Sources with knowledge of a major Broward County corruption investigation say that Spencer Levine, appointed last April to the Fourth District Court of Appeals, has retained a criminal defense attorney to help him answer prosecutors' questions.
Mind you, this isn't the Scott Rothstein investigation. Rather, it's the investigation by the Broward State Attorney's Office, originally based on allegations that Broward Health Commissioner Joseph Cobo used his public position to get an advantage in his private physician consulting business. Levine was the public hospital district's chief operating officer during the period when Cobo committed his alleged ethical improprieties.
But if Levine has indeed hired a criminal attorney, it almost certainly is due to his relationship with Rothstein.
Juice was first to report the connection between Levine and Rothstein. In August 2008, a month in which Rothstein made mammoth donations to the Republican Party of Florida, he was appointed to the nominating committee for the state's Fourth District Court of Appeals. The next month, September 2008, attorneys from Rothstein's firm managed to earn a privileged meeting with the district's executive staff to discuss the prospect of joining a class action lawsuit. The district's general counsel, Troy Kishbaugh, who had the authority to decide whether to join that lawsuit, was not invited, but Rothstein's firm won the district's support anyway.
As we detailed in that post, Kishbaugh suspected that Levine had helped orchestrate the meeting as a way of currying favor in advance of Rothstein's voting on Levine's application to be appointed judge to the Fourth DCA -- an appointment he received this past April.
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Besides Cobo, the only other known targets of the state attorney's investigation are Marc Goldstone and Joe Truhe, who were both fired from their positions in the general counsel's office based on allegations they misled the hospital board about their state licensure. Last month, Goldstone and Truhe each sued the district, alleging that commissioners had a range of ulterior political motives. There's no reason to believe that Levine is a target of the investigation, per se.
Yesterday, U.S. Senate Candidate Maurice Ferre cited New Times reports and Rothstein campaign donations in requesting that federal prosecutors expand their investigation to the question of whether Crist's office traded campaign money for judicial appointments.
Assistant State Attorney David Schulson, who's handling the investigation, was not in his office when we called yesterday afternoon, and in the past he's refused to speak about his case. Levine has not responded to messages in past weeks seeking information about his appointment, and the message box at the court of appeals is currently full. A spokeswoman for Holland & Knight, the firm from which Levine is said to have hired his criminal defense attorney, could not immediately confirm or deny the report.
UPDATE: I've located Levine's attorney, and I've left a message. More when I hear back from him.