FORT LAUDERDALE – Fort Lauderdale police officer Jefferson Alvarez has been charged with one count of perjury, a felony, and one misdemeanor count of falsifying a police report, according to sources.
“I have been advised charges have been filed and the paperwork is making its way through the clerical process,” his attorney Michael E. Dutko confirmed. “My position all along is that this was a training issue. It was a dumb mistake, by a young officer, but there was never any malice.”
The charges stem from the arrest of James Kennedy Thompson , 30, of Fort Lauderdale on Sept. 13, 2010, allegedly for driving with a suspended driver’s license. Prosecutors determined Alvarez falsely claimed in his report and a deposition that he pulled Thompson over for an expired tag. He also claimed that after running checks, he determined Thompson’s driver’s license was suspended and made the arrest.
Thompson maintains Alvarez’ accounts were fabricated. He says he was not driving the car at all but went to its location in the parking lot of an abandoned gas station, where his cousin had left it, to fix a flat tire. It was 3 o’clock in the morning and a police officer drove by, then turned around, and began questioning him, he told South Florida Times.
The officer ran a check and determined Thompson’s license was suspended. That officer was Larry Reyes, who was joined by another officer a short time later. Alvarez was the third officer to arrive on the scene and was asked to transport Thompson to jail. Alvarez then compiled the arrest reports with various details about the traffic stops.
Attorney Steven Michaelson of the Broward Public Defender’s Office represented Thompson. He utilized data from the global position system [GPS] installed on Alvarez’s squad car to confirm Alvarez did not make the traffic stop. During depositions Alvarez testified how he made the traffic stop while providing specific details. However, Reyes contradicted those accounts.
“Um, Officer Alvarez stated that he stopped the vehicle when, in fact, I stopped the, uh, – I was the first officer to stop the vehicle,” Reyes testified.
Michaelson turned the GPS data and transcripts of those depositions over to prosecutors, who reacted by dropping the charges against Thompson and opening a criminal investigation into Alvarez’s actions.
Alvarez was placed on paid suspension on July 15. He has been with the department for less than 28 months working in the patrol division and earning $57,865 a year. Officials with Fort Lauderdale police say they have yet to be informed of the charges, but when that happens they will conduct their own internal affairs investigation and suspend him without pay.
Dutko said prosecutors offered Alvarez a plea deal, but his client had done nothing wrong and intends to fight the charges.
“It was an error in a police report, born primarily out of inexperience,” Dutko said.
It is not clear when Alvarez will surrender or be taken into custody, but Thompson’s defense attorney said he was satisfied with the outcome.
“Too often in the past police officers have gotten a pass,” Michaelson said. “I’m glad the state attorney’s office investigated and filed the appropriate charges.”