Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Saturday, September 17, 2011
DUI suspect claims arrest was vengeful

The owner, publisher and editor of Key West The Newspaper, whose DUI trial starts Monday, claims the policeman who arrested him was seeking revenge for articles he wrote about him.

Attorney Michael Barnes claims Officer Luis Sanchez unfairly targeted Dennis Reeves Cooper for writing about the June 2007 arrest of Suleyman Unuvar, whom the city later paid $45,000 to settle a lawsuit claiming false arrest and excessive force by Sanchez.

"Sanchez targeted Cooper because of things he wrote about Sanchez in the Unuvar case," Barnes said.

A police car video that filmed Cooper's arrest shows him repeatedly calling Sanchez the officer who "beats the [expletive] out of people" and uses excessive force during arrests. Cooper also tells Sanchez he has written about him in the "Blue Paper" and that Sanchez would be in future issues of Cooper's publication.

The video contradicts Sanchez's report that Cooper failed to come to a complete stop at the intersection of Patterson Avenue and Fourth Street and crossed the double yellow line on Fifth Street at 7 p.m. Nov. 29, Barnes said. Circuit Judge David Audlin agreed, Barnes said, after an August hearing to have the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reinstate Cooper's revoked driving privileges.

"The suggestion that the officer waited until after the petitioner [Cooper] allegedly failed to come to a complete stop and drove over double yellow lines before developing his 'concern' as to whether petitioner was having medical problems and so forth is flatly contradicted by the visual evidence of the video, which shows initiation of pursuit immediately upon petitioner's driving out of the parking lot" of the Veterans of Foreign Wars on North Roosevelt Boulevard, Audlin wrote in his finding. Cooper refused to blow into a Breathalyzer, reports say.

Whether Audlin's finding, which dealt solely with the driver's license reinstatement, will have any impact in Cooper's DUI trial will be decided by presiding county Judge Wayne Miller.

"This is a DUI, plain and simple," Assistant State Attorney Nick Trovato said, declining to discuss any legal strategy heading into Monday's trial. "This is a standard DUI case, not unlike any of the other hundreds that come through this office. We are proceeding just as we would in any other case."

The amount of discovery evidence Barnes requested from prosecutors was unusual, Trovato said. Barnes asked Key West police for all dispatch records from Nov. 29, 2010, the day Cooper was arrested.

Barnes also requested a list of all officers working that night, all audio recordings from their police radios, and payroll information for all officers in the department.

He declined to discuss his reasons.

Barnes said he expects the trial to take about three days.

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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