Hollywood and its police department named in civil rights lawsuit

The City of Hollywood, its police chief and members of the force have been named in a federal civil rights lawsuit. It involves an arrest first reported by 7News. Now, investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is back on the case.

Rob Pinto is hoping his civil rights lawsuit against Hollywood Police will give him something he has wanted for years: payback.

Rob Pinto: “These officers acted maliciously against me, and it was a personal thing for them to stop me from complaining.”

It was 2010. Pinto and a friend were pulled over by Hollywood Police officers. They say the officers were in an unmarked car and wearing all black with no police insignias. They were not sure if the men were really cops, so after the incident, they went to the police department to notify authorities.

As 7News first revealed in October, Pinto says he was treated with such disrespect at the police department, he tried to file a complaint with the Internal Affairs department, which investigates police behavior. Instead, he says he was handcuffed and handed a piece of paper.

Rob Pinto: “And I look at it and it says ‘falsely impersonating law enforcement.'”

Carmel Cafiero: “Did you ever?”

Rob Pinto: (shakes head)

At the time, Pinto did maintenance work at federal facilities and had a government I.D. that did nothing more than allow him into the buildings.

Jeremy Harris: “There’s little question that he was arrested in retaliation for making a complaint.”

Attorney Jeremy Harris filed the lawsuit which claims Pinto’s constitutional rights were violated repeatedly, from false arrest to intimidation.

In addition to the city and chief, it names seven Hollywood police officers. Among them, two officers, the lawsuit claims, were instrumental in Pinto being arrested: William Ferguson…

Rob Pinto: “One sergeant said, ‘Let’s teach this guy a lesson.'”

And Eric Augustus.

Rob Pinto: “And the one who told me to stand up and put the cuffs on me says, ‘If I have my way,’ and quote, ‘If I have my way, you’ll never work for the government again.'”

And he didn’t. Pinto says, after his arrest, he lost his contracts to clean federal government buildings, even though neither the Broward State Attorney’s Office nor the U.S. Attorney’s Office filed charges against him. Pinto’s attorney says the arrest should have never happened.

Jeremy Harris: “At first I think it was retaliation and they were trying to get him, but then I think they stuck with it. Not because they were trying to get him anymore, but because if they didn’t stick with it, it would look bad. And so, I think that’s why they shopped it out to the federal government, because they really just wanted somebody to convict him of something so that nobody would get in trouble.”

Carmel Cafiero: “But trouble has come in the form of the lawsuit which demands a jury trial and asks for money damages. Meanwhile, an investigation of Hollywood’s Internal Affairs department by Broward’s State Attorney’s Office remains open and active.”

Carmel Cafiero, 7News.

Miami-Dade: 305-627-CLUE
Broward: 954-921-CLUE
E-mail: clue@wsvn.com