Former Accused Cop in Heavily Contested Judge Race

Categories: Politics

John Fry is facing John Howes in a runoff for a Broward County Judge right now, but ten years ago, that must have seemed like an impossibility.

He had lost his job as a Margate cop and was facing criminal charges for, as the Miami Herald put it at the time, participating in an arrest where a man being charged with DUI was "beaten to a pulp" and that at the end of it both of his eyes were swollen shut.   

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Fry
Fry beat the charges and went to law school. The Margate department stood by its investigation. Fry joined the bar in 2003 and now represents the Florida Fraternal Order of Police and several municipalities, including Fort Lauderdale.

A fellow officer told investigators that he saw Fry hit a DUI suspect named Paul Wood several times while Wood was on the ground. Another officer, Steven Adler, allegedly had Wood facedown on the concrete at the time with his knee in his back, rendering Wood defenseless while the beating occurred. Fry was pressured to resign; Adler was fired.

Worth mentioning in this election? Of course. Voters should be aware of Fry's conduct in his last position of authority. They can make their own opinion, and many I'm sure will side with Fry, which is certainly fair considering he was acquitted (though the department stood by the investigation, as did a professional arbitrator). Fry and Adler have both maintained their innocence, saying the use of force was justified because Wood was resisting. Inside, read the highlights of the Miami Herald article on the incident. 

-- Poland? Yes, that was the word: Broward County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs had flown to Poland on some kind of official business. Harked back to her colleague Ilene Lieberman's ill-conceived trip to China. But don't worry. It wasn't Poland -- Jacobs is in Portland. As in Oregon, where she is attending a conference on mass transit called "Rail-Volution." So it seems to be justified travel.

-- Broward Cleansweep is back on Facebook as "Thaddeus Lincoln." Should have reported this a few days ago. Here's the link.  

See the Fry story after the jump.  

From the Miami Herald on February 7, 2000 by Caroline Keough:

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Though sprawled face-down and handcuffed on a road's median with his face beaten to a pulp, facing charges of battering police officers that could have kept him in jail for 16 years, Paul Wood was a lucky man in one sense.

A couple who was passing by as police stopped Wood on Aug. 20, 1999, had pulled over when they saw officers beating him. They followed his ambulance to the Northwest Medical Center hospital, where they filed a complaint against the Margate police officers involved.

"Not in any way are we against police departments or cops or anything," Joey Henderson, an auto detailer from Pompano Beach, told an internal affairs investigator later. "But that wasn't right. Whatever that guy did, it did not justify getting the crap beat out of him."

A month after the incident, the Broward state attorney's office dropped the charges against Wood, and instead charged Officer Steven Adler and Sgt. John Fry with misdemeanor battery. They appeared in court in Fort Lauderdale on Friday, but their trial is not likely to begin until late this spring. Both have pleaded innocent.

... Wood's attorney says that if not for Henderson and his fiancee, who took the time to speak up for a perfect stranger, Wood might still be facing felony charges in addition to being beaten up.

"This could be you or me," Fort Lauderdale attorney Ronald Baum said. "That's what's so scary."

Wood, a 31-year-old husband and father of two from Margate, had worked for the same company as a roofer for eight years.

An infrequent drinker, he had gone out for dinner and beers with co-workers that Friday night because his wife and kids were out of town and he "had nothing to do," he told investigators.

They went to a neighborhood bar and restaurant, then headed for the London Pub II, 1388 N. State Road 7, Margate. ... Police said they came to the London Pub after the owner called them.

"I have some customers that are a little obnoxious and are refusing to leave, and I'd like them escorted out," the owner told the 911 dispatcher. "They're just being jerks."

In police reports, the officers who arrested Wood said they escorted him out of the bar and told him not to drive home because he was drunk. He walked around the strip shopping center, then came back to his car. Somehow, the officers said, he got in and drove away.

Wood said officers did not warn him not to drive.

On a recording of radio traffic that night, Fry told a fellow officer he was trying to find Wood.

"He's drunk as a skunk and mouthy and belligerent and obnoxious," Fry said on the recording.

... [Officer] Calliano said Wood was belligerent [after he was pulled over], and that he tried to handcuff him in the truck. Wood said he was scared and only tried to keep the "talk" button depressed on his radio as the officer pulled him out of his truck and threw him to the ground.

Officers Fry and Adler arrived to help. Calliano later told internal investigators that as they struggled to handcuff Wood, Fry punched him in the head and ribs as he lay on the ground. According to Calliano, Adler later told him he had kicked Wood in the head.

When supervising officers arrived at the scene, Wood was lying face down with his hands cuffed behind his back. Already angry that Calliano had violated several rules of police procedure when he cut off Wood and tried to cuff him in the truck, they became alarmed when they saw Wood's badly beaten face. Both of his eyes were swollen shut.

"This is bad. We've got a problem here," a lieutenant told his sergeant.

At the hospital, Henderson and his fiancee, Tiffany Galisewski, told the police supervisors what they had seen.

Galisewski told investigators later that she saw the officers throw Wood to the ground, and saw Adler - who is six feet tall, weighing 225 pounds - kneeling on Wood's back, throwing punches.

Adler screamed "Put your [expletive] hands behind your back!" according to Galisewski.

"All we kept hearing was [Wood] saying 'Yes, officer.' Over and over again," Galisewski continued. "There was no way he could put his hands behind his back when somebody's kneeling on him, throwing blows." 

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Again, a jury acquitted Fry and Adler of battery, and both said the use of force was justified because Wood was resisting. Both lost in their bids to get their jobs back, and both men became defense attorneys. Former U.S. Marine Fry has devoted his practice to defending law enforcement officers accused of wrongdoing.  

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