Ex-Florida Police Chief Finally Puts Guilty Person In Prison: Himself
Raimundo Atesiano is going to prison for a while but not nearly long enough. Atesiano was sentenced last week to three years for conspiracy to frame black men for crimes they didn't commit. It wasn't personal. It was strictly a corrupt business. The former police chief of Biscayne Park, a small town in Florida, encouraged three of his officers to crap on the lives of innocent people as a quick fix for reported burglaries.
This is somewhat justice delayed: Atesiano resigned in 2014 after the officers involved -- Guillermo Ravelo, Charlie Dayoub and Raul Fernandez -- directly implicated him. They were all sentenced to prison last month for arresting a 16-year-old in 2013 under Atesiano's direction and pinning on him four unsolved burglaries. This is a serious felony.
"When I took the job, I was not prepared," Atesiano told a federal judge on Tuesday. "I made some very, very bad decisions."
This is the sort of understatement you expect to hear as the ironic voiceover to a movie trailer about a crooked cop. Atesiano didn't incompetently arrest the wrong person. He did so deliberately. He's also being unfair to himself when he says he wasn't prepared for his job. Before he was chief, Atesiano reportedly issued 2,200 traffic tickets by himself in one year. Biscayne Park, which the city of Miami cut loose during the Depression, has a population of just more than 3,000 people. That's a lot of traffic tickets for a place with probably three stop lights.
Atesiano actually went on TV and bragged about his department's "100 percent" crime-solving rate. That's how you knew he was crooked. Not even Sherlock Holmes had that good a performance record. "This is the first time I've ever known that to happen in any department," he claimed. The guy is literally confessing while the audience applauds.
His lawyer argued that Atesiano's victims weren't just randomly selected but were known to police as having criminal pasts. This is a pretty crappy defense for a pretty crappy person. Random selection at least turns the whole conspiracy into a sort of twisted reality show: "Who Wants to Lose Their Civil Rights?" There's a reason Atesiano didn't try to frame Miami Heat owner Micky Arison. He made a point of preying on those who were the least likely to have resources to effectively fight back.
No one plans to go to prison but if you wind up facing hard time, you don't want it to be because you framed innocent people. Everyone in prison already thinks they got a raw deal, and they're not even that crazy about the cops who put away folks who are actually guilty. This isn't like a travel agent spending their vacation at an all inclusive resort they've sent a lot of clients to over the years. That's good enough for complementary mai tais.
Atesiano was looking at a maximum of 10 years, so I tend to think his three-year sentence is too kind. There's something perverse about ruining someone's life just to advance your career. His actions also made Biscayne Park less safe because it doesn't appear he actually ever apprehended the true culprits.
The judge is permitting Atesiano to remain free for two weeks before surrendering so he can look after his mother, who's dying of leukemia. It's probably awful to die knowing your son is a criminal who is about to spend the next three years in prison. I certainly feel more concern for her than Atesiano ever felt for his railroaded victims.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."