The Palm Beach Post, Fla.
GREENACRES — The Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy moved his flashlight from side to side. The man he was field-testing for evidence of drunken driving grew more frustrated. Then he thumped the side of the deputy’s head.
“You’re under arrest for DUI,” PBSO deputy Patrick Zeitz said. Then, “You’re lucky I’m not charging you with something stupid like Batt-Leo.”
That would be battery on a law-enforcement officer, a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
“You, as somebody who does this profession, should know better,” Zeitz said.
“You’re right,” Brendan D’Arcangelo said. “You’re right, bro.”
D’Arcangelo at that time was an undercover agent for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The DEA has refused to say whether he still is employed at the agency.
He does face four counts of DUI with damage to property or a person, first-degree misdemeanors each punishable by up to a year in jail. In court Thursday, the 52-year-old’s lawyers and prosecutors scheduled a plea conference for April 5.
According to reports, on Dec. 2, D’Arcangelo’s pickup slammed into two vehicles stopped at a red light on Jog Road near Forest Hill Boulevard in Greenacres. Neither D’Arcangelo nor the five people in the other two vehicles were seriously hurt.
The sheriff’s office won’t comment on the incident. But it has said in the past that deputies constantly are subjected to physical contact and must make judgment calls about when to charge someone.
John Kazanjian, president of the Palm Beach County Police Benevolent Association, which represents PBSO, agreed. While he would not comment on the D’Arcangelo case, he did say, “We get pushed and shoved all the time. Absolutely. It’s part of the job. And we know that.”
The Palm Beach Post learned last week, in a previously undisclosed page of the initial report, that Zeitz had reported D’Arcangelo had “suddenly reached out and slapped me across the right side of my head. With an apparent act of aggression coupled with the intentional refusal to follow directions, roadside tasks became unsafe and impractical.”
The DEA agent’s lawyer, Matthew Goldberger, said last week that PBSO dashboard-camera video showed it was more of a “touch,” but declined to make the video available. It was obtained Monday from the sheriff’s office through a public-records inquiry.
While the lawyer said the video “clearly did not rise to the level of a crime,” it was enough for Zeitz, the DUI investigator, to stop the field test cold and tell D’Arcengelo, “Hey. Hey. Hey. Don’t do that you understand?”
Then, “You just reached up and slapped me up the side of the head all right?”
Then, “I understand that you didn’t do it with malice, all right? But that’s unacceptable.”
D’Arcangelo could be heard saying, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” as Zeitz grabbed him. “I did look at you. I did look at you.”
Zeitz said, “Relax. … Do not. … You know what?” and he and the other deputy then cuffed D’Arcangelo.
“Ah, Jesus Christ,” the agent said. “I’m sorry, cop.”
D’Arcangelo later refused a field-sobriety test and a Breathalyzer test, choices that could lead to a one-year suspension of his driver’s license.
The touch or slap comes in the last minute or so of the dashboard-camera video, which runs nearly 13 minutes. In it, both Zeitz and D’Arcangelo, along with another deputy, have their faces blurred, and Zeitz is bleeped every time he says D’Arcangelo’s name. PBSO cited privacy exemptions under Florida law.
“Here’s the deal, OK?” Zeitz told D’Arcangelo at the beginning. “I do smell alcohol coming from you.” He told D’Arcangelo, “If everything works out, you’re good to drive home.”
D’Arcangelo replied, “I don’t think I can drive.”
In the video, Zeitz repeatedly told D’Arcangelo,”Your eyes aren’t moving” and “You’ve got to look at the light” and “Follow it with your eyes. You are looking right at me.” Both Zeitz and D’Arcangelo appeared to grow increasingly frustrated with each other, and the DEA agent then reached out and thumped the deputy.
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