Florida Keys News
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Van case delayed a month by CRB

A Key West man who was convicted of and admits to living in his Dodge van near Higgs Beach won some more time to make his complaint in front of a city-appointed panel due to a lack of member attendance at that panel's Monday evening meeting.

After discussing his case for more than 45 minutes, members of the Citizen Review Board decided to postpone a decision on Shahdaroba Rodd's complaint in light of the fact that three of the seven board members were absent.

Rodd's case was postponed until April 28.

Five members showed up for the 6 p.m. meeting at Old City Hall, but Kevin Collins left before 8 p.m., saying he felt unwell.

Collins left after first voting with the majority of the board to toss out Rodd's harassment complaint. But board members then agreed it wasn't fair to Rodd to have only four members hear the case, so they pushed the entire matter off until next month, when the board could agree to revisit that vote on April 28.

Members Larry Beaver and Virginia Altobello, whose terms expire in June, were absent Monday.

At issue for Rodd is that Key West police officers waited until trial to claim they saw a five-gallon bucket containing human waste inside Rodd's Dodge van the night of his arrest on March 9, 2013.

The bucket detail was not in the police report and no mention was made of it on the video recording police made that night.

That's because it's a lie, said Rodd, who added other allegations to his city complaint.

"I do think I am a victim of selective enforcement," said Rodd, 67, who was convicted in December in circuit court for violating the city's prohibition against living in one's vehicle.

Rodd recently filed a complaint with the Citizen Review Board, accusing two officers of untruthfulness, harassment and selective enforcement.

Rodd lives in a white 1999 van that is hard to miss, as it is a regular fixture at Higgs Beach and has a makeshift roof carrier and curtains draped inside.

"If you're sticking out like a sore thumb, easy to spot, I don't think that's harassment," said CRB member Tom Milone.

Milone said it's plausible officers didn't want to embarrass Rodd by putting the bucket of feces in the incident report but were asked by city attorneys to mention it at trial.

"I find it hard to find perjury," Milone said.

Sloan Bashinsky, a constant government critic who is running for mayor a third time, said he watched the trial and was wary of the fact that police did not place the supposed bucket into evidence.

"I want to see this bucket," Bashinsky said. "He's living in his vehicle, of course. But they didn't have to trump it up and they didn't have it in the report. If they were really doing their job, it would have been in their report."

The panel's postponement came after several board members aired some skepticism about Rodd's claims, which were heard at a trial in December before Judge Wayne Miller, who ruled against Rodd at every turn.

"We did see the video," said panel member Hayward Magby. "There was no harassment."

Rodd said it was the fact that police warned him six times in 2013 about the lodging-in-vehicle law, yet they look the other way when it comes to other locals who live in their cars.

Robert Cintron, an advising attorney for the CRB, said Rodd is welcome to appeal his conviction to a higher court.

As for perjury, Cintron told the board it only applied if what was said under oath at trial referred to something critical to proving the allegation.

"Does it matter whether or not there was a bucket in the vehicle as it relates to what [Rodd has] now admitted?" Cintron said.

Overall, Cintron warned the panel to tread carefully.

"What I see happening here, indirectly, is Mr. Rodd is trying to get the Citizen Review Board to weigh in on whether Judge Miller's decision should be reversed," Cintron said. "We don't even have the benefit of the transcript."


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