Four Miami police officers were given federal prison sentences ranging from about a year to three years Wednesday for planting guns after questionable police shootings or lying to cover them up.
Prosecutors asked for sentences as long as 11 years in the city’s biggest police corruption scandal in nearly two decades, which was blamed on anticrime units under pressure to halt a rash of deadly tourist robberies in the mid-1990s.
Prosecutors sought the stiffest sentence against Jesse Aguero, noting he spent more of his 17-year police career relieved of duty than on duty. The judge decided on about three years. Art Beguiristain received more than two years, while Oscar Ronda and Jorge Castello were sentenced to about a year each.
All four officers plan appeals.
“This case from day one was a travesty of justice, a disservice to these officers and the community they serve and an insult to the criminal justice system,” said Richard Sharpstein, attorney for Beguiristain and Castello.
U.S. Atty. Marcos Jimenez said the sentences were “substantial -- it sends a message.”
The officers were convicted in April after a three-month trial. Three others were acquitted, and four face retrials after juries deadlocked.
Fallout over perceptions of trigger-happy, rogue cops brought in a new police chief, new policies and a civilian police review board.
The shootings carried racial and ethnic overtones because all 11 officers tried in the predominantly Latino city were Latino and four of the five targets of police gunfire were black.
Adora Obi Nweze, Florida president of the NAACP, called the conviction an achievement but the sentences “a slap on the wrist.”
“There is a reluctance still to be very serious about the way that law enforcement deals with their own,” she said. “I don’t think it’s enough for somebody to lose their job.”