The Judicial Qualifications Commission -- nearly two years after I broke the story about Circuit Judge Ana Gardiner's improper contact with former state prosecutor (and RRA hire) Howard Scheinberg -- has filed formal charges against the judge. Rumors are swirling that Gardiner is set to resign her position as soon as today.
We knew that Gardiner and Scheinberg had socialized during the Omar Loureiro murder trial -- in which Scheinberg was prosecutor and Gardiner judge -- and that they laughed about the case together at Timpano's and, after that, the Blue Martini (naturally). They allegedly talked about gory photographs of the murder victim, James Lentry, and joked about the sexuality of both Lentry and Loureiro. This while Gardiner was presiding over the case that sent Loureiro to death row (his conviction has since been overturned because of these revelations, and he will be retried).
We also knew that Gardiner had essentially lied under oath about it and that she and Scheinberg had numerous phone calls between each other. We just didn't know how many until now (hint: It's a staggering number).
JAABlog was the first to report this morning on the charges. Here's what they plucked out of the charging document, which addresses Gardiner personally:
During the period between March 23, 2007, when you began your close personal relationship with Mr. Scheinberg, and August 24, 2007, the date you imposed the death penalty on Mr. Loureiro, your phone records reveal, and you do not dispute, that you had 949 telephone calls with Mr. Scheinberg and 471 text messages, for a total of
1,450 separate communications over a period of 155 calendar days. That averages 9.35 communications per day between you and Mr. Scheinberg, 7 days a week ...
... On April 30 and May 1, 2007, during the penalty phase of the trial, you had a total of 12 communications with Mr. Scheinberg, including 10 telephone and 2 text messages ...
... On August 23-25, 2007, which included the date before, the date of and the date after the sentencing, you had 19 telephone conversations and 25 text messages with Mr. Scheinberg, for a total of 44 communications on those three days ...
... Your relationship with Mr. Scheinberg continued beyond the sentencing date of Mr. Loureiro. For example, during the period March 31, 2008, through the end of August, 2008, you had 1,166 telephone calls with Mr. Scheinberg and 2,222 text messages, for a total number of communications of 3,388. During that 154 day period, you averaged 22 communications per day with Mr. Scheinberg, which is almost one communication per hour for each 24 hour day ...
... a (JQC) Panel member asked you: "Could you explain the relationship with Howard Scheinberg since 1987?" This question called for an explanation of your relationship with Mr. Scheinberg from 1987 to the date the question was asked, November 13, 2008. Your answer to the question made no mention of your close personal relationship and the high volume of telephone communications and text messages between you and Mr. Scheinberg after March 23, 2007. Your answer was therefore misleading and demonstrates a lack of candor toward the Commission ...
... The same Panel member asked this follow-up question: "Again, just to clarify, my understanding is that you - - during the time your were a judge and he was a prosecutor, you did not have any kind of social relationship with Howard Scheinberg?" And your answer was: "If I saw him maybe at one retirement - - they gave they give plaquings [sic] to the younger prosecutors when they leave after three years. He could have been at a plaquing [sic] where the attorneys and the judges go. But I don't ever remember even sitting with him and socializing." This was a misleading answer because it failed to reveal the personal relationship and the thousands of calls and text messages between you and Mr. Scheinberg between March 23, 2007, and the date of the November 13, 2008, hearing before the Investigative Panel. Your answer demonstrates a lack of candor toward the Commission ...
Needless to say, this is some pretty extraordinary stuff. Gardiner apparently not only engaged in gross judicial misconduct but essentially lied about it under oath (as I rather angrily declared several months ago). Remember this is the same deposition in which Gardiner lashed out at the whistleblower in the case, state prosecutor and Sunrise Commissioner Sheila Alu, who was there at Timpano's that night to witness the improper ex parte communication between Gardiner and Scheinberg.
Shortly after my report was published, Scheinberg resigned from the State Attorney's Office and was hired by Scott Rothstein, who staunchly defended Scheinberg and who began a vendetta against Alu, whose ex-husband, Joe, worked on Rothstein's security team guarding his wife, Kim. Rothstein told me about plans to file complaints against Alu, but he never did so.
I contacted Alu, but as a lawyer involved as a witness in the case, she couldn't comment. So I'll reprint a quote from the time she reluctantly came forward to me for the original story:
"I still believe in the process and the right to a fair trial," Alu told me. "The defendant has a right to know, and the public has a right to know."
-- Also, from the Sun-Sentinel:
"The IRS filed a tax lien Monday against the $1.2 billion Ponzi schemer [Scott Rothstein] and his wife, saying the couple owes $10,096,816.67 to Uncle Sam for the 2008 tax year.
Rothstein compensated himself well as chief executive of his downtown Fort Lauderdale law firm during that year, to the tune of nearly $36 million, according to bankruptcy records. Another tax lien may be forthcoming: He pulled down $10.5 million up to Oct. 31 of last year, when his massive Ponzi scheme imploded."