A federal grand jury investigating the death of black Miami insurance salesman Arthur McDuffie yesterday indicted a white former Dade County policeman on charges he helped cover up the details of McDuffie's death.
Charles R. Veverka Jr., 29, was the first man to be indicted since the grand jury was convened in the aftermath of three days of race riots in Miami in May that left 18 dead, hundreds injured and more than $100 million in damages. The riots took place after an all-white jury acquitted four white policemen accused of beating McDuffie to death.
Federal prosecutors who sought the indictment in U.S. District Court in Miami said the investigation into McDuffie's death would continue and that further indictments are possible. Prosecutors have charged that McDuffie died after being pulled off his motorcycle and beaten by Dade County policemen who chased him when he drove through a number of red lights.
Veverka was one of two policemen who testified under Florida state immunity at the trial of the four acquitted officers. He was charged yesterday with violating McDuffie's civil rights by conspiring to falsify reports of McDuffie's death and being an accessory to the beating. One count charged Veverka with filing false reports and giving false statements to investigators "to prevent the arrest, trial and punishment" of policemen who beat McDuffie.
Veverka was never charged with a crime by the State of Florida. Thus, there would be no suggestion of double jeopardy in his case, prosecutors said.
However, Doug Hartman, one of Veverka's attorneys said, "I think it's a sad day for the federal system when they indict a state-immunized witness after all that he's done."
Veverka testified at the trial of the four policemen accused of beating McDuffie to death that he was one of the first policemen to reach McDuffie after the chase. Veverka said he pulled the 33-year-old McDuffie from his motorcycle, punched him once and then tried to pull him away from a crowd of officers who arrived subsequently and had begun to beat him with nightsticks and flashlights.
"I got splattered with the blood," Veverka testified, remembering that one officer began hitting McDuffie with sledgehammer blows. At that, Veverka said. "I turned my back and walked to the car."