The FBI arrested a local police officer for two counts of extortion. The charges allege that Officer Harlod James was involved in providing protection to a sports betting ring that operated out of Liberty City. James is scheduled to appear in federal court with his Miami criminal lawyer on Friday. It is widely expected that the defendant will enter a guilty plea when he makes his court appearance. James got caught up in a FBI corruption investigation that targeted a barbershop that was running an illegal gambling operation. Prior to his arrest, James resigned from the City of Miami Police Department. He was an 8 year veteran of the department. The arrest further tarnishes the reputation of the city's police department.
James is accused of providing protection for a courier that was transporting purported tax refund checks. The federal government is accusing James of accepting cash payments in exchange for providing protection. James only received $800 from his alleged protection scheme. James appeared in court yesterday at his initial appearance and entered a not guilty plea to the indictment charging two counts of extortion. The criminal attorney representing James was able to secure a $75,000 bond for his client which was then posted. James is scheduled to appear in court today and enter a guilty plea. James is the second police officer arrested to date for his involvement. Officer Nathaniel Dauphin was arrested last January and charged with one count of extortion for allegedly accepting a $5,000 cash payment in exchange for protection.
The FBI working in conjunction with the City of Miami police are expected to arrest more officers who were also allegedly involved in providing protection to the illegal gambling ring. Most of the officer currently being investigated, but not charged, have resigned or been relieved of duty. In total, at least 10 city cops are expected to be arrested and face federal prosecutions for similar conduct committed by James and Dauphin. No mention has been made by the media whether any of those arrested are going to cooperate with the federal government in the prosecution of their fellow officers. However, if James takes a plea two days after being arrested, it is apparent that he probably worked out some sort of deal with the federal government in exchange for his cooperation.
A second City of Miami police officer, Luis Hernandez, was arrested on charges including armed kidnapping and sexual battery. Hernandez appeared at his bond hearing yesterday and was denied bail. Armed kidnapping is a felony that carries a potential prison sentence of life. Any one arrested for a capital offense or first degree felony punishable by life in prison will be held without bail. There are two way to obtain bail in these types of cases. The first is to convince the prosecutor to stipulate to a bond. If a defense lawyer cannot convince the prosecution to agree to a bond, the second option is to request an Arthur hearing. An Arthur hearing is a mini-trial where a judge must determine whether there is enough evidence to keep a defendant incarcerated. The state must meet their burden of "proof evident, presumption great". If the state cannot meet that burden the judge will set a bond. If the state meets their burden, the judge can still set a bond if a defendant is not a risk of flight, nor a danger to the community.
Another Miami Police Officer Criminally Charged with Extortion in FBI Probe, Miami Herald.com, January 31, 2013.