Did former BSO deputy Charles Grady get special treatment in his battery case?

bso-deputy-charles-grady(MIAMI HERALD)   The allegations were troubling: Two women said a Broward Sheriff’s deputy got them alone during late-night traffic stops and touched or joked about their breasts. A third said the same deputy forced her to perform a sexual act as he held a gun to her head.

Ultimately, on May 7, former BSO Deputy Charles E. Grady, 39, pleaded no contest to two counts of misdemeanor battery. His plea agreement also precludes him from being a law enforcement officer again in Florida, and guaranteed he would not be prosecuted for the sex-at-gunpoint allegation.

But, unlike a civilian suspected of similar acts, Grady was never arrested. He never spent time in jail. And his court case file shed little light on the case, initially containing minimal paperwork saying only he did “actually and intentionally touch or strike another person.”

Prosecutor David Schulson, who handled the case, said Grady received no special treatment. He said the Broward state attorney’s office achieved its goals by halting Grady’s Florida law enforcement career and ensuring that the misdemeanors would show up on future background checks.

But others say the treatment given to Grady — and the lack of disclosure about the scope of the allegations — perpetuated public skepticism that some people get special treatment.

Tony Alfieri, director of the Center for Ethics and Public Service at the University of Miami, said the case highlights several failures.

”First, you have the serious and traumatic injury to the victims,” Alfieri said. “Two, you have the institutional injury to law enforcement in Broward County by the failure of internal controls and accountability at the BSO.

“And third, the people of Broward County are now rightfully skeptical about the candor and accountability of the BSO.”

Grady spent about 12 years with BSO. He earned strong performance evaluations and drew praise for his high number of DUI arrests.

17 INVESTIGATIONS

He also was the subject of 17 internal affairs investigations — including separate allegations of battery and molestation. Of those investigations, six resulted in administrative charges, mostly for service-related violations such as insubordination and distraction on duty, according to BSO records. The allegations of battery and molestation were deemed insufficient for charges.

Then, in late 2008, BSO investigators were faced with another string of allegations.

One woman said Grady arrested her for DUI in September while she drove home from work at the Solid Gold strip club in Oakland Park. When he had her alone in a holding cell, Grady pulled down her shirt and looked at her breasts, according to a BSO investigative report.

The woman also said he asked her out on a date, which she refused.

A second woman said that a month later, Grady stoped her car while she drove home from work at the same strip club. She said he forced her at gunpoint to perform oral sex, according to BSO documents.

A third woman said that in December, Grady stopped her on the way home from work at the Fort Lauderdale night club Christopher’s, reached inside her car and pulled on her bra strap. He asked her if ”those were real,” according to an e-mail the woman’s husband sent to law enforcement after the incident.

DETAILS KEPT PRIVATE

The BSO launched internal investigations into the three allegations and forwarded the findings to prosecutors. But almost all of those details were kept out of the public eye when the criminal charges were disclosed.

Also, because Grady was never arrested, investigators never filed an arrest form describing what he was accused of doing or the evidence against him — a basic public document that is routinely filed in criminal cases involving arrests.

Instead, Grady was charged with two counts of misdemeanor battery using a form called an information. That form named two of his accusers and said only that he touched another person; it did not describe the nature of the contact. As the case moved toward trial, the case file — normally full of public documents — stayed thin.

Contrary to typical procedures, defense lawyers never sought ”discovery,” or copies of the evidence in the prosecutors’ possession, because it included detailed interviews with the victims which would then have become public records. So no details made it to the case file.

The only description of what Grady did came at his plea hearing, when Schulson, the prosecutor, read aloud two of the women’s allegations. Prosecutors never mentioned the uncharged case of the woman who said a gun was held to her head. The Miami Herald obtained the information from the public defender’s office, which had filed a public records request with the state attorney’s office.

Schulson, in an interview last week, said prosecutors felt the woman’s lack of cooperation and prior mental health problems made her a poor witness. Although cell phone records verified her locations, there was no physical evidence or witnesses, according to BSO documents.

Schulson said he couldn’t be sure she would survive a thorough examination on the stand. Ultimately, Grady pleaded no contest and prosecutors had to reduce or drop charges in dozens of pending criminal cases he had made as a deputy.

”There was no intentional coverup,” Schulson said, later adding: “We took care of it. We got the word out, we got to prosecute and we got the result we wanted.”

Grady’s defense lawyer, Al Milian, said he felt the case was resolved fairly. ”The final outcome served everyone’s interests,” he said.

But Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein criticized BSO and the state attorney’s office for their handling of the allegations.

”This is about a national problem of a law enforcement and prosecutorial culture that by inclination protects their own,” he said. “This problem is not unique to Broward. And because it is so widespread, it is that much larger of a problem.”

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