Man in Halloween Night Police Beating Video Pleads Not Guilty to Resisting Arrest

December 8, 2010 by David S. Seltzer

As a south Florida criminal defense attorney, I have been following with interest articles about the alleged incident of police brutality by Miami police officers on Halloween. The incident at the annual Coconut Grove Halloween Street Party became locally famous after police were caught on video beating multiple people, seemingly at random. One of those people, 22-year-old Gilberto Matamoros, pleaded not guilty Nov. 24 to resisting arrest without violence. As the Miami New Times reported, Matamoros was also originally charged with disorderly conduct, but that charge was dropped. His criminal defense lawyers said they’d been told all charges would be dropped, but prosecutors changed their minds when the media entered the courtroom. The police department has declined to comment, citing an internal affairs investigation that has put two officers on desk duty.

The video is not high-quality, but seems to show Miami police officers pulling spectators out of the crowd, then restraining, hitting and arresting them without apparent provocation. The internal affairs department of the Miami police is investigating the events behind the video. However, prosecutors have still brought charges against Matamoros, a college student who was apparently one of the people beaten. His Miami-Dade criminal defense lawyers told the Miami Herald that he was just standing in the crowd when he was pulled out by officers and badly beaten. They said the only resistance Matamoros offered was attempting to protect himself, and that he blacked out before being booked into jail. His booking photo shows injuries to his face, and he went to Jackson Memorial Hospital after his booking.

Like many Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys, I’m skeptical when the charge is resisting an officer without violence, because it’s a vaguely worded statute that is sometimes used to cover up wrongdoing or harass people who annoy the police. Under this law, it’s a crime to “resist, obstruct or oppose any officer.” Read very broadly, this could make it a crime to verbally object to what an officer is doing -- as many people in that video could be heard doing. Matamoros, like all U.S. residents, has a legal right to free speech and freedom from unreasonable arrests. Under the circumstances, he may have a strong defense against the resisting an officer charge -- and a strong case that the officers in the video are the criminals. However, making those cases requires professional legal help, which is why I’m glad he has attorneys to protect him as his case moves through the court system.

Miami criminal defense attorney David S. Seltzer represents people accused of crimes in south Florida, including serious crimes as well as misdemeanor charges like this one. If you or someone you care about is charged, you can call us anytime -- 24 hours a day and seven days a week -- for a free consultation. You can find us at 1-800-7-LEGAL-7 or send us a message online, en ingles o español.