Guma Aguiar said this week the court deal he had worked out last month to rid himself of two misdemeanor charges was off. The American-Israeli multimillionaire added that with the help of Alan Dershowitz - who is part of his legal team - he would sue the police officers who he says physically abused him after arresting him in June.
In July, Aguiar had pleaded not guilty and threatened to sue the Broward County Sheriff's Office located in southern Florida for the alleged abuse.
On September 17, Aguiar's lawyers entered a "no contest" plea, which means he neither accepts nor denies guilt for the two charges, possession of cannabis and drug paraphernalia. According to the deal, Aguiar has to pay $536 in court costs and attend a three-hour drug abuse education course.
The Brazilian-born Aguiar, 32, made a fortune in oil before moving to Jerusalem, where he is engaged in various philanthropic endeavors, such as Nefesh B'Nefesh and March of the Living. He and his wife Jamie are listed first among co-chairs of this week's Israeli Presidential Conference on the conference web site.
Both misdemeanors would be wiped from Aguiar's record once he paid the $536, the Florida Sun Sentinel reported, quoting his lawyer Michael Dutko as saying the deal was "in [Aguiar's] best interest." But now Aguiar says accepting the plea was just a ploy, that he refuses to pay the court costs and that he won't attend the drug course, as he insists he passed the sobriety test. Asked for the results of the test, Leljedal referred to the police report, which indicates he failed the test.
"Strategically, I went ahead and pleaded 'no contest,'" Aguiar said, but that now "our whole negotiation is off" and that the sheriff's office will face "the biggest lawsuit they ever saw."
Aguiar says several photos and two videos in his possession will prove his claims of police brutality. One video seen by Haaretz shows Aguiar cooperating with officers while undergoing a sobriety test after he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol in June. The DUI charges were dropped early in the case.
The second video obtained by Haaretz shows two deputies forcefully pushing a subdued Aguiar against an elevator wall and twisting his arm and fingers for about two minutes.
A spokesperson for the sheriff's office, Jim Leljedal, told Haaretz that "during the booking process, Aguiar became combative and verbally abusive, and was controlled and restrained." Aguiar denies these charges. Haaretz requested a tape of what transpired in prison but Leljedal said the police don't tape the booking process.
He said, they said
An internal police memo states that Aguiar was treated by the prison's medical staff, who noted "bruises on his head and elbow and redness to his wrist." Photographs were taken but "misplaced and unable to be duplicated because the subject was released."
Aguiar's recounts a different version: "The police officer pulled me over and arrested me. When I got to the prison [an officer] took my kippah off and then tried to convert me to Christianity. I told him to leave me the f*** alone. He then took me - after blowing triple zeros on my breath test - to the Broward County Sheriff's Office where they arrested me and beat the shit out of me." Aguiar says he was wearing a skullcap and a T-shirt with the word Israel on it at the time of the arrest.
Alan Dershowitz, Aguiar's legal consultant, told Haaretz he doesn't believe his client's behavior required the police to forcefully restrain him. "That's a common excuse used by police all over the world... to cover up for their own misconduct," he said.
"The evidence in this case doesn't show any need to restrain anybody. [It] shows... Guma was behaving entirely reasonably, cooperated with the police, took the various tests and passed them all. I don't think a jury or a court will credit the claim that Guma somehow provoked this by being assaultive or violent."
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