Monday, March 18, 2013
Help Me Howard: Brother Mark
Here is one for you. A South Florida man of the cloth tried to warn a police officer he was driving with his lights off, and his reward, a ticket. Which brings up the question, is there ever a time you can break the law? It's why we have Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- His name is Brother Mark Spencer, a man who has dedicated his life to the Catholic Church.
Brother Mark Spencer: "We live a life of service to the church, to the people of the church, teachings, hospital care, care of the sick, care of the elderly."
A brother does everything a priest does except say mass and deliver the sacraments. Like a priest, he cannot marry, a sometimes lonely life that Mark loves.
Brother Mark Spencer: "Of all the beautiful things I have done in my life, this is what made me the happiest."
But Mark called us because of an unhappy event.
Brother Mark Spencer: "It was a very, very rainy night."
One night Mark was pulling out of this Wendy's on Biscayne Boulevard when he says he noticed a Miami Police car heading south.
Brother Mark Spencer: "He did not have his lights on, none, no lights at all, at 11:45 at night."
It had been raining, the streets were wet, so Brother Mark made a left and headed down Biscayne.
Brother Mark Spencer: "I rolled my driver window down and motioned for him to please come up. I was simply going to point and say your lights were off. We have all done it, driven with our lights off."
The officer hit his flashing lights, and Mark pulled over.
Brother Mark Spencer: "So when he got up to the window I simply leaned in and smiled and said, 'Hello officer, you are driving with your lights off. I wanted to warn you.'"
The officer said, "Give me your license and registration," and went back to his car.
Brother Mark Spencer: "Ten minutes later he comes back. I am thinking he is just gonna come back and say, 'Thank you,' check my driving record, great. He comes back and hands me a ticket for making an illegal left turn onto Biscayne Boulevard."
Mark was stunned. He has deep respect for law enforcement, playing the harp at police services, including the funeral of the two Miami-Dade officers gunned down while serving a warrant.
Brother Mark Spencer: "Police have a hard enough job as it is. That's why I am happy to help. I know I could never be a police officer."
In fact, several police officers told Mark to fight the ticket in court, and so he did, and when the traffic hearing officer asked him what happened, of course he told the truth and said he had made an illegal turn.
Brother Mark Spencer: "She said, 'Well, you are guilty of your own admission, you did admit that you did do it.'"
Mark then explained to the traffic officer why he made the left turn. He says she responded...
Brother Mark Spencer: She told me, quote unquote, 'I do not believe that you, indeed, were trying to help the officer. I believe that you are trying to get out of paying for a ticket.'"
Basically, she said Brother Mark was lying.
Brother Mark Spencer: "She did, she did. Maybe she was having a bad day."
The hearing officer ordered Mark to pay the ticket and court costs, totaling $202.
Brother Mark Spencer: "It's an unbelievable thing that when you try to help somebody, there are those who just don't know how to say thank you."
Well, Howard, Mark admits he made an illegal left hand turn, but to notify the officer he was driving with his lights off. But is that illegal?
Howard Finkelstein: "Not always. It's called the law of necessity, which allows you to break the law to prevent serious injury to another. It's that simple, and so yes, Brother Mark could have made the turn to notify the officer his lights were off."
We first contacted Miami Police. The officer admitted he did not have his headlights on. He says he was stopped, and that's how he catches people. The head of internal affairs then talked to Mark and apologized, not for the ticket, but that he had a bad experience with the officer. We were told internal affairs also spoke to the officer, and the conversation with internal affairs made Mark feel better.
Brother Mark Spencer: "I felt very good. The major I spoke to at internal affairs was a complete gentleman."
But we didn't have a good experience with the hearing officer who didn't believe Mark in court. Patricia Henrys barred our camera from videotaping her in a courtroom. She would not give us a reason, and wouldn't discuss why she didn't believe Mark. A spokesperson sent an e-mail for her saying the decision was based on the facts in the case.
Howard says the decision by Patricia Henrys to bar a camera is troubling.
Howard Finkelstein: "The law is clear. Cameras have a right to videotape in a courtroom. That the hearing officer excluded cameras without a hearing or a reason is the wrong decision."
We then contacted Miami-Dade Courts' general counsel. She agreed with Henrys to bar our camera. After we sent them case law, they apparently realized their mistake and agreed to let us into the courtroom to videotape Henrys. Mark's bad experience is behind him and if he sees a cop driving down the road with his lights off tonight...
Brother Mark Spencer: "I would do exactly the same thing. It's the right thing to do. I mean, they are helping us. Why shouldn't we help them?"
You ever meet someone and just know this is a nice person, that's Brother Mark. Unfortunately, Mark can't appeal the ticket, 30 days have passed so it's too late.
A good deed got you punished? Ready to see someone grab it by the collar? Contact us. We aren't special, but we are blessed...to have the ability to help you..
With this Help Me Howard, I'm Patrick Fraser, 7News.
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