One officer was convicted of excessive force and the other, obstruction of justice by lying to the FBI. Both offenses will quickly land any regular citizen behind bars. If you’re Black, it all but guarantees that or an early dirt nap. Officers who are held to a higher regard and standard, whom much is expected on the other hand deserve a lighter sentence according to one judge’s actions.
On Tuesday a judge decided that the punishment shouldn’t fit the crime for two cops who faced an extended stay in federal prison over a 2014 Boynton Beach police chase and beating. Both officers, 48-year-old Michael Brown and 37-year-old Philip Antico were convicted in their involvement in the incident. On Tuesday, the pair received near identical punishments of three years probation from U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenberg in back-to-back hearings. The officers were captured on video by an overhead Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office helicopter recording the beating of the suspect.
Both officers will also serve 180 days of house arrest with an ankle monitor. The former officers will be allowed to work if they’re able to find new jobs. Their careers in law enforcement are said to be over according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel. The officers do currently have appeals pending to restore their careers. Currently they remain on paid administrative leave which federal prosecutors have finally called out. The officers’ continuing paychecks are an indication of the Boynton Beach Police Department’s complicity in creating a culture that breeds these cops.
A jury found Brown guilty last November of beating and using a Taser on 19-year-old Jeffrey Braswell. Braswell, who was unarmed, was a passenger in a Mitsubishi driven by someone who refused to pull over for police. A police chase ensued leading cops on a high speed chase on Interstate 95.
“I never set out to hurt Mr. Braswell or anyone else that night,” Brown said to the judge.
Nine Boynton Beach officers took part in the 12 minute chase along Interstate 95 topping speeds of 100 mph at times. The chase ended in Lake Worth where a Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office helicopter recorded overhead. That recording turned out to be critical evidence in the case implicating the officers.
The video showed officers beating, kicking, kneeing, punching and using Tasers on the driver and the two passengers. Officers Ronald Ryan, 50, and Justin Harris, 35, also went to trial but were both acquitted of all the charges against them.
On Tuesday, prosecutors asked the court for a sentence of 21-27 months in prison for Brown; last month the judge tossed Brown’s conviction of using a firearm during a crime of violence which would have brought a mandatory five-year sentence.
“This trial was about conduct… that crossed the line of lawful behavior and deprived a person of constitutional rights,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Tunnage. He said of prosecuting Brown that it “brought me no joy” but had no other choice. According to Tunnage, the jury found the attack on Braswell was unprovoked.
Bruce Reinhart, the defense attorney, while disagreeing with the verdict challenged the depiction by the prosecution of the encounter. It was not a police “beat down” but rather a single blemish on a rather spotless career as a cop.
2013 Officer of the Year, Michael Brown, was thankful that he would be returning home to care for his 10-year-old son.
“It’s a relief,” said Brown. Father also to a 22-year-old son and a 19-year-old daughter, both of whom testified, spoke on the death of Brown’s wife who died in the fall of 2016 and how much it was an ordeal.
Sgt. Philip Antico was found guilty of obstructing justice in the investigation of the other officers’ beating of Braswell. The jury found him not guilty on two counts of falsifying records. Although he did not participate in the beating or chase, Antico was accused of misleading FBI agents during the investigation.
The prosecution sought a sentence of 15-21 months for Antico arguing he attempted to cover up the actions of the officers under his command.
“This court needs to send a message … that it is not OK for police officers to cover up their crimes,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Osborne.
Defense attorney Gregg Lerman countered that Antico was a well respected police officer of 15 years and was acquitted on the two charges of falsifying records.
“There’s no evidence to cover up in this case as it relates to Philip Antico”, said Lerman.
In pleading for leniency Antico said he did not intentionally try to mislead federal agents. According to Antico he is still coming to terms with how he wound up a criminal defendant and losing the job he loves.
“That’s all I ever wanted to do,” Antico said.
Judge Rosenberg cited Antico’s good deeds within the community both in and out of uniform. Antico volunteered as a youth football coach in West Boynton and is considered a dedicated father. In explaining the officer’s sentence, Rosenberg said that Antico would be losing his livelihood in law enforcement and would be considered a “felon”.