Cops Forced Innocent Man to Purchase Drugs So They Could Build Cases

Monica Pais | Courthouse News Service

(CN) – A Miami-Dade County man claims in a federal lawsuit that he was beaten up by several police officers during a traffic stop and then taken on a joyride by the officers who forced him to purchase drugs to make cases for them.

In a complaint filed in the federal court in Miami, plaintiff Azzam Masri says he was driving his pickup truck near downtown Miami on the night of Nov. 14, 2012, when one of two unmarked police vehicles traveling behind him suddenly tapped his bumper, signaling him to stop.

Masri claims that after he came to a full stop, defendant Officer Daniel Fonticiella pulled open the driver-side door and dragged him from his car.

Masri says Fonticiella struck him on the back of the head, causing him to fall face down onto the pavement.

According to the Nov. 10 complaint, the other officers at the scene were defendants Franco Cugge, Lourdes Hernandez and Radames Perez.

Masri says the officers hustled him into handcuffs and held him until Sgt. Robert Perez and Sgt. Thomas Martinez arrived. As recounted in the complaint, Perez and Martinez told two of the officers to Masri without his consent and without a valid warrant.

“The defendant Officers also searched the plaintiff’s vehicle without plaintiff’s consent damaging the interior of the car in the process,” the complaint says.

Masri claims he was then put in the rear passenger seat of his truck and told that he going to be driven around the area “with the intent of purchasing narcotics to make cases for the officers.”

He says throughout the drive, which lasted about 45 minutes, he repeatedly complained of being in pain and asked the officers to take him to the hospital.

The officers, the complaint says, simply ignored him.

Masri says when he was finally released, one of the officers threatened him and said if he revealed what happened “he would receive more physical contact,” and then gave him a piece of paper with contact information to set up a meeting with the officers so that he could help identify “potential drug dealers.”

Masri says after being released by the officers, he made his way to his truck, which he found extensively damaged, and walked to a nearby McDonald’s to get ice for his swollen face.

Unsure of what to do next, and concerned about the warning from the officer, he attempted to call a cousin to explain what had happened to him and to get some advice.

When he was unable to reach his cousin, Masri made his own way to the hospital, where he was treated for respiratory problems, facial abrasions, and contusions to the back of his head and left ribs.

Masri is seeking compensatory and actual damages on claims of false imprisonment, assault and battery and unreasonable search and seizure.

He is represented by Gregory Samms from Coral Gables, Fla.

Marjorie Eloi, a spokesperson for the Miami-Dade Police Department, said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

Published by Courthouse News Service