FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – A former police officer caught on camera sucker punching a valet has been charged, and prosecutors are monitoring the victim’s condition to see if charges should be upgraded.
Court records filed with the Broward County Clerk of the Courts office show that prosecutors are filing a misdemeanor battery charge against the suspected puncher, John Kiernan, a retired law enforcement officer who worked in Georgia.
Fort Lauderdale police said Kiernan told officers he was upset with the parking fees at the Ocean Sky Hotel & Resort in Fort Lauderdale where he was staying a week ago.
It was during a discussion with the valet, Rodolfo Rodriguez, that Kiernan reportedly knocked him out over the $18 fee.
“He punch me in the face. I don’t know why. No reason to punch,” Rodriguez said. “He has no reason to fight me. For a parking spot? A parking fee?”
Kiernan told police he was afraid that Rodriguez had a weapon and patted him down while Rodriguez was down and out.
The valet didn’t have a weapon.
Ever since the video hit the news and social media many have wondered why Kiernan wasn’t immediately arrested.
According to a Fort Lauderdale Police Department report, the investigating officer wrote that because he didn’t witness the punch and the hotel could not provide the surveillance video the night incident happened, the case was considered a misdemeanor.
The police report went on to state that Kiernan told investigators that he’s a boxer and that he punched the victim on the sweet spot when he dropped him the ground.
Law enforcement experts said these types of cases are usually misdemeanors if the person does not sustain a significant injury and the person is not hit with a weapon of some sort.
“Basically what it boils down to is whether there’s serious bodily injury,” said David Kubiliun, Rodolfo Rodriguez’s attorney.
Kubiliun explained that even though Rodriguez is suffering persistent headaches and pain in his jaw, prosecutors felt this was a misdemeanor. He said prosecutors are monitoring Rodriguez’s condition to see if this should be upgraded to a felony.
“They could up the charge to a felony charge if Mr. Rodriguez shows signs of a permanent injury going forward,” Kubiliun said.
Rodriguez is back to work, and he’s considering a civil suit against Kiernan.
He wants to make sure Kiernan is held accountable for this violence.
“The important thing that this person is no gonna hurt anybody else,” he said.
CBS4’s Carey Codd has been unable to get in touch with Kiernan, but he did receive a statement from his attorney, Guy Fronstin, on Wednesday. It read:
“The State made a rush decision to file charges most likely due to the publicity and public reaction to the video. We are disappointed that the State did not take the time to fully investigate this case as they do will all other cases, because if they had, they would realize my client was acting within the law and should not be charged.”
Legal experts told Codd that because Kiernan is being charged with a misdemeanor he likely won’t be arrested and brought to jail. Instead, he’ll be given a summons to appear before a judge here in Broward County Court.