Update: The Miami New Times weighs in on whether or not the media dropped the ball on this story.
In 1994, the son of Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez went on a violent sexual rampage where he raped two girls, forced another to perform oral sex on him and threatened several others with a knife before they ran off.
At the time, the mayor was a high-ranking police officer with the Miami-Dade Police Department, the same agency that investigated the crimes committed by his son, Carlos Alvarez Jr.
Although Alvarez Jr. could have received up to life in prison for the eight felonies he committed, he was sentenced to 18 years, serving only 13½ years before he was released last October.
And it was only because of a Miami Herald gossip columnist that we are even discussing the matter today.
Joan Fleischman, who pens the Herald column Talk of the Town, broke the story about Alvarez Jr. being released from prison on Sunday – two months after he was actually released. Since then, no media organization in Miami has mentioned his release nor the story behind the initial arrest.
Many people would argue that this is not a newsworthy item. Sexual offenders get released all the time and it doesn’t make the news. And if you really want to keep updated on your neighborhood sex offender, all you need to do is scroll through the Florida Sexual Offender website, where you will learn that the mayor’s son is adorned with gang tattoos proclaiming allegiance to the Latin Bad Boys.
But considering that Miami-Dade County is promoting the cause titled “Protect against stranger danger” this week on its website – right next to a picture of Mayor Alvarez wishing us all Happy Holidays – you would think more of an effort would have been made by the media to inform us that a violent sexual predator had just been released.
Especially considering that particular section links to a page titled “Find possible predators in your area.”
Once you click on the link, you will learn that Miami-Dade County has an ordinance that forbids sexual predators and offenders from living within 2,500 feet of a school, a much harsher law than the state’s required 1,000 foot buffer.
Alvarez Jr. is living at 6890 SW 44th St. in an apartment complex called Ludlam Point. Apartment 208 to be exact. Just down the street from South Miami Senior High, which is located at 6856 SW 53rd St. There is also a day care and preschool less than a half-mile away.
But Alvarez Jr. doesn’t have a history of molesting prepubescent children. He seems to like the adolescent girls.
According to a 1995 Miami Herald article that covered his sentencing, which was dug up from the archives by Miami blogger Random Pixels, Alvarez Jr. committed the following crimes in 1994:
* On March 23, Alvarez Jr . asked a girl for directions on Southwest 108th Avenue and 88th Street. He said he had a gun, threatened to kill her and demanded she show him her breasts. The girl ran away.
* On April 25, Alvarez Jr . asked a girl for directions on Southwest 108th Avenue and 93rd Street. He said he had a gun, ordered the girl into his car and exposed himself. She ran off.
* On May 13, Alvarez Jr . accosted a 20-year-old woman while she skated on Southwest 123rd Avenue and 82nd Street. He threatened to run the woman over unless she climbed into his car. Once she did, Alvarez Jr . showed her a knife and forced her to perform oral sex on him.
* On May 26, Alvarez Jr . tried to kidnap a girl at knifepoint while she sat on a bus bench at Southwest 117th Avenue and 88th Street. The girl ran off.
* One hour and 15 minutes later, Alvarez Jr . lured two teenage girls into his car at the Town & Country Center in Kendall. He pulled a knife and sexually assaulted the girls, ages 14 and 16.
But as Random Pixels points out, the Herald did not run anymore articles about Alvarez Jr. since the sentencing. Not even during the time Alvarez Sr. campaigned for mayoral office in 2004, as pointed out by Rebecca Wakefield in a 2006 Miami Sunpost column.
Another example is the decision of local media, including the Herald and the New Times, to not write about the criminal background of the son of county Mayor Carlos Alvarez while he was running for office. Alvarez’s son was convicted of a number of brutal rapes when he was a teenager. But Alvarez himself, a former county police director, is widely considered an honorable man. I remember some of the debate among local journalists about whether to report his son’s transgressions, knowing that it would be unfairly used against Alvarez by his political opponents. In the end, it didn’t get written about during the race.
And that brings me to a Miami Herald article that I dug up out of the archives from before the sentencing of Alvarez Jr. (meaning I had to pay the $2.95).
In February 1995, as the Miami-Dade Police Department investigated the crimes against Alvarez Jr., his mugshot went missing from the property room of the police department.
This was a key piece of evidence because one of the victims had signed her name on the photo, identifying Alvarez Jr. as the assailant.
“His face I will never forget,” the victim told police as she identified him, according to the Miami Herald article.
At the time, Alvarez Sr. was Assistant Director for Police Services for the Miami-Dade (then Metro-Dade) Police Department, which in itself, would seem to portray a conflict of interest.
And police had no explanation as to the missing photo, according to the article.
“We don’t know if it’s missing or misplaced,” said Lt. Linda O’Brien, a Metro spokeswoman. “You’ve got to understand these things happen, but it’s not done by intent.”
The decision to not to report the truth about the mayor’s son during his campaign prompted his opponent, Democrat Jimmy Morales, to claim media bias, according to a 2005 New Times article.
“The Herald was not fair and balanced,” Morales continues. “They went out of their way to expose my weaknesses and didn’t really say much about Alvarez. To me the greatest irony of it all is when DeFede wrote a column describing Alvarez as the family man in the race. I’ve been married with children for fifteen years of my life. Alvarez is twice divorced with a son in jail for rape. He’s the family man and I’m not?” (Alvarez’s 27-year-old son Carlos, Jr. is serving an eighteen-year prison sentence for a spree of sexual assaults committed in Kendall in 1994.)
“Those were the kind of stories I had to deal with,” Morales says. “I just couldn’t get a fair shake.”
And I would agree with Morales. Once you throw your hat into the political ring, nothing remains untouched. Not a blow job. Not your daughter’s illegitimate child. And not your past drug habit.
Isn’t that the standards the media has set for us?
It was biased against Morales to not to report the facts about Alvarez Sr.’s son. Especially considering it was public record. And especially because there may have been a conflict of interest in the investigation – and maybe even tampering with evidence – back when the mayor was a high-ranking police officer.
When Miami-Dade police officers first confronted Alvarez Jr. in 1995, he ran into a body of water at Kendall’s Town and Country Mall. And it was a Sgt. Dennis Todaro – who coached Alvarez Jr. as a kid – that coaxed him out of the water.
The only reason Alvarez Jr. did not get sentenced to life in prison was because none of the victims chose to testify. Usually investigators do their best to get the victims to testify.
Was that not the case during this investigation?
Six victims. And not one agreed to testify? Despite one telling police that she will never forget his face? Despite at least three of them probably being scarred for life?
And even without the trial, Alvarez Jr. could still have been sentenced to 30 years, but ended up getting 18 years instead. And even then, defense attorneys claimed it was a harsh sentence, saying it was only based on the fact that their client was the son of a high-ranking police officer. Right.
It is clear that Alvarez Jr. received a lighter sentence. And it is clear that the media has shown a protective bias in favor of Alvarez Sr.
Even to the point where it would allow a solid new story like this to fall between the cracks where a gossip columnist who is no longer a full-time reporter ends up with the scoop. And I mean no disrespect to Fleischman by calling her a gossip columnist. Her 30-year experience, which she cites in her good-bye column, speaks for itself.
Since Fleischman’s article, no other mainstream media organization has touched this story.
Meanwhile, Alvarez Jr. is adjusting to life on the outside. And judging by the amenities in his apartment complex, life is good.
According to ApartmentGuide.com, Ludlam Point is “close to the University with the South Beach lifestyle on site with a full menu of South Beach activities, including a pool bar with a plasma TV for your sport pleasures.”
In fact, apartments are still available ranging from $1,085 a month for a one-bedroom to $2,200 for a 3/2. That is, of course, if you have children.
Mention this article and you might get a discount. And don’t worry about the sexual predators that have gone unreported by your local media.
This is a gated community after all.