Privé opponent scores $200K settlement from Aventura police tied to protest of condo project

Dara Clarke accused Terry Scott and Joseph Craig of excessive force and violating her rights

Dara Clarke and Prive at Island Estates (Credit: Katherine Kallergis)
Dara Clarke and Prive at Island Estates (Credit: Katherine Kallergis)

Three years after she was arrested for protesting construction of a sidewalk by the developers of Privé at Island Estates, Dara Clarke is claiming a resounding victory over the two Aventura police officers who allegedly manhandled her.

The Williams Island homeowner settled her lawsuit last week against Sgt. Terry Scott and fellow policeman Joseph Craig, alleging they violated her fourth amendment rights and used excessive force against her on Feb. 25, 2015, following a confrontation with Privé co-developer Gary Cohen and construction workers. Without admitting wrongdoing, Scott and Craig agreed to pay Clarke $200,000 in exchange for her dropping her legal claim against them, according to the settlement agreement.

“This case shows that officers cannot use their badges as an excuse to use heavy-handed tactics against people in the community,” said Clarke’s lawyer Matthew Leto. “This settlement is vindication. Ms. Clarke should never have been arrested and should never have been touched by these officers.”

Michael Burke, attorney for Scott and Craig, did not respond to a phone message and an email requesting comment.

In 2016, Clarke sued Scott and Craig for violating her civil rights for allegedly arresting her on false charges and using excessive force a year earlier when she and some of her Williams Island and Island Estates neighbors were attempting to stop construction of the 150-unit luxury condo project at 5000 Island Boulevard in Aventura, which has since been completed.

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The officers arrested Clarke for disturbing the peace, resisting arrest and criminal mischief; as well as her husband, David, for destroying private property for allegedly driving over the freshly poured sidewalk with his car. Subsequently, prosecutors declined to prosecute the couple.

In her complaint, Clarke accused Scott of stomping on her right foot and grabbing and twisting one of her arms behind her back. Craig grabbed and twisted her other arm as the two cops placed her in handcuffs, Clarke alleged.

Cohen had called police to report Clarke for allegedly damaging the freshly poured concrete on the sidewalk, which had become the focal point of a bitter, failed fight by Clarke and her neighbors to stop construction of Privé at Island Estates. Clarke’s lawsuit also named the developers and the city of Aventura as defendants, but a judge dismissed the counts against them and the city.

In a separate legal action, Clarke also sued Cohen and his partners, Daniel Lebensohn, BH3 and five related companies for defamation in Miami federal court. That lawsuit was dismissed in February 2018.

However, Clarke’s case against the police kept moving forward when the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s denial of the officer’s motion for summary judgment.