The attorney representing a Broward sheriff's deputy charged with sexually assaulting an undocumented immigrant on multiple occasions said Tuesday that ``there was no reason to believe any of the accusations.''
``Everyone should sit back and take a deep breath,'' said Eric Schwartzreich, an attorney who represents the Police Benevolent Association. ``We're hopeful that when all the ink dries, everyone will see that there's more than meets the eye.''
Jonathan Bleiweiss, 29, who joined the Broward Sheriff's Office in 2002, was arrested Monday morning on 14 charges, including sexual battery, false armed imprisonment and stalking. Detectives said Bleiweiss stopped a 30-year-old man waiting for a ride to work. After discovering he was an undocumented migrant, Bleiweiss groped him during a pat-down, detectives said.
According to the arrest warrant, the victim told BSO that he was forced to allow the deputy to perform oral sex on him on four occasions. Detectives said the incidents took place during traffic stops or inside Bleiweiss' marked police car.
Schwartzreich and Bleiweiss appeared in Broward Circuit Court on Tuesday, during which the judge ordered that Bleiweiss be placed in protective custody. Schwartzreich said the deputy was ``dismayed and upset'' by the allegations.
Bleiweiss, who lives in Fort Lauderdale and is openly gay, is being held without bail.
Prosecutors and detectives said Tuesday that their work was only beginning. Charges are being prepared in at least seven other cases in which Bleiweiss allegedly fondled or performed sexual acts on undocumented migrants.
STAYED ON JOB
BSO was alerted in April that at least two men claimed to have been victimized by a deputy, but Bleiweiss was allowed to continue on his job until last month. During that period, detectives said, there was at least one additional incident, which raised concerns that BSO did not work swiftly enough.
``I gotta believe that if the police department had allowed someone to work when they had information that he touched a woman, the roar of objection would be deafening,'' said Howard Finkelstein, Broward's chief public defender, whose office is not involved in the case.
A BSO spokeswoman would not respond to Finkelstein's remarks, but Sheriff Al Lamberti said Monday the office needed to ensure the allegations were not a response to a vendetta against the deputy.
Bleiweiss was known as being an enforcer, and his supervisors often commended his high number of arrests and investigative skills.
EMPLOYEE OF YEAR
Bleiweiss, who graduated from Great Neck High School in Long Island and majored in history at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, also received the Oakland Park BSO District's employee of the year award for 2008.
Court documents released Tuesday also detail at least three encounters in which witnesses said Bleiweiss denied their requests that he stop molesting them, sunsentinel.com reported Tuesday night. The victims identified Bleiweiss in a police line-up, the records show.
Meanwhile, prosecutors must determine what to do with three traffic cases for which the accused deputy is listed as a witness.