Police framed 15-year-old boy for rape, murder, plaintiffs said
|Wrongful Conviction, Government - Wrongful Incarceration, Civil Rights - Police as Defendant, Intentional Torts - Malicious Prosecution, Intentional Torts - Conspiracy|
|Donald Spadaro, as limited guardian for Anthony Caravella v. City of Miramar, a municipality, George Pierson, William Mantesta, and William Frederick Guess, individually and in their official capacities as former police officers for the City of Miramar; Al Lamberti, in his official capacity as the Sheriff of Broward County; Kenneth C. Jenne, II, individually and in his official capacity as the former Sheriff of Broward County; Anthony Fantigrassi, individually and in his official capacity as a former deputy sheriff for the Broward County Sheriff's office, No. 0:11-cv-61607-JIC|
|U.S. District Court, Southern District, Fort Lauderdale, FL|
|James I. Cohn
- Barbara A. Heyer; Heyer & Associates, P.A.; Fort Lauderdale, FL, for Anthony Caravella
- C. Keel; DNA Testing & Analysis; Hayward, CA called by: Barbara Heyer
- Melvin Tucker; Police Practices & Procedures; Raleigh, NC called by: Barbara Heyer
- Jamie Alan Cole; Weiss Serota Helfman Pastoriza Cole & Boniske, P.A.; Fort Lauderdale, FL, for City of Miramar, George Pierson, William Mantesta, William Frederick Guess
- Matthew H. Mandel; Weiss Serota Helfman Pastoriza Cole & Boniske, P.A.; Fort Lauderdale, FL, for City of Miramar, George Pierson, William Frederick Guess, William Mantesta
- Gregg A. Toomey; Bunnell & Woulfe, P.A.; Fort Myers, FL, for Al Lamberti, Kenneth C. Jenne II, Anthony Fantigrassi
- Joseph Matthews; Police Practices & Procedures; Miami, FL called by: Jamie Cole, Gregg Toomey
In 1984, plaintiff Anthony Caravella, 15, was sent to prison after confessing to the rape and murder of a Miramar woman. He was freed in 2009 and his conviction thrown out in 2010 when DNA testing exonerated him from the crime. The DNA testing linked the crime to another man. Caravella claimed he suffered emotional distress from his incarceration.
Donald Spadaro, a court-appointed legal guardian, filed a suit on behalf of Caravella against the City of Miramar; former Miramar police officers George Pierson, William Mantesta and William Frederick Guess; Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti; former Broward County Sheriff Kenneth C. Jenne II; and former Broward County Deputy Sheriff Anthony Fantigrassi. The plaintiffs alleged that Pierson, Mantesta, Guess and Fantigrassi conspired to frame Anthony Caravella for a crime that DNA evidence showed he did not commit. The plaintiffs further alleged that the city, Lamberti and Jenne were vicariously responsible for the conduct of the officers and sheriff. The city, Lamberti and Jenne were dismissed before trial.
The plaintiffs alleged that the officers and sheriff knew that Anthony did not commit the murder. They alleged that they conspired in fabricating and falsifying evidence in the form of false police reports, false taped statements, and false testimony under oath to frame Anthony for the crime. They alleged that the defendants violated Anthony's constitutional right against malicious prosecution and coerced him into confessing to the crime. They claimed that the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to coerce, by intimidation and deception, a mentally challenged child into making self-incriminating statements. They claimed that the defendants took Anthony to the crime scene and then coached him with information and detailed facts of the crimes in order to fabricate evidence by making and presenting a tape-recorded confession to a criminal proceeding, knowing it to be false and misleading. Plaintiffs' counsel claimed that the murder was a high-profile case and police were under pressure to arrest someone for it.
Defense counsel denied that the defendants acted improperly. The defense's expert on police procedures testified that the defendants acted properly in their questioning of Anthony during the homicide investigation. The expert also testified that the defendants had no reason to believe that Anthony was mentally challenged.
Caravella sought to recover compensatory and punitive damages for his wrongful conviction that sent him to prison for nearly 25 years. He claimed he suffered emotional distress.
Defense counsel denied that the defendants acted improperly.
The jury found Pierson and Mantesta liable, and found Guess and Fantigrassi not liable. It determined that Caravella's damages totaled $7 million. It decided that Mantesta should pay Caravella $4 million ($1.5 million in compensatory damages and $2.5 million in punitive damages) and Pierson should pay him $3 million ($1 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitives).
$2,500,000 Personal Injury: compensatory damages
$4,500,000 Personal Injury: punitive damages
Defense counsel filed motions for a new trial.
This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiffs' counsel and defense counsel for the City of Miramar, George Pierson, William Mantesta and William Frederick Guess. Defense counsel for Al Lamberti, Kenneth C. Jenne II, and Anthony Fantigrassi did not respond to the reporter's phone calls.