St. Petersburg Times Online: Business

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies

Police: Naimoli pitched traffic tantrum

A St. Petersburg officer says the Devil Rays owner repeatedly yelled at him when he stopped his wife for running a red light.

WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE
Published August 2, 2004

ST. PETERSBURG - Vince Naimoli had just left Tropicana Field on Saturday night when police say he drove his white Mercedes though a yellow light.

His wife, following him in a silver Mercedes, didn't make it. Police promptly pulled her over for running a red light, much to her husband's dismay.

"Do you know who I am?" Officer Scott Newell said Naimoli yelled at him. "I'm Vincent Joseph Naimoli, owner of the Devil Rays. That's my wife!"

A police video of the traffic stop shows the 66-year-old Naimoli waving his arms in what Newell described as "quite a temper tantrum."

Naimoli also threatened to call Police Chief Chuck Harmon, Newell said.

Newell, 33, an officer more than four years, later reported over the radio: "He dropped a whole bunch of names of City Council members, the chief, upper brass, too."

If Naimoli wanted to get his wife out of a ticket, it didn't work. Lenda Naimoli, 60, got a $114.50 ticket for running a red light.

Naimoli did not return calls for comment. In a statement released by the team, Naimoli said he didn't think at the time of the traffic stop that his wife had run the light.

"I was concerned for her," Naimoli said. "We've had a chance to reflect on the situation and will not contest the ticket. The fine will be paid."

Lenda Naimoli and Newell could not be reached Monday.

St. Petersburg police spokesman Bill Proffitt said: "Nobody likes to get a ticket. People come up with all kinds of things to try to get out of them. It usually doesn't work."

The traffic stop is detailed in Newell's report and in a video taken by the officer, both released by police Monday after a request by the St. Petersburg Times.

The video, taken by a camera mounted in the cruiser, does not include audio of what Naimoli said. The incident began about 9:10 p.m. as Newell sat in his cruiser at First Avenue and 16th Street N.

Traffic from the game was heavy. Newell had his cruiser's camera on when Vince Naimoli went through a yellow light, and Lenda Naimoli went through the red light as they drove north on 16th Street, police said.

Newell stopped the silver Mercedes. In the distance, Vince Naimoli's brake lights went on as he stopped, too.

Newell, concerned about the heavy traffic, told Lenda Naimoli to drive to the nearest intersection and pull over.

Before she could comply, her husband was backing his car up. Then he got out, the report said. The video shows him raising his arms in a questioning manner as he faced the cruiser.

Newell said he told Naimoli to get back in his car. Naimoli didn't comply. Newell ordered him back a second and a third time before Naimoli did as he was told, a police report said.

The Naimolis then drove to the next intersection and pulled off the busy road.

Newell said he got out of his cruiser and began explaining to Lenda Naimoli why he stopped her. Before she had a chance to answer, Newel's report said, Naimoli got out of his car and yelled that he was going to call "Harmon."

As Newell asked for Lenda Naimoli's driver's license and registration, her husband stood by her car.

"He was red-faced and yelling," Newell wrote. Naimoli said the light was yellow when his wife crossed the intersection.

Newell said he twice told Naimoli that he was dealing with his wife and would speak to him later.

Newell called for a supervisor. Naimoli started dialing numbers on his cell phone.

Newell said Naimoli yelled, apparently speaking to his wife, "You don't have to accept this. We're going to police headquarters."

According to a police report, Naimoli also said, "I'm calling Tom Carey," possibly referring to a well-known local attorney.

Newell said he finished writing the ticket and brought it back to Lenda Naimoli.

While speaking to her, Newell said, her husband continued to "yell that she did not have to accept the citation and that he would take care of it."

As Newell again tried to explain the ticket, Vince Naimoli interrupted once more and told his wife not to accept the ticket, Newell said.

Newell twice ordered Vince Naimoli back into his car before he complied.

"Lenda Naimoli signed the citation without hesitation," Newell said.

Vince Naimoli said he wasn't waiting for the supervisor coming to the scene and would drive to police headquarters.

Upon arriving there, he spoke to a shift commander, who told the Times that Naimoli was polite in asking about the ticket.

Proffitt said Naimoli has not spoken with Harmon about the incident.

Proffitt said it is within an officer's discretion to arrest someone interferring with them. Newell, he said, didn't think Naimoli crossed that line.

"Traffic stops are dangerous enough because you're never sure who you're dealing with when you walk up to a car," Proffitt said. "When someone else interjects themselves into the situation, it compounds the possibility of a problem."

Immediately after the incident, someone from the police station asked Newell by radio the name of the irate man.

"I don't know," said Newell. "I didn't want to get into it too much with him."

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.