Ignacio Vazquez Jr., the high-brow prosecutor who was never at a loss of words during my trial, has proven to be unable to respond to my appeal brief.
The proud son of a cop who accused me of being biased against cops filed another motion for extension last week, asking for an additional 45 days in which to respond to my appeal brief.
Apparently, law school did not prepare the 29-year-old how to respond to a pro se appellant appealing a single misdemeanor conviction of resisting arrest without violence. Not exactly uncharted legal territory.
The court granted his motion on the same day he filed it, denying me the chance to file a response in opposition where I would have asked the court to refuse his request on the basis that it would cause unnecessary delays.
As if two years of unnecessary delays is not enough.
Although it is normal procedure to notify the opposing party before filing a motion, Vazquez never informed me, explaining in his motion that the “appellant is proceeding pro se and therefore has not been contacted regarding the relief requested herein.”
I’m not sure why the fact that I am representing myself would allow him to break procedure. It’s not like my address and phone number are not clearly stated on the front page of my appeal brief.
This is the second motion for extension he has filed since I filed my 30-page appeal in late November. He now has until April 3rd to respond to my brief. That is unless the courts grant him another extension.
This happens to be the latest delay in a long series of delays since my February 21, 2007 arrest for photographing a group of Miami cops against their wishes; a case that should have been dropped from the onset.
My initial trial was scheduled two months after my arrest, but it was postponed indefinitely when the original judge assigned to the case, a colorful, outspoken woman named Karen Mills-Francis, began taping episodes that would eventually become a nationally syndicated TV show called Judge Karen.
A few months before announcing her retirement from the Miami-Dade County bench, she removed all trials from her calendar that would have forced her to do her job, including mine, to prevent them from interfering with her new career as a TV judge. As if we needed any more of those.
Then in December 2007, the original prosecutor in this case, Daniel Zuniga, was fired in what was described as a “toys for case dismissal” scandal, but appeared to be an internal case of retaliation because those types of deals occur on a regular basis, according to many insiders.
Before he was fired, Zuniga had offered me several plea deals – none which involved exchanging toys for a case dismissal – so I rejected them outright because they would have required me to plead guilty to at least one of the original nine charges I was slapped with.
My trial was finally rescheduled for May 5, 2008, but then one of the cops had called in sick that day – not to mention another one of the arresting officers had been shipped off to the war in Iraq and another had been shot to death on the streets of Miami – leaving only two of the original five arresting officers to take the witness stand that day. So it was postponed again.
When it finally went to trial in June 2008, Vazquez Jr. and a new judge had been assigned to my case; a Judge Jose L Fernandez who did not possess nearly the pizazz that earned Judge Mills-Francis a TV show. Judge Fernandez ended up retaliating against me because I had refused to show remorse after my conviction. As if I should show remorse for crimes I did not commit.
Vazquez Jr. is most likely thinking that by continuing to file motions for extensions, he will wear me out to the point where I complete my community hours and probation before this even goes before the appeal judges. But I can assure you, this is beyond that.
This lengthy legal battle is not only to clear my name from an unlawful arrest and conviction but to clear the way for the civil suit I plan to file against the city of Miami for violating my First Amendment rights and for causing me two years of lost wages due to damage to my professional reputation as a journalist.
This battle is also to eventually force the Miami Police Department to implement training procedures that would teach their officers that photography is not a crime. Judging by the “Miami Model”, which is the term used to describe the unconstitutional method Miami police used in cracking down on protesters and journalists during the 2003 FTAA meetings, this training is long overdue.
So go for it, Iggy. File all the motions for extensions you want. I’m a patient man.
Vazquez Jr. – the man known as “Iggy” among friends – graduated from Southwest Senior High where at 6-foot, 6-inches, he helped lead the basketball team to its first winning season in 30 years in 1996. After attending Florida State University, he obtained his law degree from St. Thomas University in Miami and was admitted to the Florida bar in 2005.
He is the son of Ignacio Vazquez Sr., who spent 32 commendable years with the Miami-Dade Police Department before taking over as police chief of the Sweetwater Police Department in 2003, which at the time, was mired in a controversial scandal involving four police officers who beat a teenager so severely he needed surgery to repair internal organs. Vazquez Sr. resigned a year later. The City of Sweetwater ended up settling for $2 million in the beating of the teen.
So it is obvious that if anybody has bias regarding police officers, it is Vazquez Jr.
Nevertheless, Vazquez Jr. tried to convince the jury that I had a “history of hating police” during my trial because of a blog post I wrote where I compared a group of thuggish Los Angeles police officers to Nazi soldiers. The LAPD officers were caught on video bashing the legs of children and trampling over journalists during a peaceful demonstration in 2007 in an incident that resulted in a $13 million dollar settlement and disciplinary action against the officers.
Although my attorney, Arnold Trevilla, argued that this was improper character evidence and tried to prevent the judge from admitting it as evidence, Judge Fernandez allowed Vazquez Jr. to proceed, telling my attorney that the blog post proves I had “a bias against police officers” at the time of my arrest.
However, the article was written more than two months after my arrest, so it hardly proves I had a history of anything prior to my arrest. And considering the jury convicted me of resisting arrest without violence but acquitted me of refusing a lawful order and disorderly conduct, it is obvious that this improper character evidence swayed them into believing I would resist a police officer when I did not.
But that is only one of three arguments I outlined in my appeal.
Although Vazquez Jr. describes himself as a conservative on his Facebook page, he includes quotes from Robert Kennedy and Mojandas Ghandi.
But most unforeseen is the following quote from Theodore Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
Unfortunately, Vazquez Jr. has refused to step into the arena.
I am a multimedia journalist who has been fighting a lengthy legal battle after having photographed Miami police against their wishes in Feb. 2007. Please help the fight by donating to my Legal Defense Fund in the top left sidebar. And join my Facebook blog network to keep updated on the latest articles.