FORT LAUDERDALE — Prosecutors with the Broward State Attorney’s Office are investigating how an admitted drug dealer who secretly carried on a sexual relationship with one of the officers who busted her was able to avoid jail time and have her record expunged through a pre-trial diversion program intended for addicts.
“An inquiry has been opened into the matter,” Jeff Marcus, head of the Felony Division, confirmed. He declined further comment.
Due to concern for her personal safety, the South Florida Times is not publishing the name of the woman who became a police informant after she was busted.
The woman was caught with a total of 88 grams of cocaine but avoided jail time by participating in Broward County’s Drug Court program, in apparent violation of state law.
Florida statutes limit drug court to addicts who are in possession of less than 28 grams of cocaine that is intended for personal use and not for resale or delivery.
At the time of her arrest, the woman admitted to law enforcement officers that she was a dealer. She also told police she had sold drugs for years to a network of more than 15 regular clients.
Fort Lauderdale Police Officer Jason Maldonado was on the team that arrested the woman on March 23, 2006. Maldonado started having sex with the woman shortly after her arrest, according to the internal police records and a statement she provided to Internal Affairs investigators.
They gave Internal Affairs investigators differing statements as to when it started and when it ended. When the relationship soured in early 2010, and the woman started getting calls from his wife, she filed a complaint with Internal Affairs. He was fired on Oct. 12, 2010 over the relationship with her and for lying to investigators about it.
Investigators documented hundreds of phone calls between the two, as well as text messages. Phone records show the communications began the day after the woman’s arrest in violation of department prohibitions about personal involvement with convicts or suspects.
Investigators also found that Maldonado made frequent visits to her home and even gave her one of his official department issued t-shirts used by Fort Lauderdale police street crimes units.
Prosecutors are seeking to determine if the officer may have withheld information or otherwise influenced the woman’s plea agreement. At this point, it is unclear whether anything illegal actually took place, and Fort Lauderdale Police are not commenting.
“The case is sealed and exempt from public records,” said Fort Lauderdale police spokesman Sgt. Frank Sousa. “I don’t talk about cases that are exempt from public record.”
When contacted by South Florida Times, the woman said, “I’m sorry, I don’t know what you are talking about.” When asked about the case and the affair with Maldonado, she replied, “I’m sorry, I don’t know who that is,” before hanging up the phone.
Investigators are also looking into other unexplained discrepancies and the police report itself.
The original police report dated March 23, 2006, indicated 27 grams of cocaine was taken from the woman. It did not include any information about the search of her home or the additional 61 grams that was seized there. A month later, on April 26, the report was amended and the page numbers altered, to include that information. However, that information was added six days after the woman had already been formally charged with possessing only 27 grams of cocaine.
The woman appeared before Circuit Court Judge Marcia Beach, who accepted her into the drug court program. The decision was based on a probable cause affidavit filed in court by Fort Lauderdale police that charged her with possessing 27 grams, not the total of 88 grams that was actually confiscated and which included the 61 grams confiscated from her home that same night.
If the additional 61 grams had been included, that would have rendered the woman ineligible for the drug court program. Additionally, it would have triggered a state-mandated drug trafficking charge which carries a minimum mandatory three-year prison sentence.
“Based on the case having been sealed, we are unable to now determine whether in 2006 we were provided with the total amount of drugs seized,” Marcus said.
Drug court is a statewide program intended for addicts and is also known as “treatment court.” Defendants are allowed to plead not guilty but are required to undergo a year of drug treatment and are given a year’s probation. Upon successful completion of the program, charges are dropped, the records are sealed and there is no jail time.
However, the statute creating the special court also states, “If the state attorney establishes the defendant was involved in the dealing or selling of controlled substances, the court shall deny the defendant’s admission into a pretrial intervention program.”
The woman’s case is sealed and it is not known if the court considered other information which the decision to admit her into drug court was based upon. Efforts to reach Judge Beach have been unsuccessful.
It is also unclear whether prosecutors were informed of the total amount of drugs the woman had at the time of her arrest or that the arresting officer was having a sexual relationship with the suspect at the time she was accepted into the program.
The case unfolded on March 23, 2006, when the woman was arrested after selling a police informant $2,500 worth of cocaine. The drug buy took place at a downtown Fort Lauderdale restaurant. Maldonado handcuffed the woman and 27 grams of cocaine was confiscated. She was detained and questioned at the scene and eventually agreed to cooperate with police in exchange for leniency.
She admitted having more drugs at her waterfront condominium located in an upscale Fort Lauderdale community and agreed to take officers there to conduct a search. Once there, she directed them to three additional bags of drugs.
One bag that was hidden in a bathroom medicine cabinet contained less than one gram of cocaine, according to the internal documents. Two additional bags containing 30 grams of cocaine each were stashed inside a safe she kept under her bed.
“That’s a lot of cocaine. The case is closed and sealed, so there is not much to go on. But if this is true then there has to be some explanation,” said Doug Brawley, chief assistant public defender in the Broward County Public Defender’s Office, who is assigned to drug court.
“We didn’t represent her, so I don’t know what happened, but I’m not aware of anyone ever being allowed into drug court with that amount of cocaine.”