The Next Big Thing in Broward | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

The Next Big Thing in Broward

People wonder what sentence Scott Rothstein thought he would receive when he returned from Morocco to cooperate with the government.

Answer: Under 20 years.

I have that it on good authority that Rothstein said early on that he believed he would get something in the neighborhood of 15 years. And while that seems almost impossible now, the process on hammering out Rothstein's actual sentence has only just begun.

Yesterday's court hearing was really all about positioning. Rothstein attorney (and former employee and tenant) Marc Nurik's hope was to convince U.S. District Judge James Cohn to give Rothstein 30 years. Then after Rothstein implicated a slew of co-conspirators and they are convicted, he would come back to the judge for another hearing and have that sentence shaved in half.

Voilà. Fifteen years.

But the half-century mark blows that out of the water. In general, you're not going to get a sentence reduced by more than half for substantial cooperation. So when Cohn sentenced Rothstein to 50 years yesterday, it pretty much ended all hope for Rothstein to get anything under 25 years. In fact, the way Cohn talked yesterday, anything under 30 would seem improbable as well.

Since Rothstein turned 48 today (I went ahead and wished him happy birthday on the WPLG morning news show this morning), it's looking more and more likely that he won't get out of prison before he celebrates his 80th.

But you can bet that Rothstein will work as hard as he can to help churn out convictions of his former associates. Otherwise he'll surely perish in prison. And I want to add here again: We may never know Rothstein's true fate. If he goes into the witness protection program, it'll be smoke and mirrors.

Let's think post-Rothstein for a moment. Sure his case is going to bring about numerous more arrests, more stunning revelations, more intrigue, and more front-page stories for months to come.

But what is the next big thing? With Rothstein entering phase two and the FBI corruption investigation seemingly in a quagmire, what will provide the startling big headlines in Broward County?

Find the answer after the jump.

It will be the State Attorney's Office corruption investigation. That's right, Michael Satz is going to finally start kicking some ass after sitting on it for many years (when it comes to corruption).

Dirty Prestige Homes developer Bruce Chait and his son Shawn are scheduled to change their pleas to GUILTY on bribery charges involving former County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion in August. Before that happens, expect more than one public official to be charged with crimes based on the Chaits' cooperation with prosecutors.

Put bluntly, the Chaits are singing louder than Scott Rothstein on the bima. They are implicating numerous public officials. How many will actually be hit with criminal charges isn't known, but it will be more than one. The same names come up that have known monetary and/or gift ties to the Chaits: Stephanie Kraft, Stacy Ritter, Ilene Lieberman. (And beyond the Chaits, we still have the Diana Wasserman-Rubin case looming). Understand, I'm not saying that cases will be made against them, only that they have come up in the conversation (and Kraft looks the worst of the three).

One public official whom sources say is deeply implicated in the case is Tamarac Commissioner Patricia Atkins-Grad. I've written about her before, but she keeps coming up -- and it doesn't look good for her at all.

Atkins-Grad voted in favor of Prestige Homes back in 2006 after her election. Sources say that when she won the race against Patti Lynn, Chait picked up the tab for her election victory party -- at a cost of more than $1,000. That alone is enough, but sources tell me that the relationship between Atkins-Grad and the Chaits goes deeper than that. Atkins-Grad has steadfastly refused to comment on the case.

A 64-year-old realtor, Atkins-Grad was propped into politics, say my sources, by Jack Talabisco, husband of Tamarac Mayor Beth Flansbaum-Talabisco. Talabisco at the time was president of the Woodlands neighborhood association (he's still on the board), and his wife was about to run for mayor. They wanted a Woodlands person to retain Talabisco-Flansbaum's seat, and Atkins-Grad was chosen after a couple of others bowed out. She had no political experience.  

That's the lore on Atkins-Grad's unlikely ascent into public office. What is absolute fact is that Tamarac is a longtime bastion of pliant politicians who toe the local Democratic Party line and have a power base at places like the Woodlands and condo communities like Kings Point. It's not always pretty.

The questions: Will Atkins-Grad play ball with prosecutors and, if so, what might she have to play with?

I asked former Tamarac Mayor Joe Schreiber about it.

"You think she's the only one?" he asked rhetorically. "It was a 5-0 vote in March 2006 and Atkins-Grad was the only one they paid? But I think this is a good thing because this county is so corrupt. One is better than none, two is better than one, and so on. It makes me a little uncomfortable that Michael Satz is doing this because he watched this kind of thing going on for years and didn't do anything, but I hope he does the right thing now."

-- One more thing: I hear that Broward County Commissioner Stacy Ritter had her 50th birthday party at Casa D'Angelo and it was a "lobbyist fest." Don't have names of attendees, but you can bet at least one major lobbyist was there.