Florida Doctor Arrested in July Pleads Guilty to Reduced Charge

Still undecided about future civil charges

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    A woman went face to face Thursday with a Virginia State Police trooper accused of using racial slurs toward her while investigating a traffic accident. (Published Thursday, Jan 26, 2012)

    A woman went face to face Thursday with a Virginia State Police trooper accused of using racial slurs toward her while investigating a traffic accident.

    A civil rights organization accused Trooper Daniel Martin Garasimowicz and another trooper of using racial slurs, ethnic jokes and excessive force while investigating the July 3 accident in which Dr. Maria I. Ferrer, of Florida, crashed into an HOV gate on Interstate 395 in Arlington County.

    The vehicle's front window was damaged, and Ferrer said later she hit her head and had trouble remembering the incident, but the controversial investigation was caught on dash cam video.

    When the troopers asked Ferrer for her identity, she told the men she was a doctor. In the recording from the police vehicle, the car's two occupants seem to express skepticism about Dr. Ferrer's story.

    One voice can be heard saying, "For all I know, she works at Taco Bell, so..."

    A second voice can be heard saying, "a burrito doctor."

    The video shows the troopers walking back over to Ferrer, who was sitting on the concrete barrier separating the HOV lanes from the main roadway, and asking her to sign a ticket for reckless driving. Ferrer seemed to question what she was signing, the situation escalated, and Ferrer was taken into custody.

    The Florida Civil Rights Association said the language the troopers used and their subsequent use of force amounted to civil rights abuse.

    Virginia State Police issued the following statement to a News4 inquiry:

    Prior to receiving this complaint, the department had already self initiated a review of the arrest.  Immediately following the incident, the trooper, in accordance with Department policy, notified his supervisor of the difficulty he had in placing Dr. Ferrer under arrest.

    Ferrer originally faced charges of reckless driving, obstruction and destruction of property.  In a deal with prosecutors, Ferrer on Thursday agreed to plead guilty to a reduced charge, failure to pay full time attention for which she paid a $50 fine. The charge for destruction was suspended, and barring any further legal infractions, will be dropped after a year. The charge for obstruction was also dropped.

    Garasimowicz didn't testify or comment afterward, and the video wasn't shown.

    Ferrer told News4 she was satisfied with the settlement and she is weighing a possible civil lawsuit.

    "As far as ending it, it's not finished for me," she said.

    She said the July incident still has her shaken, and she has found it difficult to trust other people, especially police, ever since.