FORT LAUDERDALE- Just hours after being reinstated to his old job, a Broward Sheriff’s Office employee filed a federal lawsuit over the secret recording of a Feb. 15 traffic stop, accusing the sheriff’s department of false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and violating his constitutional rights.
Community Service Aide Anthony Vincent filed the lawsuit on Oct. 30, the same day he was reinstated to his job, after being terminated for releasing the recording.
“Plaintiff Vincent alleges that the Defendants violated his constitutionally protected civil rights by committing an unreasonable seizure of his person through an unlawful traffic stop, by illegally tape recording him during said traffic stop without Plaintiff’s knowledge, authorization, or consent, by threatening to improperly, illegally influence a judicial officer, by conspiring to initiate and maintain an unfounded Internal Affairs investigation, and by interfering with the Plaintiff Vincent’s property interest in his continued employment without due process of Law," reads the 8-page complaint filed in federal court.
The lawsuit names Sheriff Al Lamberti, Capt. Wallace Haywood, and Deputies Roberto Aspuru and Jose Saud as defendants.
Jim Leljedal, director of Media Relations for the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO), did not respond to questions about the case.
The traffic stop occurred on Feb. 15 when Vincent, a community service aide with BSO, was off duty and riding his personal motor scooter near his Southwest Ranches home. BSO Deputy Robert Aspuru and Corporal Jose Saud, who were conducting a traffic operation, waved him over for speeding.
Aspuru and Saud had ticketed Vincent in the past but a judge dismissed those citations and Vincent alleged he was being harassed. When Vincent was stopped this time, Aspuru turned on his cell phone’s voice recorder and also took photographs of Vincent.
Vincent, who is gay, can be heard on the recording expressing fear for his life after being stopped, as well as disputing that he was speeding, while using profanity nd insults toward the deputies. He accused the deputies of stopping him only because he was, in his words, “a faggot.”
Vincent asked the deputies not to approach him until his sergeant, Michael Menghi, arrived. Aspuru then contacted his own commander, Wallace “Wally” Haywood, who came to the scene.
Vincent was issued a criminal citation for speeding and then he and his sergeant left the area. Haywood is heard on the voice recorder making plans to contact the judge in the traffic case. Haywood and the deputies did file complaints against Vincent but it is unclear whether Haywood made any effort to sway the judge.
According to records on file with the Broward Clerk of the Courts, the case was heard by Magistrate Maria Lynn Varsallone. Vincent’s attorney, Ted L. Hollander, presented documents showing his scooter was incapable of traveling at 56 miles per hour, as stated in the citation, and he requested a trial.
Haywood is also heard on the recorder giving the deputies instructions about how to write their internal affairs complaints and he is heard using profanity to describe Vincent.
The deputies did file complaints with Internal Affairs and Aspuru submitted his recording as proof of Vincent’s conduct. In keeping with BSO policy, Vincent was provided copies of the evidence materials, including the audio recording, after the investigative phase of the Internal Affairs process was completed.
After listening to the recording, Vincent said he was in fear for his safety and provided a copy to officials of Southwest Ranches, which transacts with BSO to provide police services. BSO policy prohibits the release of materials related to ongoing investigations and Vincent was placed on administrative leave for releasing the recording.
Even though Vincent said he acted out of concern for his safety, he was terminated, and appealed the decision through binding arbitration. BSO officials reconsidered the action and Vincent was returned to work on Oct. 30.
Just hours later he filed the federal lawsuit, which is pending before U.S. District Court Judge William J. Zloch.
A criminal investigation being conducted by the Broward State Attorney’s Office into the traffic stop is ongoing, which seeks to whether the deputies broke the law by recording the traffic stop without Vincent’s knowledge, taking photographs of him and discussing plans to approach the judge in the case.
*Pictured above is Sheriff Al Lamberti, left, and BSO Community Service Aide Anthony Vincent, right.