Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Carmel on the Case: BADge Behavior?
A driver dealing with two flat tires suddenly has an alarming exchange with police and it was caught on tape. Next came a nightmare she says never had to happen. It's called testi-lying- when people testify in court cases and don't tell the truth. Now 7News has learned two Coral Springs police officers are being investigated for possibly doing just that. Carmel Cafiero has the exclusive.
WSVN -- No one was hurt when a 60-year-old widow got two flat tires in Coral Springs last October.
Yet Susan Mait ended up jailed overnight and charged with felonies after an exchange with police that went from bad to worse.
Susan Mait: "I thought I was gonna spend the rest of my life in prison."
And it was all caught on audio tape.
Susan Mait: "I need a tow truck immediately. The police are behind me and they're gonna dispatch a tow truck and make me pay for it."
When Mait called her insurance company, it started recording the conversation which is standard procedure and kept recording when a police officer asked for her identification.
Susan Mait: "Did you not see me on the phone?"
Officer Nicole Stasnek. "Did you not see this uniform that I have on? Don't give me any 'expletive' right now give me your 'expletive' driver's license."
Susan Mait: "Excuse me?"
Officer Nicole Stasnek: "Give me your driver's license right now. Come out of your car right now."
Susan Mait: "You call, you call your supervisor."
Officer Nicole Stasnek: "I will."
But no supervisor was called to the scene and Susan Mait, who has never had a run in with the law before, was pulled from her car and arrested.
Susan Mait: "What are you doing? Ow! Ow! That's my bad shoulder."
According to Officer Nicole Stasnek's report while being arrested Mait, "Struck me in the chest with her arm to push me away from her."
Mait was charged with resisting an officer with violence, DUI and two counts of resisting an officer without violence. She spent the night in jail and was facing seven years in prison.
Susan Mait: "They strip searched me. They looked between all my private parts."
Susan Mait: "I was put in a cell. I slept on the floor on a mat with three other women."
Her attorney says tests proved she was not high or drunk.
Michael Catalano, Mait's attorney: "And then what the police did was basically horrible because what they did was beat her up and arrested her for nothing, absolutely nothing. She didn't break any law at all."
Insurance Company Operator: "Miss Mait?"
Susan Mait: "(crying) Where are you taking me?"
Officer Nicole Stasnek: "The Coral Springs Jail."
Susan Mait: "(cries)."
Mait claims she was injured when pulled from her car. The recording captures Officer Nicole Stasnek and Officer Derek Fernandes discussing their version of events.
Officer Derek Fernandes: "I didn't hear anything you said, I was in the back of the car."
Officer Nicole Stasnek: "I did drop the f-bomb."
Officer Derek Fernandes: "I didn't hear that. In my IA statement, I didn't hear that."
Officer Nicole Stasnek: "OK (laughter)."
IA refers to the department's internal affairs unit which investigates complaints about police officers. Both officers gave sworn depositions that conflict with what is on the recording. Among them, Stasnek says she didn't curse and Fernandes says he didn't hear anything about the f-bomb being dropped.
Michael Catalano: "I asked them did you discuss Internal Affairs? 'No.' Yes they did. Did she ask for a supervisor? 'No.' Yes she did. Did she stand up or fall down? 'She stood up and pushed at me.' She fell down. It's on the tape."
As a result the Broward State Attorney's Office dropped all the charges against Susan Mait on Monday.
Prosecutor: "The State is announcing a nolle pros."
But now the pressure is on the police officers who are being investigated by the State Attorney's Office.
Lt. Joe McHugh, Coral Springs Police Dept.: "Obviously we'll be cooperating fully with the State Attorney's Office to get this matter resolved. As the facts are developed we will take all and any appropriate action administrative wise against the officers."
Susan Mait: "I'm terrified of the police."
Meanwhile Mait, who struggled to deal with the death of her husband, says she is now afraid to leave her home.
Adam Mait: "My mom just progressively after that got worse. And it was a shame because you saw her slowly but surely getting better up until that point. And after that it just went downhill."
Carmel Cafiero: "The Mait family says it has not decided if a civil suit will be filed, that at this point the main concern is how authorities deal with the officer's behavior."
The police department says neither officer has any comment on the case.