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Black Teen Falsely Accused of Murdering Rabbi Sues Miami-Dade Police, Alleges Cops Had Proof of His Innocence

Attorneys for a Black Florida teen falsely accused of murder said they have proof the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office and a detective involved in the case had evidence of the teen’s innocence but prosecuted him anyway.

In a bombshell lawsuit filed on Jan. 17, attorneys for then-15–year–old Deandre Charles accuse Miami-Dade Police, along with lead detective Michael Brajdic, of ruining the life of an innocent teen by labeling him a murderer. Charles, now 19, was accused in the August  2014 killing of Joseph Raksin, a prominent New York City rabbi.

Deandre Charles

Deandre Charles, then 15, was jailed for 333 days after he was charged in a murder he didn’t commit. (Collage by Law & Crime)

The suit alleges that Brajdic had broad evidence that a group of young men, not Charles, were behind Raskin’s death, according to the Miami New Times. That didn’t stop State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, however, from plastering the young teen’s face on TV next to a poorly drawn witness sketch.

“They held this event that looked like an old ‘perp walk,'” Charles’ lawyer, James DeMiles, told the newspaper. “They had this poster-size picture of Deandre. They said they had this DNA, this great case against him, but they didn’t have it.

“There were members of Miami-Dade County onstage, [and] members of Miami-Dade PD onstage,” he continued. “Then they whipped out that sketch that the witness drew that looked like a ‘Sesame Street’ character. And so my client got ridiculed. He was the butt of jokes of [comedian] Kevin Hart. He was internationally known.”

Police said Raksin was in town visiting family when he was shot and killed while walking to a local synagogue for Saturday services in what was believed to be a robbery gone wrong. Days after the slaying, the suit claims a confidential informant tipped off police about the four men who were likely responsible. Another civilian also named two of the same perps, who tangentially knew Charles, according to the New Times.

In April 2015, police interviewed one of the suspects, who’s identified in the suit as “J.S.” “J.S.” basically confessed, according to the complaint, and said he and three others named by the tipsters were there when Raksin was killed. Gun evidence also linked one of the men to the murder, the suit alleges.

“This evidence was in the detective’s possession and control the whole time,” DeMiles said. “I think the state attorney believed the detective, but the detective really dropped the ball.”

Yet, faulty DNA evidence put Charles at the scene of the crime, as authorities claimed his DNA was found both in the getaway car and the murder weapon. Cellphone records also put him near the scene where prosecutors alleged Charles killed Raksin after discovering the rabbi had no money.

Charles was the only one arrested in Raskin’s murder. He sat in jail for a total of 333 days.

Four months after his December 2015 arrest, former Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jason Bloch criticized the lack of evidence in the case and ordered Charles be granted a steep bond of $300,000. The teen would not be released until November and was on house arrest until January 2017, after which prosecutors acknowledged their case had crumbled and moved to dismiss the charges against him.

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