South Miami Taxpayers Shell Out $90K After Cops Ruin Quince Party

Categories: The Judge

quincepoppers.jpg
Kate Ter Haar, via Wikimedia Commons
Julio Sanchez began planning his daughter's quinceañera almost three years in advance. One of the things the Cuban-American loved about his daughter Janessa was her thoughtfulness, and she decided a small, inexpensive get-together would do just fine when the time came. Nothing like the elaborate, $20,000 blowouts some of her friends at St. Brendan High School had. So on December 12, 2009, Sanchez decorated his South Miami home and set up a buffet table of kid-friendly food like pizza and chicken fingers. He bought his quiet, studious daughter a pink-and-silver dress.

A family friend DJ'ed, and 20 to 30 teens gathered outside, with boys standing awkwardly on one side of the patio and girls on the other. It was like a middle-school dance in that no one was dancing. Certainly nothing wild, Sanchez says. So when cops showed up at 9:30 p.m., two hours after the party began, everyone was surprised. An anonymous neighbor had called in a noise complaint. Under a city ordinance enacted in 1981, no person is allowed to create a "loud and boisterous noise which may annoy persons on a street or sidewalk." Someone, it seemed, was annoyed by the Top 40 hits of the mid-2000s.

Sanchez unplugged one of the speakers so the music would be softer and considered the problem resolved. An hour later, though, a different officer showed up and said everyone had to leave immediately. The quince was a drop-off party, Sanchez told Officer Vigil, who didn't seem to understand that the minor children couldn't drive and that parents needed to be called first.

Asked for his name and badge number, Vigil became enraged, Sanchez says.

"He did one of those karate moves and put both of my hands behind me, slamming me into my car in front of my house," Sanchez remembers.

Sanchez sat in the back of a cop car for close to an hour as the teenagers were picked up by their parents. Afterward, he was given a notice to appear in court. The criminal charges were second on his mind to the ruined party.

"It's one of those special moments that comes only once in a lifetime," Sanchez says. "We didn't even get to take pictures or cut cakes." The father-daughter song that had been selected so far in advance -- "Wind Beneath My Wings" -- went unplayed.

Ray Taseff, Sanchez's lawyer, says his client's civil rights were violated by the "loud and boisterous" ordinance. As written, he says, it violates the First Amendment right to expression.

"One type of speech and noise can be agreeable to one and disagreeable to others," says the attorney, who invoked Martin Luther King Jr. in court documents. "When you say you're gonna define unlawlessness as what's annoying, that gives the police a tremendous amount of power." In a deposition, Officer Vigil said, "My opinion [as to a noise violation] might not be the same opinion as the next officer who responds, who might actually take different legal action since he does not have the same perspective I do."

The case moved from state to federal court in 2012, and the city decided to settle this month. The damages awarded for the crashed quince: $90,000.

"Believe it or not, this had nothing to do with money when I brought up the case, says Sanchez, who also explained that a recent death in the family factored into his decision to settle. "It had to do with principle. How am I supposed to teach my kid to stand up for herself when she sees her father get arrested right in his home? That's my sanctuary, my domain."

Send your story tips to the author, Allie Conti.

Follow Allie Conti on Twitter: @allie_conti

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19 comments
David Oves
David Oves

"... she decided a small, inexpensive get-together would do just fine when the time came. Nothing like the elaborate, $20,000 blowouts some of her friends at St. Brendan High School had..." Riddle me this Batman...if it was an inexpensive fifteen's party they shared, then why are we paying them $90,000 plus police time off??? And how are they using "freedom of speech" as their main attack point if they violated a city ordinance? Freedom of music is new now?? And the girl goes to St. Brendan....let me raise my pinky just coming up with a proper term for her and the "type of family"...lol

conceitedcuqui
conceitedcuqui

So happy that the dad that got $90,000. That neighbor and cop are a bunch of idiots.

Clemente Morales
Clemente Morales

Must have been a slow night on the ever so dangerous South Miami streets...

ob1sfla
ob1sfla topcommenter

Miami cops, assholes, assholes, assholes. people that come to this country, become cops, and think they are above the law, just because Miami is not America in the minds of the average person, this would had not happen North of Miami-dade

Debbie Walters
Debbie Walters

Sounds like our next door neighbor wasn't so bad after all.

Najsoj Osnola
Najsoj Osnola

ive had cops harrass my neighbors on a saturday afternoon over a noise complaint....total fucking bs

Najsoj Osnola
Najsoj Osnola

idk why people just cant mind their own damn business and keep to themselves

Najsoj Osnola
Najsoj Osnola

all of this happened because some shitty ass, jealous, hating ass neighbor decides to be a snitch

Jason Walters
Jason Walters

Good for them. They deserve to pay. Noise violation is 11 pm. I woudlnt have any neighbors left if the police arrested everyone playing music i can hear outside.

Deborah Bolden
Deborah Bolden

Those South Miami police officers are really smart arent they?

Sayad Khan
Sayad Khan

Of course, at worst, they will be suspended WITH pay. Nice paid vacation for violating people's rights and wasting tax payer money.

Vanessa Phelps
Vanessa Phelps

Have to wonder what kind of people are being hired to be police officers. I've seen many that made me wonder if a criteria to become an officer is to be a looney. Chain of command should be called go higher up to cover-up. Needs to be a change with who are so called "protectors". On a side note there are some good police officers out there and they are having to deal with challenges themselves with the corrupt.

Erika Rosenblum
Erika Rosenblum

$90k? They should've fired or suspended ( without pay ) the officer and paid to have another party at a nice venue. Why $90k though?

mmarrero2
mmarrero2

go figure... boys in blue are now hiring non certified police officers, they train you while "on the job".

James Russell
James Russell

It's an epidemic right now across the country. These bullies with badges are getting off in killing people at an alarming rate! Police the police

Jorge Larrea
Jorge Larrea

They should have docked the officers pay

swimpegasus
swimpegasus

Good for him for fighting the good fight! 

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