SOUTHWEST RANCHES — The Broward State Attorney’s Office is investigating an incident in which sheriff’s deputies recorded a motorist as he disputed their issuing him a speeding ticket and at least one of them is heard making plans to contact the judge in the case.
“All I can tell you is that it’s an active investigation,” Broward County Assistant State Attorney Stefanie Newman said, without providing details.
However, according to several sources familiar with the case, the investigation seeks to determine whether the deputies broke the law by recording the traffic stop without the motorist’s knowledge, taking photographs of him and discussing plans to approach the judge.
Jim Leljedal, director of Media Relations for the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO), did not respond to questions about the case.
The traffic stop happened on Feb. 15 when Anthony 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 and 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.
Varsallone did not return calls from the South Florida Times.
Records show she dismissed the ticket after it was pointed out that deputies issued Vincent a criminal citation and magistrates can preside only over non-criminal traffic infractions.
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 policing 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, a disciplinary committee has recommended his termination.
*Pictured above is BSO Community Service Aide Anthony Vincent, left, BSO Commander Wallace Haywood, right.
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