James Thompson’s lawyer maintained that the allegations made against his client that lead to his arrest by Fort Lauderdale Police Officer Jefferson Alvarez were a total fabrication.
Alvarez wrote in his report “While on patrol I saw the listed vehicle traveling westbound on W. Broward Blvd. By looking at the sticker and then confirming it on teletype I discovered that the tag was expired. I conducted a traffic stop on the 3600 block of W. Broward Blvd.”
According to the report, Alvarez also stated that he then ran a check of Thompson’s driver’s license and when found that it was suspended arrested him at the scene.
The truth of the matter was that Alvarez was one of two backup officers who arrived at the area well after Officer Larry Reyes, who first saw and investigated a car that was in the parking lot of an abandoned gas station.
Thompson’s attorney who is with the Broward Public Defenders Office, said “Alvarez never saw him driving and he never made any traffic stop.” He went on to say “My client was changing a flat tire and two other officers drove up and ran a license check. Alvarez arrived on the scene later and they allowed him to make the arrest.” Police records verified that Alvarez was the last officer to arrive.
Thompson maintained he was never driving the car. He said he went to its location in the parking lot of the abandoned gas station, where his cousin had left it, to fix a flat tire. According to Thompson, it was 3 o’clock in the morning when police officer, Larry Reyes saw him by the vehicle, stopped his patrol car, and began to question him.
Reyes ran a check and determined that Thompson’s driver’s license was suspended.
Alvarez works in the patrol division and has been with the department for a little more than two years. It appears that he was on a kind of probation during the incident and was given the opportunity to arrest Thompson to strengthen his own statistics. On July 15, he was placed on paid suspension pending further investigation.
Five months later, when Thompson’s defense lawyer questioned Alvarez, he said he didn’t recall the incident and depended on his original report to refresh his memory.
During the course of Thompson’s investigation, his lawyer obtained records from the global position system (GPS) installed on Fort Lauderdale police squad cars, along with dispatch logs, and other evidence that confirmed the reported scenario to be wholly fictitious.
During a deposition, Alvarez affirmed it was he who made the traffic stop and delivered several other details about it, but the GPS data did not support his testimony. Reyes, in his deposition, disputed Alvarez and the information he wrote in his arrest report.
“Um, Officer Alvarez stated that he stopped the vehicle when, in fact, I stopped the, uh, – I was the first officer to stop the vehicle,” Reyes attested.
Reyes also confirmed that Alvarez was not on the scene at the time of the traffic stop.
During proceedings, Alvarez said he mistakenly believed he was supposed to place himself in Reyes’ shoes when describing the events that led to the arrest.
Prepared with this testimony and the GPS statistics, Thompson’s lawyer offered the evidence to Assistant State Attorney Steve Litvack, who then dropped all charges against Thompson.
With the evidence now signifying that Officer Alvarez’s statements were clear cut falsehoods he then became the target of a criminal investigation and was charged with perjury.
At Alvarez’s trial, jurors listened to a 40-minute recording of the deposition and requested to hear it again during their deliberations. Alvarez also answered questions about pulling over Thompson’s car, although on the stand he said that he was relying on his report and not on his actual memory.
After just four hours of deliberations the jury came back with a guilty verdict of falsifying a police report and perjury.
The maximum penalty for perjury and falsifying records, combined, is six years. Sentencing was scheduled for Nov. 19 in front of Broward Circuit Judge Paul Backman. Alvarez remains free on bond until the sentencing hearing.
Thompson did not testify at Officer Alvarez’s trial.