Sunday, March 16, 2008

Paralyzed inmate says Mazza made earlier dry run of deadly escape

By Tonya Alanez

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

March 14, 2008

A paralyzed inmate claims he witnessed a dry run of what allegedly happened when Michael Mazza fatally shot a Broward Sheriff's Office detention deputy on the way to court in a prisoner transport van.

That inmate, Bryon Reddick, 33, says Mazza's wheelchair straps busted loose and Paul Rein, the same deputy driver Mazza is accused of killing, pulled over to secure the wheelchair. Afterward, Mazza spoke of creating "the scene over again" to attempt an escape, Reddick told a Broward homicide detective on Feb. 8, according to a statement obtained by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel on Thursday.

Reddick's account spins Mazza's alleged actions on Nov. 7 from an opportunistic crime to a premeditated, calculated incident. He is accused of overpowering Rein, 76, while they traveled to court for a bank robbery trial. Authorities say Mazza, 41, killed Rein in a Pompano Beach parking lot with the deputy's gun.

Mazza, a convicted bank robber who has spent years in and out of jail, faces the death penalty if he is convicted of the slaying.

Reddick's account, which does not specify when the first incident occurred, also creates a conflict for Mazza's assistant public defenders, H. Dohn Williams and Bruce Raticoff, because their office has represented Reddick. He is serving a 16-year prison sentence for trafficking in cocaine.

Raticoff confirmed he is preparing a motion to withdraw from the case, but he and Williams declined further comment.

Prosecutors also declined to comment on the pending case.

When Reddick saw newscasts about Rein's slaying, he said he was astonished: "I'm like, damn man, this dude went through with it, you know."

According to Reddick, the broken-strap incident played out like this:

As Rein rounded a corner with the van, Mazza's wheelchair straps came loose. Mazza tilted and screamed. Rein pulled over, tried to secure Mazza's wheelchair and said he'd drive slowly the rest of the way to the courthouse.

"He was a wonderful person," Reddick said of Rein.

When Mazza spoke of re-enacting the incident, he asked Reddick if he wanted in on the escape, according to Reddick..

"Don't try nothing like that on, on the, on the van while I'm on there," Reddick said he told Mazza. "I told him I ain't want no parts of it."

Reddick said he later asked not to be transported with Mazza.

When Mazza spoke to detectives hours after his arrest, he portrayed the deputy as the aggressor, saying Rein acted impatiently while tending to Mazza's broken wheelchair in the back of the van.

According to Mazza's account, Rein hit and cursed at Mazza, who reacted in self-defense. They scuffled and fell out of the van. And the fatal shot was fired as the two men struggled over the deputy's weapon, Mazza said.

No comments: