2 Boynton officers get house arrest, probation for 2014 beating

A pair of now former Boynton Beach Police officers who faced potential prison time on Tuesday both went home with their families after a federal judge sentenced them to three years of probation, including six months of house arrest, on separate convictions tied to the 2014 beating of a passenger involved in a high-speed chase.

Officer Michael Brown and Sgt. Philip Antico received the identical sentences from U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenberg for charges linked to the beating of Jeffrey Braswell.

Brown, who was one of nine officers involved in the chase, was convicted in November of deprivation of rights under color of law and use of firearm during a crime of violence for kicking Braswell during the attack, charges that could have earned him a maximum of 15 years in prison. Rosenberg later dropped the gun charge, but Brown went into Tuesday’s sentencing with Attorney Bruce Reinhart still facing a recommended sentence of one to three years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.

Two weeks after Brown’s conviction, a separate jury found Antico guilty of obstruction of justice for lying to FBI agents when they asked him if he helped officers change their reports to conceal what prosecutors called “a beat down” of the three people in the car.

Although he was not at the scene of the beating, Antico was the supervisor on duty that night. The officers’ original reports had not mentioned the beatings, but with their revisions they disclosed the uses of force and claimed the car’s occupants were resisting arrest.

Rosenberg also went below federal sentencing guidelines in sentencing Antico, allowing him to escape a possible 15-month sentence.

“The court notes that the defendant will lose his livelihood and will be a convicted felon,” Rosenberg noted. “These consequences could deter other officers from this type of crime.”

The sentences closed, at least for now, the case of the nine officers that chased the car after it clipped another Boynton Beach police officer, then sped on Interstate 95. A video, captured by a Palm Beach County sheriff’s helicopter, showed officers punching and kicking the car’s driver, Braswell and another occupant. In the trial where Brown was convicted, two other officers were acquitted of wrongdoing.

Those former officers, Justin Harris and Ronald Ryan, attended Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, although Harris declined to speak to reporters after Brown’s sentencing.

Both Reinhart and Antico’s attorney, Gregg Lerman, said they would be appealing their clients’ convictions.

In Antico’s case, part of his appeal will center on a juror’s allegation that she was bullied into convicting Antico, whose jury twice told Rosenberg during their nearly nine hours of deliberations that they could not reach a unanimous verdict. Lerman said he also plans to appeal the special instruction Rosenberg gave the jury in hopes of breaking the deadlock, specifically a portion of the instruction that reminded jurors of the extra costs and time that would have gone into a new trial.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Susan Osbourne and Donald Tunnage have filed an appeal of their own, hoping to overturn Rosenberg’s decision to drop the second charge against Brown. The federal prosecutors also objected Tuesday to Rosenberg giving the two men sentences below the recommended guidelines.

As part of their sentences, both men will be on house arrest for six months and have to wear an ankle monitor during that time. Both will have to complete 150 hours of community service and pay nominal fines.

Antico declined to comment after his sentencing, although Lerman said he was relieved that the probation sentence will allow him to go home with his family.

In his brief comments, Brown expressed the same sentiments.

“I’ll be happy to go back to my son, my daughter, my grandchild, my mother,” the 48-year-old widower said. “I take care of a lot of people.”

Brown was a corrections officer for five years before he joined the Boynton Beach Police Department, where he was Officer of the Year in 2013.

Antico was also a decorated officer, and among his supporters Tuesday were some of the officers he supervised. They wrote letters of support and spoke on his behalf. Another group of his supporters included the parents of young men he has mentored as a football coach.

Because of the convictions, neither officer will be able to hold a job in law enforcement, although both their attorneys said they hope to get their law enforcement certifications back if their appeals prevail.

“He’s dedicated all his life to law enforcement, It’s what he’s always wanted to do since he was a little kid,” Lerman said of Antico. “He used to think he was Superman.”

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