Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Carmel on the Case: Noise Complaints
It doesn't take much for a good time to end badly if you're making so much noise that you disturb your neighbors. And, in two South Florida cities, noise complaints that started out minor have ended up causing major trouble. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is On the Case.
WSVN -- Everybody knows that playing your music too loud or making too much noise at your house can result in your neighbors calling the cops. But officers in Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton are accused of going too far when they went to investigate noise complaints.
This bloody mess looked like a murder scene. But it was what was left after police responded to a complaint about loud music.
Gene Boyle: "The other officer came in with a billy club drawn right there and hit me in the head and hit me right there -- 17 stitches."
Gene Boyle was arrested in 2003 for resisting arrest at his Fort Lauderdale apartment. He says officers came in his back door and ordered him to put his hands behind is back. He told them he couldn't because of a shoulder injury.
Gene Boyle: "The first officer had me in a choke hold, and he was squeezing, and I was screaming for help."
In Boca Raton, a birthday party turned sour for this man who asked we not identify him.
Homeowner: "An officer came to the front door and asked for the owner."
Security cameras were rolling when the officer then walked in the front door.
Homeowner: "There was music playing, and he started unplugging and turning things off. Then he went back out of the home."
When the owner arrived at the front door, the officer asked for identification and social security number.
Homeowner: "Why do you need my social security number, and he says, 'You're under arrest.'"
The video tape captures the officer grabbing the homeowner.
Homeowner: "He then just lunged in the home and grabbed me and pulled me out of the home."
The homeowner was handcuffed at his front door.
Two men landed in jail over noise violations. Keep in mind, these are city code violations, not criminal offenses. And now both men have hired attorneys.
Russell Adler: "Well, he paid a very physical price. He still continues to recieve therapy from that."
The charges against Boyle were eventually dropped. Fort Lauderdale police wouldn't talk to us about the case, but Russell Adler, the lawyer for Gene Boyle, is suing for damages.
He says the officers had no right to use excessive force when they shouldn't have entered Boyle's house in the first place.
Russell Adler: "The police are not allowed to just enter someone's home for any reason. They must have a valid legal reason, and these officers did not have a valid reason."
In the Boca case, the homeowner's attorney says police have no proof there was even a noise problem.
Leah Mayersohn: "As you can see from the video tape that I provided to you, this was a very sedate party. Under these particular circumstances, the city of Boca Raton isn't going to be able to prove that my client violated the noise ordiance."
Leah Mayersohn says that means the officer had no legal reason to enter the home and no legal reason to arrest the homeowner.
A spokesman for the Boca Raton Police Department turned down our request for an interview about all this. But he did provide a list of police calls to the residence over the last two and a half years. And there have been quite a few.
Neighbors do tell us there have been some big parties at the home. However, Mayersohn says there's a question of whether it's always the neighbors calling the police.
Leah Mayersohn: "What you can see is the vast majority of times that are on there, were initiated by police."
The next step will be to fight it in court. But this homeowner says he's not wating for the courts. He's moved out of town.