FORT LAUDERDALE — Fort Lauderdale police officer Jefferson Alvarez surrendered to authorities after being charged with one count of perjury, a felony, and one misdemeanor count of falsifying a police report.

Alvarez faces a maximum of five years in prison on the perjury charge and one year on the falsification charge if convicted.

The charges stem from Alvarez’ arrest of a Fort Lauderdale man a year ago.

“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,” Alvarez’s attorney Michael E. Dutko said.

Alvarez has been on paid administrative leave that has been changed to suspension without pay until the case is resolved, according to officials with the Fort Lauderdale police department.

Prosecutors determined Alvarez falsely claimed in his report and during a deposition that he pulled over James Kennedy Thompson, 30, of Fort Lauderdale on Sept. 13, 2010, for driving with a expired tag. He also claimed that after running a check he determined Thompson’s driver’s license was suspended and he made the arrest.

Thompson has maintained Alvarez’ account was fabricated. He insists 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 a.m. and a police officer drove by, turned around and came up 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 compiled the arrest reports with various details about the traffic stops.

Attorney Steven Michaelson of the Broward Public Defender’s Office represented Thompson. He used 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 that he made the traffic stop and provided specific details. However, Reyes contradicted his account.

“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 the 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.

Dutko said prosecutors offered Alvarez a plea deal but he claimed his client had done nothing wrong and intends to fight the charges. No arraignment date had been scheduled at this time.

Photo: Jefferson Alvarez