Panel exonerates Marco police officer caught hitting suspects on video

But FDLE commission did give Stephen Mariani a “letter of guidance”

Stephen Mariani

File photo

Stephen Mariani

Marco Police Arrest Video

Reaction to Police Video

— Saying he was placed in an “impossible situation,” a state disciplinary panel on Tuesday exonerated a Marco Island police officer who faced charges of battery and excessive force surrounding a February on-duty scuffle at an island comedy club.

Accompanied by his police chief, Stephen Mariani stood silently as the panel for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement reviewed the Feb. 16th incident that brought criminal charges and department sanctions against the 22-year veteran.

“I can appreciate this officer being placed in an impossible situation,” said commission Chairman Keith Durkin.

The FDLE Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission then proceeded to reject a staff recommendation to hold further formal proceedings, which could have forced Mariani to turn in his badge.

But he did not get off scot-free. Panelists agreed to issue a letter of guidance, a probation-like directive that if successfully followed would mean a slate clean for the police officer who joined the force in 2006 after 20 years as a New York City cop.

Mariani, 50, declined comment after the verdict but Marco Island Police Chief Thom Carr said the panel’s action was good news that hopefully will be the final chapter of an incident marred by multiple errors.

“With the fact that he never denied doing this but lost control for the first time in 22 1/2 years, we were looking for a letter of guidance from FDLE,” Carr said after the hearing. “Fortunately, we got it.”

Mariani was suspended for two weeks without pay and placed on six months probation for an February 2008 altercation he had with three suspects who were part of a boisterous busload of visitors at a Marco Island comedy club.

While transporting the verbally abusive suspects to Collier County’s jail, a video camera installed inside the police cruiser showed Mariani stopping the vehicle, opening the driver’s side rear door and punching two of the suspects. When one suspect tried to escape, Mariani pepper sprayed all three.

Carr, who testified on Mariani’s behalf, said the officer erred when he lost control with the belligerent suspects but also said several mistakes were made during and after the arrest that likely led to the altercation and the charges.

Mariani should not have been dispatched alone to deal with a busload of rowdy partygoers from Miami without proper backup. And after he and an off-duty officer scuffled with some of the revelers, Mariani should not have been ordered to drive the suspects to headquarters after the row.

“The whole thing was bad from the get-go,” Carr said of the events surrounding the February arrest. “There were several errors made. Some of that has been corrected, people have been disciplined, I don’t see that ever happening again.”

The panel could have accepted the staff recommendation and ordered a formal hearing, a legal proceeding in which witnesses would be called and a ruling is made. Mariani could have lost his position as a law enforcement officer.

Nearly three-quarters of the 120 cases against law enforcement officers that have come before the panel this year have resulted in findings of probable cause, according to FDLE statistics. Of the 106 disciplinary actions taken by the FDLE this year, the officer had their certification revoked or voluntarily relinquished it in more than 60 percent.

But commissioners appeared to agree with Matt Ward, a Police Benevolent Association attorney who represented Mariani at the hearing. With the suspects jailed for their part in the brawl, Mariani already disciplined for his role, and changes made to prevent a similar incident from happening, Webb said the system of internal review worked.

“At the end of the day, this was a tough night for everyone involved,” Webb said.

Contact Michael Peltier at mpeltier1234@comcast.net

© 2008 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 17

happy6 writes:

GOOD....the actions of the panel are appropriate and they acted correctly.

playballonK writes:

Right on!

27_Year_Resident writes:

Way to stick by your man Capt. Carr. Marianai made a mistake under impossible circumstances and you stuck by your officer. Well done!!

matt#206381 writes:

Agreed the panel made the right decision. Gratz, Mariani, you never deserved such grief.

But right around the bend is another group of east coast hoods looking at the Marco area as an easy target. There will be more and more of it, I'm afraid.

Marcosnook03 writes:

Matt,
What exactly is an east coast hood? As far as I know these were terds from the Naples area and it was quiet obvious what part.

August8 writes:

Justice prevailed.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11

Absolutely, the correct decision from the panel

Why?????????????????????/

Because the newly selected Chief, City Political leader's, and most of this community, did the right thing!!
This is a huge success for all of the above, and once again, has elevated their status equal to or above any major government.

All should smile now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

JohninMarco writes:

Lets hope that an incident like this NEVER happens again. If it does then, then changes must be made.

dwyerj1 writes:

Community and state support for Mr. Mariani's actions in this case exposes to all the world our latent fascism.

Violence and ruthlessness exercised oppressively and despotically cannot be condoned without espousing tyranny.

It is never morally or professionally permissible to employ such harsh and cruel punishment upon handcuffed and imprisoned persons as is shown in Mr. Mariani's arrest video. Calling them names like “drunken punks,” “young hooligans,” “wimps,” “thugs,” is part of the problem of fascist dehumanization.

The bad language, the boisterous challenges, the coarse behavior of the drunken subjects provides no ameliorative excuses for a professional law-enforcement officer to assume the role of a tyrant. He unrighteously arrogated the powers of judge, jury, and jailer. What the video shows is torture.

Dehumanization hastens the nation toward its destruction. The system dictates the norms. We are the system.

August8 writes:

"dwyerj"?????????????????/
What a total "srewball", you must have sent this analysis all the way from "San Francisco"

This is exactly the type of individuual, secular, that transends many of the nations problems today and like the squeeky wheel, gets the oil!!

A person who has "no" logical view on circumstances and actions and the difficult job of the thin blue line, and yet is permitted to prophisize and express opinion!!

No doubt, a sheltered, lonely, self-centered, probably dope smoking coward, that could not get out of his chair in the defense of another!!!!

You should croak

MarcoBound writes:

Dwyerj's thought process is a perfect example of what hastens our nation toward its destruction.

dwyerj1 writes:

August8 and MarcoBound: the thin blue line is the long, thick blue wall.

It is antithetical to democracy. Look up the big words you don't understand.

Police tyranny is the worst aspect of fascism.

"srewball" doesn't quite make it to a dehumanizing epithet. But your attempt is noteworthy. Be strong. Be brave. Don't mouth the principles of your forefathers: lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification.

Even these handcuffed prisoners have human rights.

August8 writes:

I told yall, "He's a "Screwball"

playballonK writes:

lets guess who dwyerj voted for: McCain or Obama?

MarcoBound writes:

Dwyer - there is no doubt there is NO need to hit, pepper spray or physically abuse handcuffed detainees - that's been clearly stated by many.

I suspect it was a poor decision made by the officer in the heat of moment. It carried over from the previous physical altercation - which originated with the 3 gentlemen.

Is there a history of abuse with this officer or the Marco P.D. as a whole? If so, your ideas are on firmer ground. Or was this an unfortunate event that the officer regrets - being physically and emotionally driven over the edge - and acting outside his professional oath?

Is he truly a tyrant or is he entitled to the same second chance as the three "gentleman" who started the bar fight?

You don't possess the required information to answer any of these questions - in the same manner in which I do not possess any information as to if this event was an anomaly for the 3 gentlemen.

You speak of dehumanization - Do you strive to dehumanize me with comments that suggest I do not understand some of the words you write?

Do you search for the truth, or just your version of it?

Dirt writes:

In regards to dwyerj1 comment - Unless you stand in an officers shoes you have no right to monday night quarter back his actions. If you think you can handle the job then I suggest you strap on the gun, take the oath and get the badge. Then see how the real world is, because you are wearing blinders!

August8 writes:

Right-On-Dirt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

JohninMarco writes:

No matter which side of the coin you are on, this was not Marco Islands finest moment.

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