Melissa Pineiro, 25, appeared in a Miami-Dade courtroom Monday, where Judge Milton Hirsch said he wants codefendant Tori Beato, who is in New Jersey, to fly back to Miami. Attorney David Seltzer spoke outside of the courtroom on behalf of both of them, saying the kidnapping charges should be dropped, though he is withdrawing as their lawyer. A TSA agent named Ray, who did not want to be fully identified for security reasons, told NBC 6 South Florida what he saw with the victim.
The lawyer for two women accused of beating and kidnapping another woman and bringing her to Miami International Airport argued Monday that the kidnapping charges should be dropped.
“The kidnapping charge, as laid out in the police report, was simply them going from the hotel to the airport which they had booked a flight to go home, all the girls together,” said attorney David Seltzer on behalf of Melissa Pineiro and Tori Beato. “The police charged it as kidnapping, thinking she was being forced to get on that plane, but she had a ticket to go home. That's the kidnapping charge that we know of.”
Pineiro, 25, appeared before Judge Milton Hirsch in a Miami-Dade courtroom Monday. She has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping, robbery, false imprisonment and battery, while Beato, 19, has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping, false imprisonment, battery and theft.
Hirsch said he wants Beato, who is in New Jersey, to fly back to Miami and get into court.
The two friends held a woman who they came here with on vacation against her will and severely beat her, according to police.
At the airport, two Transportation Security Administration officers said they noticed something was wrong with the victim, who wore a scarf around her face to conceal the injuries she sustained in an alleged beating.
The officers, who are trained to spot suspicious behavior that could be an indicator of a terrorist attack, used their skills to save the woman as she was about to go through the security checkpoint.
In surveillance video newly obtained by NBC 6 South Florida, Pineiro and Beato are seen at the airport with the victim in the security area.
“When I saw her she had bruising on both sides of her face, on her forehead. It appeared to be a rug burn or some type of burn on her right shoulder, which later on she told me that she had been dragged across the floor,” a TSA officer named Ray said of the victim. “So she was beat up pretty bad.”
Pineiro accused the victim of having an intimate relationship with her boyfriend, and the beatings began inside a Best Western hotel room in North Miami, police said. Pineiro and Beato forced the victim to withdraw money from a TD Bank on Biscayne Boulevard on their way to the airport, according to police.
“She told me they took out her stuff and they threatened to kill her, basically, if she said anything,” said Ray, did not want to use his full name nor show his face on television for security reasons.
For now, the office of State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle says the charges against them stand – and both women should be back in court Tuesday.
Meantime, Seltzer is withdrawing as their lawyer, and a public defender will be assigned in his place.