Is the Wreck Bar Mermaid Issue Headed for Legal Court Way too?

Broward sheriff’s Lt. Jeff Mellies appears to have abused his authority when he dug up shielded driver’s license information and facts on various swimmers who complete in the mermaid display at the Wreck Bar on Fort Lauderdale Beach front.

But did he dedicate a criminal offense?

That problem will be dealt with by state prosecutors the moment the Broward Sheriff’s Workplace completes an interior affairs investigation into Mellies’ steps, according to an e mail the company sent to an lawyer symbolizing the mermaids in their federal civil suit, which names Mellies and Broward Sheriff Greg Tony as defendants.

“The scenario is nevertheless open up and lively,” BSO Capt. Barry Lindquist wrote in the April 18 e mail. “Also, the scenario will be submitted to the Condition Attorney’s Business office for criminal evaluation.”

In their federal accommodate, mermaid performers Whitney Reasonable and Janelle Smiley allege that Mellies violated their privateness when he accessed their individual data on the Driver and Motor vehicle Information Database (DAVID), a private legislation enforcement useful resource that contains images, addresses, social safety figures, and other sensitive information.

Condition documents display that Mellies utilized his BSO laptop to operate DAVID checks on Honest and Smiley in 2018, at a time when his wife, Mia, was carrying out with the pair in the Wreck Bar’s mermaid display, which is billed as the only underwater burlesque present in The united states.

When Mellies’ spouse, AKA “Mermaid Mia,” was fired from the display that same calendar year, the pair aimed their ire at Honest and, to a lesser diploma, Smiley. Truthful alleges the Mellieses waged a harassment campaign towards her that lasted far more than three decades, for the duration of which time they moved into a house instantly future doorway to hers.

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The cover of the April 21, 2022, difficulty of Miami New Periods, which highlighted a story about Wreck Bar mermaid performer Whitney Truthful

New Occasions file graphic

As New Periods specific in “Aquaticat Fight: Wreck Bar Mermaid Sues Broward Sheriff’s Business for Invasion of Privateness,” posted on April 20, stability cameras captured online video of Jeff Mellies on Fair’s property, including footage in which he can be viewed scaling a ladder and disabling a camera mounted on the aspect of her household.

Honest filed a trespass complaint from Mellies with the Fort Lauderdale Law enforcement Section, which declined to make an arrest. A BSO inner investigation into the make any difference was concluded with no obtaining of wrongdoing versus Mellies.

In the meantime, Mia Mellies consistently attacked Truthful on social media and posted a sequence of TikTok videos maligning her. In movies and law enforcement stories, she and her husband claimed Good was violating their privateness with the safety digital camera. In just one video clip, Mia, a self-described initial-degree Celtic witch, mentioned she was worried the camera may possibly capture her and her spouse as they done nude pagan rituals in their yard.

The Mellieses also claimed on social media that Reasonable was a drug supplier who’d performed tough prison time, evidently referencing an arrest involving a small amount of money of hashish more than two a long time in the past, when Fair was 18. That circumstance was expunged from the public record, leading Reasonable and her attorney, Gary Kollin, to suspect Jeff Mellies improperly accessed her legal history documents. To day, that suspicion has not been confirmed, but state documents show that Mellies did run a felony background search on Smiley, Fair’s coplaintiff.

The lawsuit also alleges that Jeff Mellies ran DAVID checks on mermaid demonstrate founder Marina Anderson, as very well as on the boyfriend of yet another Wreck Bar swimmer. Good states she personally witnessed Mia Mellies exhibit legislation enforcement information and facts about the boyfriend as nicely as the driver’s license info of Parkland faculty shooter Nikolas Cruz.

Prior to publication of our story in April, BSO spokesman Cary Codd responded by e mail to New Moments ask for for comment, creating, “The Broward Sheriff’s Business office can make it a apply not to remark on pending litigation.” Messages left with Jeff and Mia Mellies and Jeff Mellies’ lawyer, Tamatha Alvarez, had been not returned. There was no reaction to a thorough abide by-up voicemail still left with Alvarez this week.

Stories of police in Florida abusing the DAVID technique are widespread. In a bid to maximize the penalties for offending cops and other officials, the state legislature previous calendar year passed a bill to elevate the civil good for misusing the state’s driver databases from $500 to $2,000 for each instance.

The legislature cited quite a few situations to justify the maximize, including a Pasco sheriff’s detective who seemed up an activist who’d requested his interior affairs file, a Port Richey law enforcement dispatcher who admitted jogging a verify on a teenage girl he’d spoken to on a get in touch with, a Lakeland police officer who checked women he encountered on duty, and one more police dispatcher who applied DAVID to look up addresses for Xmas playing cards.

A single of the most notorious instances that was cited concerned a Pembroke Pines police officer, Melodie Carpio, who was discovered in 2017 to have misused the databases hundreds of instances for individual reasons, such as 101 queries of her boyfriend’s ex-wife’s spouse, who described obtaining quite a few harassing anonymous communications that involved specifics of his personal lifestyle.

Like quite a few offending officers, Carpio was capable to continue to keep her work, experiencing only a civil judgment of $15,000, as effectively as docked spend of a lot less than $20,000.

There are laws on the textbooks, having said that, that make it a prison offense for officers to improperly obtain facts from DAVID.

Previous month Robert Herzog, a (now former) Coral Springs Large University assistant principal, was billed with prison use of own identification information and facts, a felony, after police say he “duped” a faculty resource deputy into jogging a license-plate check out on his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend before allegedly harassing the boyfriend in texts and social media posts.

The 38-calendar year-aged Herzog “utilised his place as a community servant in a placement of authority to attain confidential and personalized identifying facts…with intent to obtain reward for himself and to trigger hurt to another,” law enforcement wrote.

Attorney Kollin urges the Broward Sheriff’s Office to charge Mellies with the exact same criminal offense.

“It truly is time to up the penalty,” he tells New Occasions. “The concept is deterrence.”

Kollin has also urged BSO to cost Mellies less than a Florida law that helps make it a felony to obtain a personal computer procedure “with know-how that this sort of accessibility is unauthorized or the method of use exceeds authorization.”

Whitney Honest problems that men and women are concentrating on her scenario as a “mermaid feud challenge,” fairly than the communitywide issue that it signifies.

“Any cop that sees a good-wanting girl, a superior-on the lookout man, has a beef with another person, can just go and get this information?” she asks rhetorically. “That is just absurd and hazardous.”

Honest suggests that until police are held criminally liable for abusing confidential databases the difficulty will not go away.

“It can be just justice, it truly is just what is right,” she says. “I’ve experienced to go through 4 decades of torture, ridicule, lies from these individuals. I you should not want everyone else to go via this. If for once this seriously will get managed the way it really should, then it’s possible police officers would end abusing it.”

Bob Norman serves as editor-in-chief for FLCGA Information, a publication focusing on investigative reporting created by the nonprofit Florida Centre for Federal government Accountability. This tale was described in partnership with the FLCGA.

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