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For the first time, the lead detective in YNW Melly’s double murder case detailed his recollection of the October 2022 incident in which he was accused of wrongdoing.
Miramar Police Detective Mark Moretti, while on the stand Monday, denied the accusation that he “solicited” a Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy to lie. Moretti also vouched for his execution of the search warrant for the phone of Jamie King, Melly’s mother. The phone was seized in Fort Lauderdale, which the defense argued falls outside of Moretti’s jurisdiction — a claim they have repeated to back up efforts to get key evidence thrown out.
In 2022, Moretti was taking a statement from King in a conference room at the Broward courthouse. Prosecutor Michelle Boutros, King’s attorney Robert Trachman and Broward Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Jason Hendrick were also there at the time.
At some point, Hendrick stepped out, and Moretti executed a search warrant for King’s phone. Shortly thereafter, BSO Deputy Adam Gorel arrived at the conference room. When King and Trachman left, Moretti allegedly made a comment to Gorel about saying he was present while the search warrant was executed.
But accounts of what Moretti said — or didn’t say — differ among the parties. According to a filing by former prosecutor Kristine Bradley, Moretti asked Gorel whether he was there when the phone was taken, and Gorel mentioned something along the lines of: “I can be if you needed me to be.”
Melly’s legal team previously accused Bradley of a Brady violation, or concealing information favorable to the defense, for allegedly not divulging details about the incident. Bradley was ousted from the retrial last month. Under Florida law, prosecutors are required to disclose any information that may be favorable to the defense. The discovery of Brady violations, in some cases, have even led to overturned convictions.
Moretti, on the stand, said he couldn’t recall exactly what he told the deputy but said he asked about Gorel’s whereabouts. According to the detective, Gorel jokingly responded with something along the lines of “I can be anywhere you want me to be.”
Defense attorney Daniel Aaronson presented Moretti with copies of Brady notices filed by the prosecution. When referencing one written by Bradley, Moretti said he guessed the prosecutor was mistaken and said he doesn’t know where she got that information.
Moretti maintained that he told Bradley that Gorel made a joke “and that was it.” Earlier in his testimony, the detective also referenced how King fidgeted with her phone, so he yanked it out of her hand to prevent her from turning it off.
“I have the right to still take the evidence and protect it from being destroyed, and that’s what was happening in my presence,” the detective said.
Familiar face takes the stand
Public Corruptions Unit Prosecutor Michelle Boutros, who was involved in a possible inquiry into King allegedly tampering with witnesses, testified again in court on Monday. She was presented with subpoenas that she signed as well as copies of emails between her and Moretti.
On Monday, the state turned over to the defense additional evidence related to the incident, including the email and text exchanges between Boutros and Moretti and incident reports by BSO and Miramar police. In a September memo, Internal Affairs Sgt. Brittany Parker closed a complaint made by King against Moretti, also writing that Boutros’ claims about the detective contradicted Gorel’s sworn statement.
When discussing the documents she signed, Boutros mentioned how Moretti wanted approval to get ahold of a phone belonging to Mariah Hamilton, Melly’s ex-girlfriend. The detective argued the phone was abandoned property because it was left at someone else’s home. Boutros said she didn’t sign off on that request.
Boutros denied having a vendetta against Moretti. In his cross-examination, prosecutor Justin Griffis mentioned that Boutros had worked with Moretti three times previously, though she said she didn’t remember that.
“I never questioned the validity of the investigation,” she said on the stand. “I questioned my ability to work with a detective who would say something like that.”