A Florida Keys judge Friday slammed detectives’ police work in a 2018 rape investigation but denied a defense attorney’s motion to dismiss the arrest warrant against his client because the victim, a middle school student in the Keys, was able to identify her alleged attacker just days after the assault.
“What saves this case from my standpoint, because the police work didn’t, is the victim says ‘this is the guy’ two days after the incident,” Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia said Friday.
Argenis Alberto Acevedo-Feliciano, 22, from Homestead, is charged with rape and using a computer to lure a child. If convicted, he faces life in state prison. He was arrested March 21.
He met the victim in January 2018 on a cell phone app called Meet Me.
“The victim stated the way the application works is you make and account, put your personal information, and people in your area would be able to see it,” Detective Rosa DiGiovanni wrote in her March 9 probable cause affidavit. “The victim stated they had met on the computer about a month earlier and Acevedo-Feliciano was always very nice to her and told her she is pretty.”
He told the victim he was 16 years old, according to the affidavit.
They soon “started to date via text,” deputies wrote in a Feb. 25 offense report. The victim, who police say is between the ages of 12 and 16, said Acevedo-Feliciano soon began pressuring her to have sex with him.
“The victim stated she would always change the conversation because she was not ready for that,” DiGiovanni wrote.
The girl told detectives she told Acevedo-Feliciano that she would have sex with him on Sunday, Feb. 25 while her mother was at work and her father had to run errands. About 40 minutes later, he arrived, but the girl said she changed her mind about having sex with him.
She asked him if it would be okay if they would “hang out or watch a movie,” but he began sexually assaulting her with his hands, DiGiovanni wrote in her report, She asked him to stop and told him he was hurting her.
He then held her down on the floor and raped her twice, according to the offense report. Afterward, he got in his car and left, the girl told DiGiovanni.
The girl went to her friend’s house later that day, and told the friend and the friend’s mother that she was raped. The mother called the girl’s father, and he called the sheriff’s office. Detectives took the girl to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami where doctors performed a rape examination, DiGiovanni wrote in her report.
Detectives put together a photo lineup using Acevedo-Feliciano’s driver’s license photo mixed in with five other men’s photos that are picked at random by a computer program. On March 31, police showed her the photos and she picked Acevedo-Feliciano out of the lineup, according to a March 31 report by Deputy Caridad Bellon, a school resources officer.
But, Acevedo-Feliciano’s attorney, Jude Faccidomo, called the lineup “comically bad” Friday, saying his client was the only one in it that fit the description of the attacker given by the girl.
“Our position is we have an arrest warrant based entirely on this lineup, which is suggestive,” Faccidomo told Garcia.
He also criticized police for what was left out of the probable cause affidavit used to obtain Acevedo-Feliciano’s warrant, information including the description of the attacker that the girl gave detectives and how police learned Acevedo-Feliciano’s name.
The girl, who at the time of the rape only knew him as “Archie,” was able to use the phone number he used to text her to find Acevedo-Feliciano’s Facebook profile.
Two days after the attack, the victim texted a screen shot of Acevedo’s Facebook photo to DiGiovanni stating he was the man who raped her. That information was never included in the probable cause report, an omission for which Garcia blasted police.
“I’m at a loss to why in this case the victim saying, ‘This is the guy on Facebook,’ is not on the warrant,” he said.
Also left out of the warrant application was that DiGiovanni corroborated the phone number as Acevedo-Feliciano’s by asking an analyst with the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas task force to conduct a reverse search.
Faccidomo also tried getting the warrant thrown out because video footage from three deputies’ body cameras, as well as the stationary video camera in the Plantation Key sheriff’s office substation, no longer exists.
Assistant State Attorney Gail Conolly responded that the footage was not essential to the investigation.
“There’s no requirement to videotape any of this,” Conolly said.
Judge Garcia, while critical of detectives for completing a thin probable cause report, said the fact that the girl identified Acevedo-Feliciano as her attacker was enough to obtain the warrant in the end.
“The arrest warrant has enough probable cause in it because it says she identified him,” Garcia said.
Following Friday’s hearing, deputies obtained a DNA swab from Acevedo-Feliciano that will be compared with evidence taken during the rape examination and given to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement laboratory.
Acevedo-Feliciano’s trial is tentatively scheduled for May.