A former Key West police officer fired in 2011 was acquitted of drunken driving, but convicted of leaving the scene after hitting a parked car.
A jury deliberated for about 50 minutes Wednesday before finding Joaquin Fernandez, 37, of Key West not guilty of DUI and guilty of failure to fulfill duty upon damaging unattended property, said Assistant State Attorney Nick Trovato. Both were misdemeanors.
Trovato declined to speculate or comment as to what led jurors to their not-guilty verdict on the DUI charge.
County Judge Wayne Miller sentenced Fernandez to 12 months' probation and ordered him to pay $1,329 in investigation and court costs after the verdict was returned, Trovato said.
Two witnesses skateboarding on the 400 block of Whitehead Street at 2:19 a.m. on Sept. 9, 2011, called 911 after they saw a northbound black Jeep cross over the yellow lines, drive into the southbound lane and hit an Infiniti sedan head-on, according to an arrest affidavit.
The Jeep then left the scene with a piece of the Infiniti stuck to its undercarriage, dragging it on the road. Police stopped the Jeep at the intersection of Caroline and Duval streets. No injuries were reported. Damage to the Infiniti was estimated at $2,500.
Arresting officers noted that Fernandez had red, glassy eyes, slurred speech, a strong odor of alcohol on his breath and that he swayed when he stood, according to the affidavit. Fernandez refused to take a field sobriety test and refused to give a breath sample.
Fernandez was later fired from the Key West Police Department on Nov. 14, 2011, for violating department policy, police spokeswoman Alyson Crean said.
He had been hired in April 2002. At the time of his arrest, he was participating in an arbitration process related to a June 2 ruling that he be suspended without pay for four days.
In that case, other officers allege Fernandez failed to obey orders and didn't perform his duties while other officers were trying to break up a fight at Duval and Greene streets on April 23, according to police records.
While officers were arresting a suspect, Fernandez reportedly removed handcuffs from the suspect's wife, who was also being arrested, and allowed her to get out of a police car, according to records. Two other officers on the scene were struggling to restrain people fighting, and noted that Fernandez allegedly "stood there and watched the entire event take place and did not make an attempt" to stop another woman involved in the fight.
Fernandez later told officers that he knew one of the women involved in the fight and did not want to take her to jail "because of their friendship," according to police records.
Fernandez also was reprimanded in 2009 for failure to notify a supervisor he was ill, and received a written warning in 2008 relating to duty conduct, according to records.
He also has four letters of commendation from residents in his personnel file, three of which were citizens thanking him for finding their stolen items and quickly returning them.