For more than three years, fired Miami Beach crime scene technician Jason Bruder has stayed mostly at home with his pet Chihuahua named Tina. He’s survived financially with help from friends and family. Nobody has wanted to hire him — because he was facing trial on allegations he doctored official police records.
“Everywhere I applied, it was a big negative,” Bruder said. “Uber and Lyft, they even denied me.”
But now, Bruder is applying to get his old job back after Miami-Dade prosecutors earlier this month dropped the case against him. The criminal case imploded after a mistrial was declared when it was revealed that prosecutors failed to share key evidence with Bruder’s defense attorney.
“It’s a great relief,” Bruder said. “I still have to fight to get my career back.”
Bruder, 46, has filed a grievance through the Communications Workers of America, which represents the Miami Beach Police Department’s civilian crime-scene technicians. His case will end up going to an arbitrator, he said.
The Miami Beach Police Department declined to comment on Bruder’s employment status.
Bruder had been a tech for over 14 years with Miami Beach, dusting for fingerprints, taking photographs and collecting evidence at crime scenes. He previously worked at the Sunny Isles Beach Police Department.
But in September 2018, the department alleged that he was supposed to transfer evidence from a cabinet to the police property room. He didn’t, and to cover up his sloppiness, prosecutors said, he later made entries in a police log to make it appear as if he’d actually moved the evidence.
No evidence was actually lost, and no convictions were tainted. Bruder was fired by then Miami Beach Police Chief Daniel Oates, and he was charged with nine misdemeanor counts of falsifying public records. Bruder waited nearly three years to go to trial, delays caused in part by the COVID-19 pandemic
His trial began in mid-August, but was halted after it was discovered that prosecutors had introduced a version of a police log that had not been turned over to the defense lawyer, a violation of the court procedure known as “discovery.” It turned out, three entries in the log had mysteriously been filled in after the fact by somebody else in the police department.
A copy was sent to the State Attorney’s Office, which did not realize it had been altered. The altered document called into question the credibility of the evidence that was supposed to be used to convict Bruder.
In a statement, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office said that “during the trial and unbeknownst to the prosecutor, it came to light that the Miami Beach Police Department continued to use the logs after the filing of the case against Bruder.”
“The case was dependent on proving that Bruder falsified the documents. However, the subsequent use of the same logs and the additional changes made to those documents, negated the prosecutor’s ability to establish that there were consistently followed protocols for use and maintenance of the logs.”
After the mistrial, Miami Beach’s internal affairs department said it would be investigating why — and who — filled in the evidence log after Bruder was charged. The review remains ongoing, according to a Miami Beach police spokesman.
“I am ecstatic that we were able to guide the state attorney to the proper decision on this case,” said his defense attorney, Michael Grieco. “My client never should’ve been charged with a crime and it is unfortunate that it took us three years and a jury trial to get here.
“I truly hope that Mr. Bruder is able to put the pieces back together after his life was shattered by an overzealous former police chief.”