Friday, June 22, 2018
Politics

Despite outrage with Aramis Ayala video, experts say traffic stop was legit

When Orlando police pulled over Florida's first African-American state attorney last month, the traffic stop lasted all of two minutes and involved no shouting and little drama.

The footage, recorded by a body camera worn by one of the officers, probably would have been forgotten, too, if it hadn't surfaced online this week. By Wednesday, the video of Orlando prosecutor Aramis Ayala had been viewed by millions, sparking outrage and dividing its worldwide audience into feuding camps.

There were those who accused the officers of racial profiling, and those who accused Ayala of being rude.

But Ayala herself and local experts say it was a routine traffic stop that appeared to fall within the parameters of normal police procedure.

In a statement, Ayala noted no lawsuit has been filed and that the stop itself "appears consistent with Florida law," even though she made no traffic violation.

That it was Ayala in the video explains much of the attention it has gotten. Earlier this year, Ayala made headlines when she refused to pursue the death penalty in violent felony cases, a stand that has embroiled her office in a legal standoff with Gov. Rick Scott and triggered a backlash. In April, she received a noose in the mail.

She was pulled over by Orlando Police officers on June 19 in Parramore after leaving Florida A&M University College of Law, where she teaches, according to a statement from her office. Video from a body camera shows the brief interaction, where two officers, who have not been identified, are seen approaching her car during a traffic stop around 8: 15 p.m.

In the video, one officer asked her what agency she's with as he checks her license.

"I'm the state attorney," she replied as she took her license back. The officer wearing the body camera explained that her car's tag had turned up blank, something he had never seen before from a Florida license plate. She follows up with a question of her own.

"What was the tag run for?"

The officer responds that it's routine and that they run tags all the time. Plus, he adds, her windows were "really dark," so that's why they initiated a traffic stop. She held her hands up and asked for the officers for their cards. The officer wearing the camera wrote down their information before handing it to her and walking away.

In an emailed statement, Orlando Police said the department routinely checks tags on patrol, and those in the department are only allowed to run them during official business.

"In regards to the video, which was released by the Orlando Police Department last month, the officers stated the tag did not come back as registered to any vehicle," the statement said. "As you can see in the video, the window tint was dark, and officers would not have been able to tell who, or how many people, were in the vehicle."

Pinellas Sheriff's Office Sgt. Spencer Gross, who declined to comment specifically about the video, said it's routine for officers to check tags during patrols in his department.

"It's a valuable tool in law enforcement," he said. If no record shows up from a tag, officers can investigate further by initiating traffic stops.

Tampa defense attorney Bryant Camareno said he would have been hard pressed to find a way the stop was unreasonable.

"I didn't see anything wrong," he said, adding that if had to defend the case, he would have a hard time there was any type of discrimination against Ayala. He said the briefness of the interaction, as well as the explanation of the stop, shows that the officers acted reasonably, and previous U.S. Supreme Court cases have held it's "objectively reasonable" for officers to run tags.

"It would be very difficult for me to argue that this was an illegal stop," he said.

Ayala makes clear in her statement that she had not violated any laws during the stop.

"The license plate, while confidential, was and remains properly registered," she said. "The tint was in no way a violation of Florida law."

The traffic stop appeared consistent with state law, she continued, adding that she intends to work for a mutually respectful relationship with law enforcement and the community.

"I look forward to sitting down to have an open dialogue with the Chief of Orlando Police Department regarding how this incident impacts that goal," she said.

Comments
Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

NEW PORT RICHEY — A seasoned historic hotel renovator and operator is going to take a crack at getting New Port Richey’s city-owned Hacienda Hotel back into action. New Port Richey City Council members, acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, u...
Published: 06/20/18
Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis stepped into a growing controversy over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, criticizing the separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexican border and saying that "populism" and "creating psychosis" are not t...
Published: 06/20/18
Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Well, that didn’t last long.U.S. Army veteran Michael Sean McCoy filed to run as the Republican candidate in the State House, District 57 race just hours after incumbent State Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, announced he was stepping down.McCoy, who live...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

At this moment, she is Tampa Bay’s most influential export. A smart, accomplished and powerful attorney making life-altering decisions on an international stage.But what of tomorrow? And the day after?When the story of President Donald Trump’s border...
Published: 06/19/18
‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

SEATTLE — The call came at mealtime — an anonymous threat demanding $5,000 or her son’s life. So Blanca Orantes-Lopez, her 8-year-old boy and his father packed up and left the Pacific surfing town of Puerto La Libertad in El Salvador and headed for t...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

WASHINGTON - As he prepared to visit Capitol Hill, President Donald Trump on Tuesday continued to insist that Congress produce comprehensive immigration legislation, while anxious Republicans explored a narrower fix to the administration policy of se...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Calls are mounting on Capitol Hill for the Trump administration to end the separation of families at the southern border ahead of a visit from President Donald Trump to discuss legislation.Trump’s meeting late Tuesday afternoon with...
Published: 06/19/18
Another detention center for immigrant children planned for Houston

Another detention center for immigrant children planned for Houston

Another facility intended for detaining undocumented children is reportedly in the works for Houston as the number of children separated from their parents at the border continues to swell.Southwest Key Programs, the same contractor that operates the...
Published: 06/19/18
Muralist working with huge St. Pete ‘canvas’ to create neighborhood eye-grabber

Muralist working with huge St. Pete ‘canvas’ to create neighborhood eye-grabber

ST. PETERSBURG — They appear to rise out of nowhere — two enormous, reclaimed-water tanks with an artist’s white clouds scudding across a blue background.A closer view reveals silhouettes of a lone coyote howling at the sky, mangrove islands, oak, cy...
Published: 06/19/18
FBI agent removed from Russia probe for anti-Trump texts says he’s willing to testify before Congress

FBI agent removed from Russia probe for anti-Trump texts says he’s willing to testify before Congress

The FBI agent who was removed from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election for sending anti-Trump texts intends to testify before the House Judiciary Committee and any other congressional committee that asks, his attorney sai...
Published: 06/17/18