William Hames worked as a City of Miami Police Officer from 1973 until his retirement in 1998. On the evening of November 7, 1995, Hames was on duty in downtown Miami. After witnessing a robbery, Hames and his team began to chase the four fleeing suspects. Hames shot and killed one of the suspects, another suspect was shot and killed, a third was apprehended, and the fourth managed to escape.
Other officers planted weapons on the suspects’ bodies to explain their actions and validate the shootings. Hames later gave a sworn statement to homicide investigators wherein he covered up the action of the other officers by falsely stating that the fleeing suspects were carrying weapons before they were shot.
Three years after Hames retired in 1998, the FBI began an investigation into the 1995 incident. Hames was eventually charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice and deprive Miami’s citizens of rights, privileges, and immunities under federal law. Hames entered a plea of guilty, agreeing to cooperate with the federal government, and admitting that he gave a false and misleading sworn statement regarding the circumstances surrounding the shooting.
In 2006, the City’s Firefighters’ and Police Officers’ Trust notified Hames that it would be holding a hearing to determine whether he forfeited his benefits as a result of his conviction. When the Trust issued an order of forfeiture, Hames appealed. The Florida Court of Appeals upheld the pension forfeiture. Florida law mandates forfeiture if a police officer is “convicted of a specified offense committed prior to retirement.” The statute goes on to define a “specified offense” as including “any felony by a police officer who, willfully and with intent to defraud the public or the public agency of the right to receive a faithful performance of his or her duty, realizes or obtains, or attempts to realize or obtain, a profit, gain, or advantage for himself or for some other person through the use or attempted use of the power of the public office.”
The Court found that Hames’ federal conviction fell within the definition of “specified offenses” under the Florida retirement statute: “It is undisputed that while he was employed as a police officer, Hames gave a false sworn statement to investigators to hide the actions of his fellow officers from the eyes of the law. Hames admitted to committing this overt act as alleged in federal information. The Trust found that these actions amounted to official misconduct, and we conclude that the acts admitted by Hames were punishable at the time of their commission under Florida statutes. Thus, Hames’ acts amounted to a breach of the public trust in violation of a ‘specified offense’ requiring the forfeiture of Hames’ retirement benefits.”
Hames v. City of Miami Firefighters’ and Police Officers’ Trust, 2008 WL 583672 (Fla.App. 2008).
This article appears in the June 2008 issue