Haitian leaders have denounced attack mailers attacking longtime Miami-Dade Judge Fred Seraphin, the first Haitian-American judge to be appointed in Miami-Dade, for spreading lies to mislead voters about his false arrest as a teenager. And attorney J.C. Planas filed a bar complaint against former School Board member and judicial candidate Renier Diaz de la Portilla, whose brother designed and paid for the hit pieces that wrongfully call Seraphin a criminal.
Seraphin has repeatedly told everyone that he was racially profiled when he was picked up by New York City Police in 1982, his senior year in college. Charges were never brought against him, but the incident caused him to become a public defender and, later, pursue the bench. He talks about the false arrest at every candidates’ forum and every chance he gets.
But are the Diaz de la Portillas going to back off the lie? Nah. In fact, Miami Commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla doubled down before and during early voting with more mail pieces — and a fake press release.
Read related: Renier Diaz de la Portilla uses brother’s PAC to attack with lie in judicial race
One of the new maiers to hit last week features a press release from the Fraternal Order of Police in Tallahassee — that never was sent to the press. In fact, the press release was likely written by ADLP specifically to use in the mailer.
“Police union demands that Fred Seraphin release his criminal arrest record for armed robbery,” the mailer says.
Except they didn’t. Not really.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Lisa Henning, a spokeswoman with the FOP and the contact listed on DLP’s fake presser.
Ladra explained to her that the press release demands that a judge release a criminal record that doesn’t exist, but Henning was still unfamiliar. “No, I have no clue about that,” she said. “And if they put me down as a contact person, they should have let me know.”
They did put her down as a contact person, using a different email than Henning usually uses.
Read related: Renier Diaz de la Portilla was ‘fired’ as a Miami-Dade assistant public defender
Alex Diaz de la Portilla said the press release was written by FOP District 6 director Al Palacio, who confirmed it to Ladra. But Palacio said he wrote the press release after Renier Diaz de la Portilla went to him to complain about Instagram and Facebook posts that called Baby DLP a racist (read: at his request). Those are the “outside groups engaging in a vicious attack-ad campaign,” referred to in the press release, Palacio said.
“Ask Renier, he would be able to tell you who the groups are,” Palacio told Ladra. Baby DLP doesn’t answer my calls and texts. The Dean said that Planas and Ladra were the outside groups.
Don’t blame Palacios, who works for the Miami-Dade School Board Police. He’s been manipulated by the DLPs. He was surprised that the mail piece posted the judge’s telephone number, which is protected from public records, just like police officer addresses and phone numbers. It could be illegal to release it.
“Mr. Seraphin says he was the victim of racial profiling and that is why he was eventually exonerated. We join with those who condemn profiling, racism and discrimination in any form,” the press release states. “But we also demand transparency and honesty from our judges and therefore ask for the release of the arrest/incident report so that voters can draw their own conclusions instead of just take Mr. Seraphin’s word for it.”
“Simply put, The FOP believes the public has the right to know the circumstances surrounding a sitting judge’s past arrest/incident.”
The mailer that features the fake press release was paid for by Proven Leadership for Miami-Dade County, the same political action committee that paid for the other attack mailers. The PAC belongs to Alex DLP and was used to campaign for Renier DLP when Fredo ran for county commission in 2020 against Eileen Higgins. They told lies then, too.
Read related: In dirty Miami-Dade District 5 race, front runners are both ‘communists’
The DLPs know that no such police report exists. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that they have an opportunity to mislead people.
The judge was, indeed, arrested as a teenager in a case of racial profiling. The false arrest on mistaken identity was expunged and records that old are typically destroyed. The DLPs know this. They heard about the arrest like everyone else has: from the horse’s mouth himself. Seraphin talks about the arrest at all the candidate forums as the event that led him to become a public defender and, later, a judge.
“That’s been my calling card to explain why I’m passionate about what I do,” Seraphin said.
However, the DLPs want people to believe Seraphin — who they targeted as low-hanging fruit — is hiding something.
“There is nothing to release, Seraphin told Ladra. “For me to be admitted to the bar, they looked at all of this. They took a year to investigate my background,” he said. He was also vetted by then Gov. Jeb Bush before he was first appointed to the bench in 2001, making history as the county’s first Haitian-American judge.
What’s worse, Seraphin says, is what the mail piece says about Renier Diaz de la Portilla.
“If his position is that innocent people don’t get arrested, that’s scarier than anything else.”
It would be especially scary if the liar was wearing a robe.