Miami Crimestoppers head eats a tip rather than hand it over to defense lawyer


Seems like just the sort of thing SecureDrop was designed for, no?

That’s one way of demonstrating integrity

I’d sure like to know more about the case. The guy is a retired police chief and in my mind, that means he is most likely corrupt as can be. The crimestoppers program has seen corruption in the past - and in the same county and in my neck of the woods as well.

Perhaps the judge suspected it was happening again.


Well that didn’t take long.

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For the lazy:

According to the Complaint, Fortella, an 11-year veteran of the Miami Police Department, was assigned as a detective at the Miami-Dade Police Department’s Crime Stoppers Unit. In this capacity, Fortella was responsible for taking anonymous tips from citizens regarding crimes that had occurred within Miami-Dade County. Fortella, Burgess, and Stanley allegedly took advantage of Fortella’s position to implement a scheme to fraudulently obtain Crime Stoppers reward payments that had not yet been collected by the actual tipsters.


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Yea, most people don’t really need their identity protected from a defense attorney. As a thought experiment, who would the exceptions be?

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Pretty much any mobster’s attorney, for starters.


Lawful court orders should be obeyed. Full stop. No one is above the law.

Here, the article seems to suggest that the person may have disobeyed a lawful court order and destroyed evidence which he was directed to turn over. Newspapers have a tendency to misunderstand legal issues, and so I will discuss a hypothetical situation in which a person did actually eat evidence relevant to an investigation in defiance of a direct court order (I’m not discussing the specifics of the gentleman mentioned in the article, as again, I don’t know anything about it).

In my state, destroying evidence in contravention of a court order would potentially subject a person not only to a contempt charge, but also potentially a criminal charge related to the destruction of evidence (most likely California Penal Code section 135, but perhaps others). This would be up to the discretion of the prosecuting authority (District Attorney, et al)

This sort of behavior is simply not allowed, as it is injurious to the ultimate goal of the criminal justice system; which is to bring out the facts necessary to determine whether a person is guilty or innocent.

As for the hypothetical about mobsters, there are generally very strong safeguards to protect witnesses/informants etc (which may vary by state). This is a lot more complicated, and I’m sure there will be another article sometime soon that will give me occasion to discuss this.

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This situation wouldn’t be much different than a judge compelling a reporter to give up their confidential source, and said reporter choosing to accept the contempt charges. I don’t think that qualifies as “injurious to the ultimate goal of the criminal justice system” any more than than spousal privilege or those invoking their rights under the pesky 5th amendment


Hi there, thanks for your thoughts.
I sort of agree with you in a limited sense, and in fact thought about mentioning the lack of a (Constitutionally based) press privilege. However, I think in our hypothetical there are a couple of things going on that make it more complicated.

  1. There is (at least potentially) an actual destruction of evidence, as opposed to simply refusing to divulge a name.

  2. The person who is refusing to divulge information/destroying evidence is the head of the organization which is at the root of the alleged criminal conspiracy.

Obviously, I spend all day splitting hairs, but this second one makes things a lot more complicated in my opinion. You have an organization concealing information about the organization itself. The press is usually attempting to conceal sources which revealed information about unrelated third parties that was revealed because it was thought to be in the public interest.

Our hypothetical seems closer to a situation in which several staff of a major newspaper were charged with crimes, and the editor in chief refused to reveal where he obtained information about the reporters criminal activity.

Finally, you mention the Spousal Privilege and 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination. Those are both specific immunities provided for under the evidence code. In general, these privileges provide that certain persons may not be compelled to provide evidence against someone (this area is a bit too complicated to discuss at length here). In our hypothetical, there is no valid evidence code exception. The closest thing I can think of is that some states provide a “social worker exception”, but I think that argument would be a bridge too far under the instant facts.

At the end of the day, there is no Constitutionally guaranteed immunity to the press, and there certainly is no immunity to private citizens (that would apply in our hypothetical) which would allow a person to ignore a court order. The reason for this is because a person’s innocence or guilt is too important to be influenced by private actors because of moral/professional/personal considerations. Just some guy does not get to choose what he does or does not reveal to the court, particularly if a person’s life is on the life. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see how that would lead to an unworkable system. Happy to has this out a bit more if it doesn’t make sense.

I think this comes down to an ethical issue rather than a legal one.

Like a reporter who promises confidentiality to his sources, a police force running an anonymous tip line may have an ethical or practical obligation to stand by their word even if it means facing legal consequences for the reporter or detective who refuses to break that confidentiality.

The idea behind an anonymous tip line is that a police investigation may get leads which would otherwise not be available to them. If that promise of confidentiality can’t be honored, then “Crimestoppers”-style tip lines should just be abandoned altogether.

Maybe the answer is for that community to create a crime stoppers style service which takes complaints only about crimes related to crime stoppers.

Yeah, but this guy’s a cop, so ‘discretion’ is likely to be involved…

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