A Broward judge acquitted three Fort Lauderdale police officers of official misconduct Wednesday, clearing them of all charges stemming from a 2009 police chase crash.
There were hugs and tears in the courtroom after Broward Circuit Judge Cynthia Imperato granted a judgment of acquittal, or JOA, for Detective Sgt. Michael Florenco, Detective Matthew Moceri and Officer Geoff Shaffer.
The judge said the state’s case against the officers did not support the charges.
“They were charged with nine felonies each, and I don’t think that there was a case to support that, and the court grants the motion for JOA on all counts,” Imperato said.
She made the right decision, said Sgt. Jack Lokeinsky of the Fort Lauderdale Fraternal Order of Police.
“I think we all saw what happened,” he said. “The state cherry-picked the evidence, they did not include any evidence that shed a good light on the officers, there was exculpatory evidence that was left out, whether it was (on) purpose or not, I don’t know, but the judge, I appreciate her efforts, and she listened to the entire case and realized that these charges should have never been filed.”
Florenco, Moceri and Shaffer were accused of official misconduct related to an incident in which the three chased burglary suspect Kenneth Post through Rio Vista in 2009. The officers accused Post of crashing his car into theirs.
Prosecutors said the cops lied to protect themselves, saying they had actually rear-ended the suspect’s car. The jury could not reach verdicts on the charges. And on Wednesday, the judge agreed with defense attorneys and granted the judgment of acquittal, which is rarely done.
“It’s not every day, but it does happen, and in this case it was warranted,” defense attorney Brad Cohen said. “They didn’t prove the case, the evidence that they did put on was very weak.”
Prosecutors left without commenting after the judge announced her decision.
Now, the union is trying to get the three officers’ jobs back. They have been suspended for the past eight months, since they were arrested.