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In the early 1990s, officers in Miami’s Street Narcotics Unit had a pet name for assistant U.S. Attorney Allan B. Kaiser. They called him “Hatchet Man.” Kaiser, an up-and-coming narcotics prosecutor, got the tag from grateful undercover cops who admired his ability to chop through a stack of difficult cases like a rail-splitter hewing a pile of logs. In appreciation, they presented him a hatchet on a plaque for “all your services rendered to the city of Miami.” Kaiser has it in his office to this day. A decade on, it’s not drug dealers who are on Kaiser’s chopping block, it’s Miami police officers. Today, 13 former members of the now-disbanded Street Narcotics Unit and current members of the elite Crime Suppression Team are under indictment or have pleaded guilty in an unfolding gun-planting conspiracy. And more officers are under investigation. The irony isn’t lost on Kaiser, who’s tasted bittersweet before. “It’s not easy dealing with bad cops when you’ve been working with good ones for 15 years,” he says. Kaiser knows he can’t afford to be overconfident. Three years ago, in his first big media case, Kaiser co-prosecuted the star-crossed Port of Miami corruption trial. It cratered in mid-trial when U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks, while declaring the prosecution had provided ample evidence of corruption, nonetheless ruled that the allegedly stolen Miami-Dade County money was not, in fact, the local government’s money. The U.S. Attorney’s Office took a lot of flak over that outcome. Kaiser, though, was blameless. He wasn’t drafted to try the case until well after the indictments were issued, thus inheriting the fatal flaw in the case. Something similar happened a few months later, when Kaiser and fellow prosecutor Anita Gay got involved late in the game but still managed to eke out a bribery conviction against Miami-Dade County Commissioner James Burke. All other charges in the multicount municipal bond kickback indictment, including those against two codefendants, flopped. The problem was that the prosecution was saddled with a witness — former Miami City Manager Howard Gary — whose self-serving testimony didn’t go over well with the jury. “After it was over, I took some time off and went home and watched shows like Jerry Springer all day,” says Kaiser, 46, a former chief of major crimes for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami, who now holds the prestigious post of senior litigation counsel. “I’d been consumed, and I didn’t want to think anymore. My wife thought I’d lost my mind.” REVIVING MORIBUND PROBES Kaiser is now consumed with the Miami police gun-planting case — the most sweeping federal probe of police misconduct here since the sordid River Cops drug saga of the mid-1980s. It’s a case that might never have taken off without Kaiser. U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis has said he authorized the inquiry last summer after reading about the case of 72-year-old Richard O. Brown in the Miami Daily Business Review. Police machine-gunned Brown to death in his own apartment during a 1996 drug raid. Miami later paid $2.5 million to settle a federal wrongful death lawsuit brought by Brown’s young daughter, Janeka. Lewis assigned the Brown case to his civil rights division. Months passed, and the inquiry went nowhere. Newspaper reports about the moribund probe prompted the Miami-Dade Black Lawyers Association and People United to Lead the Struggle for Equality to put pressure on Lewis. In February, with the five-year statute of limitations poised to expire in March, Lewis reassigned the case to Kaiser. “He asked me to take a look then,” says Kaiser, a lanky Civil War buff with a veteran prosecutor’s honed sense of outrage. “I didn’t think much of it, but when I started looking, I saw things I couldn’t ignore.” Within six weeks, Kaiser convinced a federal grand jury to indict five Miami officers who previously had been cleared by state prosecutors, an inquest judge and the police department. The charges: conspiracy, lying and manufacturing evidence to justify Brown’s death in a hail of 122 bullets. Two weeks ago, in a superseding indictment, six more officers were charged in three additional shooting cases. And two others, recently retired, pleaded guilty and are cooperating with prosecutors. That Kaiser managed to indict that first batch of five officers in such a short time is remarkable. That Kaiser used the Brown case to jump-start dormant federal probes of other police shootings is evidence of an aggressive nature that existed long before he emerged from the pack at the U.S. Attorney’s Office. NATURAL BORN PROSECUTOR When Kaiser was a boy growing up in St. Louis, Mo., his salesman grandfather took him on a call to a hotel. “I told him it looked like the kind of place gangsters would hide out,” he recalls. “It turned out it was a place kidnappers had used. When I heard that, I wanted to know everything about what happened.” Kaiser got the facts — and an early professional calling — at his local public library. “I realized then that I wanted to be an attorney. I was 10 years old, and I’ve never wavered since,” says Kaiser, now the father of three children. Kaiser’s first step toward that goal was an undergraduate degree in criminal justice from Arizona State University. He got his law degree from Tulane University in 1982. Kaiser’s sympathy for the prosecution was manifest when he worked at a defense law firm during his second year of law school. “One of the lawyers there asked me to do a memo on a case,” he says. “I looked it over. The facts were so bad I wrote, ‘This guy is so guilty that there’s nothing this firm can do.’ I said our advice should be, ‘Don’t pick up the soap in the [prison] shower.’ “ After law school, Kaiser went on to clerk for famed New Orleans District Attorney Harry Connick Sr. “I watched trial after trial,” he recalls. Next, he clerked for Nauman S. Scott, then the chief federal judge in western Louisiana. After becoming a member of the Missouri Bar, he nailed his first job as an assistant prosecutor in the St. Louis D.A.’s office. In 1987, Kaiser took a job in Miami as a line prosecutor for then-U.S. Attorney Leon Kellner. One of his first assignments was prosecuting drug smugglers caught on the high seas and brought to Key West. His numerous victories included dismantling what at the time was called the largest marijuana-by-freighter ring ever. “I got to observe him in 37 trials in one year,” says Senior U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King, who has presided over more of Kaiser’s 100-plus trials than any other judge. “He was going up against the ‘Boat Bar’ in Key West — people like Mario Cano and Harry Solomon and Jose Qui�on who are now all big-time defense lawyers. KNOWING WHAT’S IMPORTANT “[Kaiser's] talent is organization, and knowing what’s important in the case and what’s unimportant,” King notes. “He doesn’t run off chasing every little pig through the palmettos. He lets the pigs run.” “I see the world in clear terms,” explains Kaiser, whose co-counsel in the Miami cops case is assistant U.S. Attorney Curtis B. Miner. “I worry that the defense attorney will be more prepared than I am.” Recently retired U.S. District Court Chief Judge Edward B. Davis, who presided at the trial of ex-commissioner Burke, also has taken note of Kaiser’s talents. “He’s become over time the top, or certainly one of the top prosecutors, for the big cases,” Davis says. “He’s not always won, but he’s always done a good job.” Opposing counsel also speak highly of Kaiser — who at times has become so surly and aggressive before a big trial that he’s moved into a hotel room to spare his wife. “Allan Kaiser is one of the best trial lawyers I’ve ever seen,” says Ted Wells, a New York attorney who, along with Miami’s Albert Krieger, successfully defended California investment banker Calvin Grigsby in both the Port of Miami and Burke cases. “He fights very hard, but he’s also very fair.” ALLEGATION OF MISCONDUCT Not everyone agrees. One person who doesn’t is David C. Arnold, a Miami attorney who spent more than four years in prison before his 1993 money laundering conviction was overturned by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for prosecutorial misconduct. Arnold’s beef against Kaiser had to do with tape recordings of phone calls between the government’s star witness, Charles Goldman, and Internal Revenue Service case agent Synda Smith. Goldman and Smith were discovered to have had sex together in a suite of always-chilly offices in the old Miami federal courthouse dubbed the “igloo.” Kaiser disclosed the existence of the affair and the tapes to Arnold in compliance with federal disclosure rules regarding possible evidence. Arnold’s lawyers, believing the tapes might hold exculpatory evidence, asked for copies. Kaiser refused to provide them, saying the recordings were irrelevant to the defense. U.S. District Judge James W. Kehoe agreed. After Arnold was convicted and sentenced, however, the government inadvertently mailed some of the tape transcripts to Arnold’s lawyer. Arnold seized on that and moved for a new trial, but again was rebuffed by Kehoe. Arnold appealed. In 1997, a three-judge panel decided that the tapes, which included conversations in which Goldman contradicted his trial testimony, should have been handed over by Kaiser. A new trial was ordered, and Arnold was released from prison. In 1998, he pleaded guilty to one of the felony charges against him and was sentenced to time served. “Clearly, Kaiser played unfairly with me,” says Arnold, who tried and failed to have Kaiser sanctioned by the Missouri Bar, of which the prosecutor was and is a member. “He made misrepresentations to the court.” “I learned a lesson in that,” says Kaiser, who charges it off to his misguided zeal at the time. “I try to be very careful and err on the side of caution.” Later this month, Kaiser is scheduled to prosecute Eduardo Lezcano and three other men accused of murder in a spin-off from the massive Willie Falcon and Sal Magluta narcotics case. After that, he’ll take a second shot at Miami defense attorney Neil Taylor, whose money laundering case ended in a mistrial in June when a lone juror refused to convict on charges that Taylor knowingly accepted drug cash to represent Falcon and Magluta. Meanwhile, Kaiser’s investigation and prosecution of Miami cops continues. More charges are anticipated, and no firm trial date has been set. Assistant U.S. Attorney Allan B. Kaiser heads the most sweeping federal probe of police misconduct in South Florida since the Miami River Cops drug saga of the mid-1980s.

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