There are a million glowsticks at Miami's neon-clad Ultra Music Festival every March, but one never made it inside.
Jesse Campodonico, a fitness trainer from New York, is suing the city and four then-off-duty Miami Police officers over a brutal beatdown he says he received when security barred his girlfriend from taking her glowstick through the gates, as first reported by the Miami Herald.
Two of the officers in the he-said, they-said case turned out to be dirty cops embroiled in recent police extortion scandals. Former Ofcs. Nathaniel Dauphin and Harold James were caught by FBI stings providing protection in exchange for cash to a Liberty City sports gambling ring and check-cashing store, respectively.
A third officer, Javier Ortiz of doctored mugshot fame, was just elected president of the Fraternal Order of Police union according to the Herald. The fourth, Edward Lugo, is no stranger to controversy himself.
Campodonico's lawsuit alleges the dust-up began when he and Crystal Iglesias tried to enter Ultra around 10:30 p.m. on March 25, 2011. A private security guard told Iglesias she couldn't take her glowstick inside, and Dauphin told them the same. But when the couple turned to leave, a confrontation ensued.
The filed complaint states that Dauphin, who "has a history of misconduct involving harassment and excessive force," punched Campodonico and James, Ortiz, and Lugo joined the fray.
"At no point did [Dauphin] or any other officer have probable cause to arrest [Campodonico] or Ms. Iglesias for anything," the complaint states, but Campodonico says the officers continued to beat him, choke him, and use a taser on him three times -- all while he lay face-down on the ground.
The Herald reports that Campodonico was initially charged with battery, but a prosecutor cleared him of charges after viewing video shot by a bystander that shows he was helpless while being tasered.
Onlookers reacted on film. One festival-goer, a schoolteacher who had never met Campodonico, screamed "They're going to kill him!" and rushed in to stop the beating when she saw one officer kick him in the head, the lawsuit says.
Campodonico alleges that while handcuffed and bleeding after the assault, one of the officers taunted him by taking a photo with his personal cell phone, and Dauphin told him “I whooped [your] a**," and "get a newgirlfriend and upgrade." The suit claims the officers not only violated policy by improperly using a taser, but also lied on a subsequent arrest report.
It's not clear why the couple were told they couldn't enter with a glowstick, as do thousands of other Ultra attendees. "Ultra doesn’t indicate anything specifically about glowsticks in their list of prohibited items," a festival representative confirmed to The Huffington Post via email.
Ortiz and Lugo, who remain with the police department, denied the allegations to the Herald through their union representative:
Ortiz and Lugo deny any misconduct, saying through their FOP attorney that the suit is “nonsense.”
"It costs $300 to file a lawsuit," FOP attorney Ronald Cohen said. "But it takes evidence to prove it. We look forward to complete vindication for these fine officers."
Dauphin and James, who are both free while awaiting sentencing, could not be reached for comment. The city of Miami, also a defendant in the civil suit, declined to comment in an email.