Police were investigating a hit-and-run crash on Ocean Drive one night in June when the sergeant in charge realized the man behind the wheel was a former Hallandale cop.
At that point, Sgt. Paul Winters ordered a community service aide to alter the police report so German "Jimmy" Muino would not be charged with a felony, according to an Internal Affairs report recently released to the Sun Sentinel.
When the aide refused to call the hit-and-run an accident, Winters accused her of violating a direct order and submitting a false police report.
Winters was fired March 1.
The aide was cleared.
And so was the former cop.
In the end, the department charged Muino, 49, with making an improper U-turn on June 2. The case was dismissed on Oct. 24, court records show.
"It's outrageous," said Bob Jarvis, a constitutional law professor at Nova Southeastern University. "Cops should not be protecting anybody. They should be telling the truth and letting the chips fall where they may."
Falsifying a police report is a crime, Jarvis said. But frequently it's a crime that goes unpunished because no one knows about it.
Winters, 57, who was fired nine months after Muino's traffic accident, is fighting to get his job back, union president Jeff Marano said Thursday.
"We are going to arbitration," Marano said. "I don't want to talk about the facts of the case. The [union] is confident we will prevail in getting his job back."
Police Chief Dwayne Flournoy declined to answer questions Thursday about Winters' termination. But Marano says Winters was fired for his actions following the traffic crash.
Winters helped train Muino, who joined the Hallandale Beach Police Department in 1991.
Muino was fired in 1999 after being charged with DUI, said Gretl Plessinger, a spokeswoman with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The state placed Muino on probation and suspended his police certification from 2000 through 2002, Plessinger said.
Muino could not be reached for comment despite three calls to his cellphone this week.
More than two hours after the 10 p.m. crash, Muino tried to get in touch with a supervisor at the police department, police phone logs show.
Eight calls came into the police department from Muino's cellphone between 12:21 a.m. and 9:58 p.m. on June 3. The longest call lasted five minutes and 47 seconds.
Winters told the department's Internal Affairs investigator that Muino confessed to being behind the wheel when he slammed into a BMW in the 2080 block of Ocean Drive.
The BMW sustained $10,000 in damage and had to be towed. The driver, a teen from Golden Beach, complained of pain in his left ring finger and was treated by paramedics.
Winters recalled Muino saying: "I screwed up," according to the department's Internal Affairs report.
The night of the crash, witnesses told police the hit-and-run driver had gone to a condo tower not far from the accident, police records show.
Winters later told an Internal Affairs investigator "the shift was too busy" to send an officer to Muino's home to cite him the night of the crash. Officer log sheets, however, showed that most of the cops on duty that night were available to cite Muino.
When the investigator asked Winters if he did not want an officer to go to the residence because he suspected Muino might be intoxicated, Winters replied: "That's absurd. I could care less what happens with Officer Muino. We do not get along well. We are not friends in any shape or form."
But Winters admitted ordering service aide Dena Costantini to alter the report after learning Muino was involved in the hit and run.
During the department's 3 a.m. roll call, Winters told Costantini: "Oh by the way, your signal 3 [hit and run] is now a 4 [accident]."
According to the internal investigation that cleared her, Costantini "felt a cover up was occurring that evening."
"Sgt. Winters was so adamant during the [traffic] investigation about going after the guilty party," the I.A. report said. "When he found out it was an ex-Hallandale officer, things changed."
On Thursday, Chief Flournoy said he did not have details on why Muino's case was dismissed.
Ted Hollander, the attorney who handled Muino's traffic case, could not be reached for comment.
Jarvis, the NSU professor, questioned the entire incident.
"Cops who cause accidents should be written up like civilians who cause accidents," he said. "There's no excuse for this. It seems like a clear case of cronyism."
Staff researcher Barbara Hijek contributed to this report.
sbryan @tribune.com or 954-356-4554