New confession in old
BY DANIEL de VISE AND WANDA DE MARZO
If the man's statement holds up, it would be the third time in the past two years that a Broward Sheriff's Office murder conviction has fallen apart because of a false confession. One man went to Death Row, where he died of cancer before DNA tests exonerated him. Another served 22 years before being freed.
The two men convicted in the Behan killing, Timothy Brown and Keith King, told The Herald that they were coerced and threatened, and King said he was punched by detectives.
Tim Day, Brown's longtime attorney, was given the news of the new development by a Herald reporter.
''Wow! Wow! Wow!,'' Day replied. ``This is unbelievable.''
Added Larry Davis, who represented Brown at the 1993 trial: ``It is a day of vindication for Tim Brown and a day of infamy for the Broward County criminal justice system.''
Investigators Friday obtained an incriminating statement from the man, a would-be police officer who showed up thinking he was there for a job interview, the sources said.
At a hastily assembled news conference, Sheriff Ken Jenne acknowledged the case is under fresh investigation. But Jenne said that no one is in custody and they had no confession as of Friday evening.
''It is premature for me to comment on this,'' Jenne said. ``Do I believe we have enough information to pursue this? The answer is: Absolutely yes.''
The prospect that the wrong men went to prison for the Behan murder -- a case that prompted an eight-month investigation involving 80 officers -- shook the Broward criminal justice system to its foundations.
Brown, 26, is serving a life sentence in Avon Park for the Behan murder. Keith King, 28, served a reduced sentence on a plea bargain and is now free.
Brown and King went to prison on contradictory confessions that didn't jibe with some of the known facts of the crime. Today, both men claim detectives shackled them to their chairs and extracted false confessions in a blur of violence and abuse.
The Herald revisited the Behan case in a series of investigative articles last year, highlighting some of the lingering questions. Sheriff's officials and Broward state attorney prosecutors consistently defended their methods and claimed they got the right men.
Behan, 29, died in the early hours of Nov. 13, 1990, of a single shot fired into his head point-blank. The young patrolman was sitting in his parked patrol car outside a Circle K convenience store on Hallandale Beach Boulevard in Pembroke Park.
Prosecutors claimed the two youths rode up to Behan on a bicycle and shot him on a dare.
On Friday, sources say, the man who gave the statement to investigators offered a different account.
This is his story, according to law enforcement sources close to the investigation:
The Miami-Dade man, 20 at the time of the shooting, was a police wannabe, a man who drove around Hollywood with a police radio and a gun listening for action.
A feud erupted between him and a BSO deputy named Brian Montgomery. It started when Montgomery arrived at the man's home to sort out a domestic scuffle. Montgomery later spotted the man at crime scenes; the man would head out whenever he heard an officer radio for backup.
Montgomery didn't like the man and told him he'd never make a cop, not if Montgomery could help it.
''[The man] develops a massive hatred for Montgomery,'' one source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. ``One night, he decides he is going to kill Montgomery.''
He learned that Montgomery hung out at the Circle K. He drove there the night of Nov. 13 and came upon a parked patrol car. He walked up to the driver's window and raised a gun.
A DIFFERENT MAN
He met the eyes of a different man -- Behan, a youthful patrolman who looked a lot like Montgomery and was filling in for his colleague that night.
The gunman considered for a moment and decided it was too late to back down. He was already pointing a gun at a police officer. He fired. He fled.
The murder confounded investigators for months. Finally, a neighborhood kid gave detectives the names of Brown and King, street hoods who were rumored to have committed the murder.
One key witness to the Behan murder gave police an account that matched the new statement much more closely than those of Brown and King. Edward Davis, who was walking near the Circle K that night, said he saw one man -- not two boys -- running from the scene. No witness saw a bicycle.
''If [the Miami man] is the shooter, and if he acted alone, that would be absolutely consistent with what Edward Davis said,'' said Day, the federal public defender representing Brown.
LIVED WITH SECRET
Sources close to the investigation say the Miami-Dade man lived with his secret for years, apparently telling only his wife. But four to six months ago, a friend of his wife found out and told a BSO informant.
Several agencies cooperated to reel the man in, the sources said. Their account:
Frustrated in his attempts to join the BSO as a patrolman, the Dade man turned to the drug trade. Alerted to this, law enforcement officers sent an undercover agent, posing as a drug dealer, to meet with him.
The undercover agent told him he could join the dealer's organization. But first, he'd have to talk.
The man was told: ''If you're going to work with us, we need to know you have no problems, and you're going to need to come clean with us,'' a source said.
The man told of the cop killing, claiming responsibility. He later told the same story to another undercover agent, this one posing as the leader of the drug organization. Both statements were captured on tape.
A trap was set. BSO invited the man to its Central Broward headquarters Friday -- to interview for the police officer job he had always wanted.
Confronted with the taped statements, he confessed.
''He was confronted, and he cracked,'' a source said.
News of the confession
spread -- slowly at first, then lightning-fast -- across South Florida.