BSO Deputy Illegally Searched House, North Lauderdale Mom Says
Valarie Joaceus looks beat. Inside her tidy living room in North Lauderdale, the blinds drawn tight against the July sun's bite, she's slumped on a leather couch, a heavy-set, middle-aged mom overloaded with worry. Joaceus' two sons -- 26-year-old Jonathan and 25-year-old Gregory -- have had their trouble with police. The oldest even spent two years in prison on a drug charge. But the latest conflict has crushed Joaceus' patience. Because this time, she says, it's a Broward Sheriff Office deputy who broke the law.
Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg
"That day was just the icing on the cake," she says. "What the hell was that man doing in my house?"
The trouble started around 1 p.m. last December 10. Joaceus was at work at Jo-Ann Fabrics & Crafts on Sample Road when her husband, an accountant, called. A neighbor had phoned him to say a police officer was inside their house, and he asked her to go investigate.
When Joaceus pulled onto SW 79th Terrace, she saw an unmarked BSO Charger sitting in front of the modest sherbet-colored home the family had occupied for 15 years. Deputy Brian Dodge was standing near his vehicle. Joaceus noticed he was holding her son's house key.
Joaceus says she identified herself as the owner of the house and asked Dodge what was going on. Her son had just been arrested, the deputy explained.
Around 12:30 that day, Dodge had pulled over a green Volkswagen on nearby Southgate Boulevard after watching the car blow through a stop sign. The cabin reeked of weed, Dodge's arrest report later stated. The driver, Carlos Edouard, and a passenger, Jonathan Joaceus, both appeared to have green, leafy crumbs around their mouths; they eventually both admitted to eating marijuana, and Dodge charged both with tampering/destroying physical evidence. The deputy also found five cocaine rocks in Edouard's center console.
But the report does not include anything about what the deputy told Joaceus happened next: Jonathan supposedly gave Dodge his house keys, allowing the deputy free reign to drive over and search for drugs inside. The cop admitted he had no warrant, Joaceus says.
"Did you find anything?" Joaceus sarcastically asked. "No," the officer responded. Joaceus says Dodge asked to go back inside the house with her, but she declined. Later, when she bailed her son out of jail, Jonathan claimed he didn't give the keys to the deputy but that Dodge took them.
Jonathan had already been arrested on multiple occasions -- for possession of cocaine, MDMA, cannabis, meth, and possession with intent to sell cocaine -- and he's still facing the tampering charge. But Joaceus says her son is trying to straighten himself out. "We're a good family," she says. "I don't like my sons being in trouble."
Tragically, Gregory died of a heart attack earlier this year. After grieving, Joaceus decided to file a complaint in May with BSO about the warrantless search. "If we didn't have the neighbor who saw him," she says, "we would have never known he was in our house."
BSO confirms that it's looking into the situation. "At the moment, we are conducting a preliminary investigative inquiry," BSO's Keyla Concepción tells New Times, "which basically means we're looking into a complaint."