Officer on trial after off-duty car crash

WSVN — Tonight, the courtroom conclusion to a 7News exclusive. Was an off-duty Miami-Dade Police Officer drinking behind the wheel and given special treatment by another police department? Investigative Reporter Carmel Cafiero is back on the case.

It was around 10 at night on March 15, 2014. Miramar Police Officer Yahmed Yema says he saw a Ford truck driving through a residential neighborhood at 50 miles per hour, twice the speed limit. Yema says he saw the truck run a stop sign and strike a small palm tree. The driver of that truck was off-duty Miami-Dade Police Officer Kevin Thomas.

Prosecutor: “Now you’re here because the Defendant Kevin Thomas has been charged with reckless driving with property damage.”

Now, more than a year later, Thomas faced a jury on that reckless driving charge, but he was not charged with DUI or tested that night, even though Officer Yema wrote in his report that alcohol may have played a role in the incident.

Yahmed Yema: “He smelled like alcohol. He was drenched in liquid which I thought to be beer. He had slurred speech and bloodshot eyes.”

But Thomas had a different version of what happened that night. He said his driving appeared erratic because he dropped a lit cigar in his lap and that he was not drinking.

Kevin Thomas: “No sir, I don’t drink beer.”

Juan Gonzalez: “So you were not drinking that night?”

Kevin Thomas: “No sir.”

Juan Gonzalez: “What was inside the cup?”

Kevin Thomas: “It was a red solo cup with some sweet tea that I had earlier when I was driving.”

In essence, the case came down to one officer’s word against the other. But it didn’t have to. As 7News first reported last October, the Miramar Police Chief admitted it was a mistake that Thomas was not tested.

Carmel Cafiero: “Instead, the Miramar Officer called his sergeant, who arrived and called a Miami-Dade Police Sergeant, who showed up with additional supervisors.”

With his own department on scene, Thomas was given four traffic tickets and let go. Did he catch a break?

Ryan Galka: “Instead of conducting a criminal investigation, is it fair to say since you had a more lenient option, you chose that option?”

Yahmed Yema: “Yes ma’am.”

Thomas’ attorney implied the Miami-Dade Officer was stopped because of his race.

Juan Gonzalez: “You take him down and you handcuff him like a dog on the street because he’s a black man sir. That wasn’t because he was a black man? Are you kidding me?”

Yema denied it. The jury took only 15 minutes to make a decision.

Court Clerk: “Defendant is not guilty, so say we all.”

Judge Melinda Brown also dismissed his traffic tickets, but it was not all good news for Thomas. 7News has learned he was fired from the Miami-Dade Police Department in April involving an unrelated crash in his unmarked police car.

Even though he is no longer with the department, there is still an open internal affairs investigation into the Miramar incident.

Carmel Cafiero, 7News.


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