Trial begins for Boynton sergeant accused of lying, falsifying reports

Four days after Boynton Beach Police Officer Michael Brown was convicted of two federal charges for using excessive force in an August 2014 arrest, his supervisor on Monday went on trial in U.S. District Court on charges that he helped Brown and other cops hide their misdeeds.

In opening statements, Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Osborne told a jury that Sgt. Philip Antico helped officers falsify their reports and then lied when FBI agents questioned him about it. Each charge carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence.

“He tried to take care of his officers,” she said. “He covered up what his officers did.”

Defense attorney Gregg Lerman countered that Antico was simply doing his job. The sergeant was on vacation for seven days after the arrest of three people who were in a car that clipped Officer Jeffrey Williams, who was subsequently run over by another officer. The car then led nine officers on a nearly 20-mile chase on Interstate 95 from Boynton to West Palm Beach to Lake Worth.

When Antico returned from vacation, he looked at the nine officers’ reports and realized most had left out details of the arrests, Lerman said. Antico rejected reports from officers who forgot to mention that they had kicked and punched car driver Byron Harris and passengers Jeffrey Braswell and Ashley Hill. After their lapses were pointed out, they updated their reports.

“The changes made the reports more accurate,” Lerman told jurors. “How is that a crime?”

However, Osborne said, the changes were made after Antico learned that the officers’ actions had been captured by an infrared video camera in a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office helicopter that had been summoned to help the officers track the fleeing car.

“He reviewed the video and allowed his people to make changes,” Osborne said. Later, he declared that the force his officers used was justified given the circumstances.

Showing the jury photos taken of Harris, Braswell and Hill after the arrest, Osborne questioned whether the injuries backed up those claims. While Hill’s injuries aren’t apparent in her photo, Braswell’s face was bruised and bloodied and Harris’ eyes were swollen shut and his head bandaged.

“Four officers push and shove each other out of the way to get a chance to beat the driver,” she said, referring to what the video shows officers doing after they dragged Harris from his car. “They Tase him. They kick him and they beat him.”

Three of the witnesses who testified Monday — PBSO helicopter pilot Sgt. Michael Musto, Boynton Beach Police Chief Jeffrey Katz and Boynton training Sgt. Sedrick Aiken — also testified in the trial that ended Thursday with the conviction of Brown and the acquittal of former officers Ronald Ryan and Justin Harris.

All three witnesses again voiced unease about what they had seen on the video. Aiken and Katz said they were also concerned that officers didn’t divulge that they had used force nor explained why in their reports.

During this trial, however, key testimony in the prosecution’s case is to come from Antico himself. Osborne said the jury will hear parts of his four-hour interview with FBI agents, who Katz asked to investigate after he said he realized the video didn’t jibe with the officers’ reports.

While Osborne said Antico lied to agents about his actions, Lerman insisted the sergeant simply had little memory of what happened when he returned from vacation and reviewed the reports. Listen closely, Lerman advised jurors. “You’ll hear, ‘I don’t know. I don’t remember.’” he said. “His intent was not to mislead them. He doesn’t have the tools available to remember what happened accurately.”

The trial is expected to wrap up this week. A different federal jury deliberated for two days last week after a weeklong trial before acquitting Harris and Ryan of wrongdoing. It convicted Brown of deprivation of rights under color of law and use of a firearm during a crime of violence for holding his service weapon in the same hand he used to punch Braswell. He faces a maximum 15-year sentence in prison.

Brown was allowed to remain free on bond and no sentencing date has been set.

Next Up in Local

Florida man shoots girlfriend once, returns and shoots her fatally, deputies say
Florida man shoots girlfriend once, returns and shoots her fatally, deputies say

A Florida man faces a first-degree murder charge after allegedly firing a shot at his girlfriend, fleeing the scene, then returning and shooting her a number of times, The Tampa Bay Times reported. >> Read more trending news  Nathaniel J. Yates, 32, of Largo, is accused in the shooting death of Christine Giles, 28, of Seminole, according...
Max Lomas, who found Bobbi Kristina Brown in tub, dies from possible overdose, reports say
Max Lomas, who found Bobbi Kristina Brown in tub, dies from possible overdose, reports say

The man who found Bobbi Kristina Brown unconscious in a bathtub three years ago has died of a possible drug overdose, reports say. TMZ first reported that Max Lomas, 29, was found dead in Mississippi on Wednesday. People magazine later confirmed the news, citing medical examiner's documents that said a friend found Lomas in a bathroom...
Australian Ave. high-speed accidents out of control; what can be done?
Australian Ave. high-speed accidents out of control; what can be done?

Beatrice Marcelle, 87, was asleep shortly after 3 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 11 when a Toyota Camry fleeing police careened off North Australian Avenue in West Palm Beach and into her bedroom. The crash left her bruised, swollen and in pain, and her home uninhabitable, a gaping hole in its brick facade. It left neighbors shaken, as well, at their continued...
5 things every parent should know about immunization
5 things every parent should know about immunization

Within the first few months of your child's life, your pediatrician will likely start talking to you about immunizations. Even if your house is stocked with hand sanitizer and antibacterial soap, it's important to know what options are out there to keep your kid safe from diseases that could have harmful consequences. With all of the talk...
Things to do: Jazz on J Street at Lake Worth Book Cellar
Things to do: Jazz on J Street at Lake Worth Book Cellar

Things to do in Lake Worth: 1. Jazz on J Street: A professional JAM Session hosted by Blanche Williams is Tuesday at The Book Cellar, 801 Lake Avenue. Show runs from 7-10 p.m. with a $5 cash cover. Free public parking available on Lake Avenue, J Street and all around. 2. Divas on Stage: Performances by Lupita Hollywood, Melissa St John, Dayzee Deluxx...
More Stories