Sheriff’s political machine aims at Local 10 report on deadly shooting

Published On: Mar 26 2014 06:55:23 PM EDT
Updated On: Mar 26 2014 10:00:00 PM EDT

The Sheriff's Office is displeased after Local 10's report of an incident Friday.

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. -

The sheriff's office is displeased after Local 10's reports of an incident Friday. It began with a complaint from a woman that a man with a machete had threatened her at a gas station, which ended with that man being shot dead in the cab of his truck by a deputy.

Deosaran Maharaj, 51, who was killed, used that machete to threaten the woman in the gas station before he ran back to the pickup truck.

The Broward Sheriff’s Office reports that Deputy Paul Yesbeck felt threatened when Maharaj began rifling through the truck soon after getting back inside the cab during a traffic stop. Maharaj was able to drive a short distance after the shooting with the fatal gunshot wound. Detectives later found the machete in the truck, but no gun

The shooting has caused concern in the primarily black Pompano Beach community, where the shooting occurred.

“Should deadly force have been utilized?” asked community activist Edward Phillips, a former commissioner. “That is clearly the question of the day.”

But BSO officials were also concerned with a fact they claimed should have been included in a story Local 10 aired Friday on the case -- that Maharaj had drug use and a violent arrest in his past.

Text messages from BSO general counsel Ron Gunzburger, a political operative, were sent to the reporter after the story aired.

“Why didn’t you mention that ‘the well-liked coconut man’ (your words) had been arrested a few months ago for ag assault on a woman with a machete … just like the lady said happened to her on Sunday night?” Gunzburger asked. “Truth got in the way of your preconceived notion?”

The arrest report from July 2013 actually didn’t involve an assault on a woman. Maharaj was accused of striking a former worker of his with the handle of the machete after the two had a dispute.

Deputies also reported that Maharaj admitted to a crack cocaine addiction at the time.

Someone at BSO then fed the complaint to a local blog, which posted the headline: “BSO: Channel 10 ignores key facts in story.”

While the blogger didn’t name the source, he did quote him, “I guess the truth just didn’t fit (Channel 10s) false narrative of the incident.”

Gunzburger wouldn’t say whether or not he was the source.

But it didn’t stop there. Sheriff Scott Israel himself put a post up on his Twitter and Facebook accounts: “WPLGLOCAL10 reporter Bob Norman factually gets it really wrong (yet again!!).”

Israel then linked the blog post posted by the BSO source. There are no known factual errors in the story and the sheriff declined an interview request to talk about his assertion.

But the sheriff’s political machine wasn’t done yet. Broward Bugle, a pro-Israel propaganda site founded by Gunzburger and political dirty-trickster Roger Stone, who first became seriously involved in Broward politics as now-imprisoned Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein’s “political director,” posted its own version of Gunzburger’s complaint.

Gunzburger was back at it again Wednesday, stating that Northwest Pompano Beach Civic Association President Walter Hunter, who had called for an independent investigation in Local 10’s report on Friday, had recanted.

“Walter Hunter told folks at the Pompano commission meeting last night that you essentially fed him the ‘independent investigation’ line [to] get him to say it back to you,” Gunzburger wrote.

When contacted by Hunter -- whose entire reason to be interviewed for the Friday report was to call for an independent investigation and who made the request numerous times on video -- informed Local 10 that he wasn’t in attendance at the commission meeting and said Gunzburger’s assertion was a “damn lie.” He also said he wasn’t in favor of BSO’s push to publicize the dead man’s arrest report.

“What does that have to do with it?” Hunter asked. “I don’t understand why they are bringing that out while the investigation is still going on.”

Phillips also said he disagreed with BSO’s tactic, saying the information wasn’t relevant to the shooting. BSO, incidentally, did inform the station that the deputy involved in the shooting had no knowledge of the arrest when the fatal encounter occurred.

“I don’t know what that had to with what happened here recently,” said Phillips. “In my community there are an awful lot of males that have arrests in their history, that often times should not taint an individual for the rest of their life.”

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