; The police in this case never shot him with a regular gun instead, tried getting him to stop feeding himself while he was attacking someone else. 
 
Activists are questioning why police were able to subdue Harrouff during his violent attack with non-lethal weapons while many black suspects have been shot in far less threatening situations. 


Update Aug. 17: Michelle Mischon Stevens, one of the victims killed in Harrouff's attack, was the daughter of longtime North Miami Beach Mayor Jeff Mischcon. Read more about both victims here. 

In 2013, Austin Harrouff was starring as a defensive tackle at Suncoast Community High, a Palm Beach County school ranked among Newsweek's ten best in America at least eight times in the past decade. He'd also been taking advanced-placement classes in the school's International Baccalaureate program.

So it's anyone's guess how he ended up in a Martin County garage yesterday, chewing off parts of a stranger's face after killing the man and his wife and stabbing their neighbor.

Late Monday, Martin County Sheriff's deputies say, Harrouff, a 19-year-old Florida State University student, was eating dinner with his parents at a local sports bar when he apparently got angry about something and stormed out. According to the Miami Herald, Martin County Sheriff William Snyder told reporters today that Harrouff had been visiting his Tequesta hometown with some of his fraternity brothers from FSU.

But after Harrouff left, possibly angry at the restaurant's slow service, police found him in the midst of a horrifying scene.

In what Snyder called a "completely unprovoked and random attack," Harrouff approached a married couple — identified as Michelle Mishcon, 53, and her husband John Stevens III, 59 — who'd been sitting calmly in their garage with the door lifted open. Harrouff then allegedly stabbed the couple to death with what cops think was a switchblade. When a neighbor tried to intervene and called 911, Harrouff stabbed him too. 

When police arrived, they found Harrouff "grunting and growling" and "making animal noises" over one of the bodies — while also tearing chunks out of the man's face with his teeth.

Cops discharged their stun guns at Harrouff — multiple times — but were unable to pull him from the man. A police dog couldn't stop Harrouff either. Eventually, it took three cops to pull him away. The neighbor, who survived the attack, reportedly underwent surgery today.

But Harrouff's online presence shows that, as recently as 2013, the college student appeared to have everything going for him.

According to Harrouff's page on ncsasports.org, Harrouff had been taking advanced-placement classes at the high school and gunning for a football scholarship before graduating in 2015. According to his recruiting profile, Harrouff was 6 feet tall, weighed 200 pounds, and could bench-press 365 pounds as a high-school student.

Harrouff also wrote a personal statement online:

I am enrolled in the IB program at Suncoast Community High School. According to Newsweek, Suncoast was #9 of 2013's America's best high schools.It is a rigorous academic program and I have maintained a 3.35 GPA. I am seeking to attend a pre-med program in college. I would love to play football in college while attaining this goal.
I joined the football team in my freshman year. I mainly played as a defensive tackler. This coming year, i will be playing on both the defensive and offensive line. I have learned to discipline myself on and off the field. I have conditioned my body in a short period of time to be one of the strongest on the team. I paused pressed 365 Ibs by my junior year. Off season, I joined the wrestling team in my sophomore year and I was the most improved player by my junior year. I will be the captain in my senior year. I placed third in the district. I also joined the weightlifting team this past year and made second in the district. I also have a more current hudl video at http://www.hudl.com/athlete/1081726/highlights/66794375
I would be a great asset to your football team. I love the competitiveness of the game and I have the drive to improve. Thank you for considering me.

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