A Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy turned himself in Tuesday morning, nearly a year after allegedly punching a South Florida homeless man in the face.
Deputy Mathew E. Eisenberg, 39, reportedly hit James Rhodes while Rhodes was handcuffed in the back of a police vehicle in Tamarac. Eisenberg is being charged with official misconduct, battery, and falsifying records after allegedly lying about the incident in his written report, WSVN reports.
CBS Miami reports that in November 2011, Eisenberg arrested Rhodes on an obstruction charge after he found him panhandling in an intersection. The deputy reported that he grabbed Rhodes’ arm when he tried to walk away, and the two struggled as Eisenberg tried to handcuff Rhodes. The homeless man ended up with a cut lip after falling to the ground.
However, another deputy at the scene said that when Rhodes was getting into the police vehicle, he asked about his duffle bag with all his possessions. Eisenberg told him it wouldn’t be coming with him, reports the Sun Sentinel.
“Well Broward County can buy me a new one,” Rhodes allegedly replied, according to the deputy, prompting Eisenberg to punch him in the face.
Eisenberg's lawyer, Alberto Milian, told the Sun Sentinel that the charges are “another hack job by BSO internal affairs” to make Sheriff Al Lamberti look good before elections.
"[Eisenberg] made an arrest of a guy and he did his report and he did his job. He wrote a report and we're sticking by it," Milian said.
The incident is the latest in a string of assaults on homeless men in the area; BSO formed a Hate Crimes/Anti-Bias Task Force in 2008 after a report found that Broward County led Florida in hate crimes.
In a case that made national headlines, three teenagers were arrested for beating homeless man Norris Gaynor to death with a bat in 2006, and were also tried for attacks on two other homeless men.
In 2009, video showing laughing attackers assault a 54-year-old homeless man was the posted on YouTube.
And a year later, another homeless resident was attacked while waiting outside of a store; two men punched him and stomped on his head.