FT. LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – A Broward Sheriff’s deputy found himself on the wrong side of the law after he allegedly punched a handcuffed homeless man while he sat in the back of a patrol car.
Thirty nine year old Mathew Eisenberg has been charged with battery, official misconduct and falsifying official reports. He surrendered himself to authorities at Broward’s main jail on Tuesday.
The incident reported happened last November near North State Road 7 and W. Commercial Boulevard.
In his report, Eisenberg said he saw James Rhodes panhandling in the intersection. When the light changed and the cars started to move, Eisenberg wrote that he saw several cars stop to let Rhodes cross lanes and one vehicle had to stop to avoid hitting him.
When the deputy called him over, Eisenberg wrote in his report that Rhodes started to walk the other way.
Eisenberg’s report states that he went after Rhodes, took him by the arm and told him he was under arrest for ‘soliciting/obstructing the roadway’. According to Eisenberg’s report, Rhodes tried to break free so the deputy forced him to the ground and handcuffed him. When he was forced to the ground, Eisenberg wrote that Rhodes sustained a cut on his lip.
According to the deputy’s report, Rhodes told him he was going to take care of things on Monday.
A complaint was filed and an internal investigation of the incident found a different series of events.
Rhodes and another deputy who was there at the time told an internal affairs investigator that Eisenberg did approach Rhodes about panhandling. According to report, Rhodes was ordered to sit in a grassy area while Eisenberg and the other deputy did the paperwork in a patrol car.
According to a third deputy who arrived on the scene, he gave his handcuffs to Eisenberg who then proceeded to handcuff Rhodes and place him in the back of the third deputy’s squad car.
Rhodes told investigators that while he sat in the rear of the car with his arms handcuffed behind his back, he asked Eisenberg about his duffle bag sitting on the ground which contained his possessions. When the deputy said it wasn’t coming with them, Rhodes reportedly replied “well Broward County can buy me a new one.” That’s when Eisenberg reportedly reared back and punched Rhodes in the face.
One of the deputies on the scene told the internal affairs investigator that he saw Eisenberg and Rhodes exchange words in the back of the patrol car and then Eisenberg leaned into the car and punch the handcuffed man in the face; the force of the blow split Rhodes lip.
Eisenberg’s attorney said his client is not guilty and plans to fight the charges.
“Matt Eisenberg is a cop who as always been running to fight crime in this community,” said attorney Alberto Milian.
Milian said this charge is really all about politics and Sheriff Al Lamberti is trying to get re-elected.
“He’s a republican and so he needs something to bolster support in the community,” said Milian.
Not so, according to the sheriff’s office, which said the punch and his alleged attempt to cover it up are the real issues here.
“I think that’s ludicrous. What possible political gain would there be in having one of our deputies arrested and charged?” said sheriff’s spokesman Jim Leljedal.
Sheriff Lamberti also rebuffed the claim.
“To suggest this was done for headlines in an election year is totally offensive to me since we’ve been doing this for the past 5 years,” said Sheriff Lamberti. “It doesn’t matter what kind of year it is you still have to uphold the law.”
Eisenberg has been with the sheriff’s office since 1994.