A new report in the Florida Bulldog gives disgusting details how Florida Justice Center (FLJC) founder Jonathan Bleiweiss molested young Hispanic men and still avoided a criminal trial. Last month, REDBROWARD exposed how Bleiweiss co-hosted a City of Tamarac criminal record expungement event with Vice-Mayor Elberg Mike Gelin. Local expungement events are usually coordinated with the Broward State Attorney Office. For some reason, Gelin partnered with Bleiweiss.
When he was a Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) deputy, Bleiweiss was accused of detaining undocumented Hispanic men and forcing them to perform sexual acts to avoid arrest. The Florida Bulldog documents how Bleiweiss molested the men:
M.C.” and his brother “J.C.” were on bicycles when Bleiweiss approached them, flashed his emergency lights and stopped M.C. “While [Bleiweiss was] inquiring as to M.C.’s relationship status,” the motion says, J.C. rode up to them. Bleiweiss sent him away.
Then Bleiweiss forced M.C. into the back of his patrol car and molested him.
A few days later, Bleiweiss spotted M.C. on a bicycle, stopped him and administered a sobriety test. The deputy dimmed his emergency lights and the bicycle light, had M.C. lean against the patrol car as if for a pat-down, and molested him again.
Afterward Bleiweiss handcuffed M.C. and put him in the back of the patrol car while he wrote something on a piece of paper. Months later, he pulled over another man near the River Oaks Apartments and made him write his name on a notepad.
Bleiweiss would later agree to a plea deal which included prison but no sexual offender label. How did Bleiweiss get so lucky?
According to the Florida Bulldog, five of seven Bleiweiss victims were deported before trial.
In 2019, Prosecutor Neva Rainford-Smith told Florida Bulldog, “I agonized over the case. I know that he did it but without cooperating witnesses, we’re dead in the water.”
In December 2021, Bleiweiss tried to shorten his probation. In a hearing before Broward Judge Marina Garcia-Wood, Bleiweiss’ attorney tried to paint a rosy picture of his client.
The Bulldog reports how Judge Garcia-Wood replied, “And did he tell you the reason he was able to negotiate a plea to a non-sex offense was because the sheriff’s office … systematically rounded up those victims and deported them?”
Gelin ignored pleas from Tamarac residents to cancel the May 14th event with Bleiweiss. A smiling Gelin doubled down by snapping pictures with Bleiweiss at the event. Days later, Gelin posted an Instagram video featuring Bleiweiss.
News of the the deportation of Bleiweiss’ victims comes days after REDBROWARD reported how Gelin launched a bigoted attack on Tamarac Commissioner Elvin Villalobos.
After lamenting how Villalobos created discord at meetings because of a lack of advice by city attorney John Herin, Gelin lectured how Tamarac Commissioners could not “regulate” Tamarac Talk, Tamarac Post nor REDBROWARD. He said this First Amendment concept need to be “explained” to Villalobos.
“This is America. We have freedom of speech,” Gelin lectured. “That should be explained to the Commissioner who may still think that Latin American rules apply in America. And it doesn’t.”
“Excuse me? Excuse me? What do you mean that it doesn’t apply to Latin America, Vice Mayor?” Villalobos asked.
Later, Gelin stated the City Attorney needed to better educate Commissioners, “Who may not understand how this country is governed.”
Does Elberg Mike Gelin realize how many Hispanics reside in the City of Tamarac?
Does Elberg Mike Gelin have a problem with Hispanics?
Gelin is running against popular incumbent Mayor Michelle Gomez.
Does Elberg Mike Gelin think Mayor Gomez needs a refresher course on the U.S. Constitution?
Tamarac Vice Mayor Elberg Mike Gelin has a well documented problem with deputies of the Broward Sheriff’s Office. In September 2019, Gelin made national headlines after he interrupted an awards ceremony for BSO Deputy Joshua Gallardo. Gelin recognized Gallardo as the man who arrested him in 2015. Instead of an award, Gelin called Gallardo a “bad cop,” a “rogue police officer and accused Gallardo of lying on police report. In June 2020, Gelin used a Tamarac Commission meeting to show a video highlighting BSO “brutality” and “misconduct.” Despite his views of BSO, Gelin appears to have no issue co-hosting a City event with a BSO deputy who served five years in prison after he was accused of forcing illegal immigrants to perform sexual acts.
Across social media, Elberg Mike Gelin promotes a “Second Chance Event Free Sealing and Expungement Workshop” on May 14th at the Tamarac Community Center. This type of workshop helps citizens seal and even destroy records of past criminal behavior. Gelin is listed as a host of the event along with the City of Tamarac, Trulieve, and the Florida Justice Center.
The founder and executive director of The Florida Justice Center (FLJC) is Jonathan Bleiweiss.
Jonathan Bleiweiss joined BSO in 2002. According to the Sun-Sentinel, reports of Bleiweiss’ misconduct began in August 2008. “Bleiweiss’ picture was posted in an Oakland Park soup kitchen, with a warning to stay away from him. The Sheriff’s Office removed him from road patrol in July 2009.” Bleiweiss was arrested in August 2009 after twenty men accused Bleweiss of sexual misconduct. Most of the men were illegal immigrants. Bleiweiss “faced more than 70 charges, many accusing him of sexual battery,” the Sun-Sentinel reported.
In 2009, Thomas Francis of The New Times spoke with one of Bleiweiss’ victims. Francis reported the victim met Bleiweiss “in gay chatrooms on AOL.” The victim said Bleiweiss admitted he was a law enforcement officer.
“Oh yes, he told me he was a cop, I asked him questions about his job. He really didn’t say much about it. He just said he keeps the criminals off the streets and what not. Of course, this led to him talking about him handcuffing me and F’ing my Mexican A*S, which really bothered me, and he always asked me for pictures, every day all day.”
The New Times detailed the case against Jonathan Bleiweiss. “Bleiweiss preyed upon illegal immigrants, asking them to show identification. If they didn’t have it, say investigators, Bleiweiss would offer to let them walk in exchange for sex acts. He’s accused of fondling one such immigrant in April. Another victim claims he was pulled over by Bleiweiss, who ordered the man into the back seat, then performed oral sex on him.”
In 2019, The Florida Bulldog interviewed Neva Rainford-Smith, the prosecutor who took over the Bleiweiss case in 2013. Rainford-Smith said the details were “horrific.”
“Witnesses to Bleiweiss’ activities in his Oakland Park district said he would target and stalk young men who were especially vulnerable because they knew they could be deported. Then he would pounce, force them to give him sexual gratification, walk away and repeat the offense over and over again. Some of his victims attended the same church, Rainford-Smith said. ‘The priest would warn them to be aware of this police officer. They all knew to run when they saw him coming.’”
In February 2015, Jonathan Bleiweiss accepted a plea deal from the Broward State Attorney’s Office. Bleiweiss “pleaded guilty to 14 counts of armed false imprisonment, 15 counts of battery and four counts of stalking. He will also serve 10 years of probation and have to undergo a psycho-sexual evaluation, Broward Circuit Judge Michael Robinson ordered.” As part of the plea deal, Bleiweiss did not have to register as a sexual offender. The move drew a strong rebuke from then Broward Public Defender “Help Me” Howard Finklestein.
“Finkelstein, whose office defends the indigent but didn’t handle Bleiweiss’ case, said he ‘was scratching his head’ when he learned Bleiweiss avoided ‘sex offender’ status, an outcome he called ‘shocking and shameful to the whole county.’”
In the same 2019 Florida Bulldog article, Help Me Howard questioned the quality of Bleiweiss’ Florida Justice Center.
“It sounds like ‘I’ve got a website, send me money and I’ll spend it,’” Finklestein said. “I have no idea what he’s bringing to the table that he wants money for…I’m not aware that he has a stellar reputation in the legal community, that you would think he’d have the right contacts to match defendants with lawyers.”
“He’s a bad cop who should have nothing to do with justice,” Finkelstein said.
Jonathan Bleiweiss told the Florida Bulldog, “he accepted a deal to avoid trial even though he knew he was innocent, and took a plea that doesn’t admit guilt.”
“I wouldn’t admit to something that I never did,” Bleiweiss said. “I’ve always believed in doing what’s right and I’m trying to keep pursuing that.”
On the FLJC website, Bleiweiss plays the victim card. Bleiweiss says “he was forced to accept a deal for a crime he did not commit due to a common prosecutorial practice called overcharging.”
In February 2022, Jonathan Bleiweiss was arrested for violating the terms of his probation. His parole officer reported that Bleiweiss failed to complete his required sex offender treatment program.
Bleiweiss has tried to force the court to repeal his plea agreement. The case is currently under appeal.
Why are Tamarac taxpayers involved with Jonathan Bleiweiss and his Florida Justice Center? Doesn’t anyone at City Hall have Google? A simple search would reveal how other legal professionals, like Howard Finklestein, question the legitimacy of the FLJC.
Did Elberg Mike Gelin select FLJC to operate this workshop? The Broward Clerk of Courts Office, the Broward State Attorney’s Office and the Broward Public Defenders Office regularly host expungement workshops. Why not use real professionals?
Does Elberg Mike Gelin even care about the safety of Tamarac residents?
Family members of Miami-Dade Commissioner Keon Hardemon want to influence Broward elections with the formation of a new political committee. Earlier this year, REDBROWARD exposed the growing “unholy alliance” between Keon Hardemon and controversial Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness. Records show Hardemon’s aunt, Barbara Hardemon formed the “Better Leadership” political committee last month. The timing appears to coincide with a campaign for a seat on the Broward County Commission by a favorite of Dale Holness.
Miramar Commissioner Alexandra Davis filed her campaign paperwork for the District 8 seat on the Broward County Commission on May 3, 2021. Barbara Sharief is expected to resign from this County Commission in order to run for U.S. Congress CD 20. In April, Alexandra Davis endorsed Dale Holness in the same CD 20 race.
On May 7, 2021, Barbara Hardemon filed the “Better Leadership” paperwork with the Broward Supervisor of Elections office. Hardemon stated the committee would “support local issues” in Miami-Dade and Broward. Last week, REDBROWARD revealed Barbara and her husband Billy were already supporting Alexandra Davis’ campaign.
In her first campaign treasurer’s report, Alexandra Davis lists a $1,000 contribution from B&B Professional Consultants Inc. State business records show B and B Professional Consultants, Inc. is owned by Barbara Hardemon. Davis reports another $1,000 contribution from Barbara Hardemon.
The Hardemon family appears to be prolific supporters of Team Dale Holness.
In January, REDBROWARD reported B&B Professional Consulting Inc. made a large contribution to the Margate-based “People of Principle PAC.” In 2020 REDBROWARD revealed Broward Mayor Dale Holness’ campaign team appeared to be behind the mysterious federal political committee which backed mostly black Caribbean-American candidates. On October 3, 2020, B and B Professional Consultants, Inc. made a $2,500 contribution to the federal “People of Principle PAC.”
THE HARDEMON WAY?
According to published reports, Barbara Hardemon and her husband Billy Hardemon are closely tied to projects coming before the Miami City Commission where Keon Hardemon served before winning a seat on the Miami-Dade County Commission.
In March 2019, the Miami Herald featured Barbara Hardemon in “How Miami commissioner’s aunt became a high-priced lobbyist.“
After failing the previous year to convince the city to hold a voter referendum on the project at Jungle Island, real estate investment firm ESJ Capital Partners hired Barbara Hardemon to hurriedly set up meetings during the first week in June with Commissioner Keon Hardemon’s staff. Over a 48-hour stretch, they say she assisted in negotiating a deal that will steer millions into housing and economic development funds during the life of the park’s extended lease on Watson Island and helped nail down her nephew’s support for a voter referendum.
One month later, Barbara Hardemon was hired again, this time by David Beckham’s Major League Soccer franchise as it neared a make-or-break vote on a $1 billion stadium and retail proposal. She registered three days before a scheduled vote and arranged a lunch at a waterfront restaurant between her nephew and the Mas brothers, the Miami businessmen who are part owners of the MLS franchise. Days later, Commissioner Hardemon voted in a close decision to put the proposal on the November ballot.
In August 2020, the Florida Bulldog exposed how one activist claimed Keon Hardemon funded a non-profit operated by Barbara and Billy Hardemon.
The same day, [Grady] Muhammad filed a letter with the city clerk addressed to Mayor Francis Suarez…attacking Hardemon for sponsoring and voting for resolutions that awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in city and federal grants to the Martin Luther King Economic Development Corp. and the Foundation Of Community Assistance and Leadership, aka FOCAL, since he was first elected in 2013. Billy Hardemon is the economic development corporation’s volunteer chairman and his wife, Barbara, is FOCAL’s $25,094-a-year executive director. Their two daughters are also employed by the foundation, earning annual salaries of $70,494 and $50,989, respectively.
Now, one of the Hardemon daughters is playing a major role in the “Better Leadership” political committee.
WONT YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?
In paperwork filed with the Broward Supervisor of Elections office, Barbara Hardemon stated the “Better Leadership” committee was located at 3900 S.W. 26th Street in West Park. Barbara and Bill Hardemon live next door at 3840 S.W. 26th Street. Broward property records show the home at 3900 S.W. 26th Street is owned by their daughter, Zakiya Hardemon Kelley.
According to the City of Miramar website, Zakiya Kelley is the assistant director of their cultural affairs division. REDBROWARD asked Zakiya Hardemon Kelley for comment. She has yet to respond.
This is not the first case of a City of Miami to City of Miramar political pipeline.
MIAMI ETHICS PROBE PUT SPOTLIGHT ON MIRAMAR GOVERNMENT
An August 2013 investigation by the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission exposed the role Billy and Barbara Hardemon played in City of Miramar politics. The 2013 complaint alleged Billy Hardemon, then an employee with the Miami-Dade County Department of Public Works and Waste Management (PWWM), spent “substantial amounts of county time, taken without authorized leave, in the City of Miramar, in Broward County…during hours when Hardemon was understood to be working at his Miami-Dade County job.”
What was Billy Hardemon doing in Miramar? According to the complaint, Hardemon attended numerous City of Miramar government meetings as the “de facto chief of staff” for Miramar City Commissioner Yvette Colburne. (Other employees claimed Hardemon served a similar role with Miramar City Commissioner Alexandra Davis).
In an interview with investigators, Colburne admitted Billy Hardemon was her “advisor.” She said his role was to advise her and “attend meetings for and with her.” While he assisted with her campaign, Colburne stated Hardemon was not paid or compensated in anyway.
However, investigators determined Colburne’s campaign paid $2,000 to B and B Professional Consultants, Inc., a company owned by Barbara Hardemon.
Colburne told investigators that Billy Hardemon and Barbara Hardemon were members of “Team Colburne.” As to his employment in Miami-Dade County, Colburne told investigators, “I felt that was being handled with his superiors.”
The whistleblower claimed Hardemon’s superior, PWWM director Kathleen Woods-Richardson, was fully aware of his violations.
When asked if she was aware of Hardemon working for Yvette Colburne in Miramar, Woods-Richardson told investigators, “absolutely not!”
Investigators were shocked by Woods-Richardson’s denial. In addition to calling Hardemon a “friend,” Woods-Richardson’s assistant was Yvette Colburne.
Additionally, the interview with Kathleen Woods-Richardson was held at the Miramar government center. After Colburne was elected to office, Woods-Richardson was named Miramar City Manager.
While the investigator was not persuaded by the testimony of Colburne and Woods-Richardson, he could find no evidence that Woods-Richardson “directed” Hardemon to work for Colburne in order to increase her chances of becoming city manager.
Like Alexandra Davis, Yvette Colburne is a staunch ally of Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness.
Miami-Dade. Miramar. Is Broward County Government next to fall under the influence of the Hardemon family?