By ELGIN JONES
SOUTHWEST RANCHES — A Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) commander has been recorded making disparaging remarks about a gay co-worker and a comment about blacks in the presence of other deputies. The commander also announced his intent to try to speak to a judge prior to a hearing in a criminal traffic case involving the employee.
Deputy Robert Aspuru recorded the comments on his cell phone during a Feb. 15 traffic stop. He and Corporal Jose Saud were cracking down on speeding in the 4800 block of Hancock Road in Southwest Ranches, which has a posted speed limit of 25 mph. They said radar clocked a man on a scooter going 56 mph and waved him over to issue him a citation.
The man, Anthony Vincent, works as a BSO community service aide in Weston and was off duty at the time. He was upset and challenged the speeding ticket.
Vincent has a public records and retaliation lawsuit pending against BSO. He had been cited by the same two deputies previously but those tickets were dismissed in court. He alleged he was being retaliated against.
Vincent is heard on the recording telling deputies he feared for his life and using profanity towards them. Vincent, who is gay, accused the deputies of targeting him because he is, in his words, a “faggot.”
He refused to sign the ticket until he called his supervisor, Sgt. Michael Menghi, to the scene. Aspuru and Saud reacted by calling their supervisor, Commander Wallace Haywood. Vincent eventually signed the ticket in Menghi’s presence and the two of them left.
It is unclear whether Haywood and Saud were aware that Aspuru had turned on his cell phone recorder during the incident and knew that they were being recorded as they and Aspuru discussed the incident after Vincent and Menghi left.
The recording, which is more than 34 minutes long, contains profanity- laced comments not suitable for publication. The three men can be heard devising a plan to “beat (Vincent) to the punch” by filing complaints with BSO’s Internal Affairs over the traffic stop.
Some 24 minutes and 51 seconds into the recording, Haywood is heard saying about Vincent, “He was disrespectful. He’s a problem employee. He’s an (expletive deleted). See what he did when I went to shake his hand? I say, ‘How you doing?’ He put his hand down. He’s a piece of (expletive deleted).”
About 26 minutes and 27 seconds into the recording, Haywood is heard saying, “And when you guys get that court date, matter a fact you guys let me know and I’m going to show up, too. Although I was not a witness to it… I’m not a witness to it, I think what I will do is speak to the judge or magistrate before we go in.”
About 29 minutes and 19 seconds into the recording, Haywood is also heard saying, “He’s throwing the gay thing out. He’s throwing the gay card out like the brothers throw out the race card. I said that ain’t flying with me, buddy, I’ve put up with enough of that (expletive deleted). (Expletive deleted) him, go home and let him do what he has to do.”
Aspuru and Saud are not heard objecting to what Haywood was saying.
However, it is not possible to distinguish their voices from each other.
The trio followed through with complaints to Internal Affairs. As part of his complaint against Vincent, Aspuru turned in the audio recording he made on his cell phone to Internal Affairs. It is not known whether anyone in the department listened to it.
Court records show Vincent obtained a statement from the dealership that his scooter cannot travel at speeds above 49 mph.
His lawyer said at a hearing that the deputies erred in issuing Vincent a “criminal” citation. The traffic case was dismissed on April 18.
However, Vincent is still under investigation by BSO for alleged insubordination over his failing to shake Haywood’s hand, speeding and unbecoming conduct for insulting the deputies.
Jim Leljedal, BSO’s director of media relations, did not respond to questions about the recording. There were no responses either to emails sent to Aspuru, Haywood and Saud seeking comment.
In Florida it is illegal, under some circumstances, to secretly record someone. In an unrelated incident, another BSO deputy, Anthony Costanzo, was arrested in May over alleged unauthorized cell phone recording and questioning of a witness in a corruption case.
**Pictured above is Broward Sheriff's Office Community Service Aide Anthony Vincent, left, Commander Wallace Haywood, right.