A Miami judge presiding over the cases of free trade protesters says he saw “no less than 20 felonies committed by police officers” in last month’s demonstrations, adding to complaints about police conduct, the Miami Herald reports. Judge Richard Margolius made the remarks in open court last week, saying he was taken aback by what he witnessed while attending the protests. “Pretty disgraceful what I saw with my own eyes. And I have always supported the police during my entire career,” he said. “This was a real eye-opener. A disgrace for the community.”
Margolius said he may have to remove himself from any additional cases involving arrests made during the Free Trade Area of the Americas summit. “I probably would have been arrested myself if it had not been for a police officer who recognized me,” said the judge, 60, who wears his hair in a graying ponytail. Margolius, appointed to the bench in 1982, retired in 2001 but still hears cases 15 to 20 weeks a year when courts are overburdened.
After he made the statemetns, Margolius told the Herald, “It was inappropriate for me to make the comments I made. A reasonable person could question my neutrality because of statements I made in open court.” The judge did not single out a police department. More than three dozen agencies were part of the FTAA security effort. Nelda Fonticiella, a spokeswoman for the Miami-Dade Police Department, which had a large presence during the protests, said, “It would be our hope and expectation that if this is how he feels, that he would recuse himself from those cases.”