The Rothstein Affair: What Does It Mean? | New Times Broward-Palm Beach


The Rothstein Affair: What Does It Mean?

Slain attorney Melissa Britt Lewis had an affair with Scott Rothstein?

That's what Debra Villegas told Plantation police detectives, according to a post on the Juice blog broken by Lisa Rab. And Vlillegas had no reason to lie -- in fact, she had more reason to conceal it. Combine that with what we already know about Rothstein and it's almost surely true.

Villegas said the affair happened back when Lewis was attending Nova Law School and Rothstein was her professor and continued when he hired her at his new pre-Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler law firm in 1999, when Lewis was in her late 20s.

Rab quotes Villegas' attorney, Paul Lazarus: ""Scott was having affairs with any student that came into the office, and [Lewis] started out as a student."

Well, that's true. Rothstein was notorious for having affairs with all the young female attorneys in his office during those years. I don't know if it was a prerequisite to get the job, but there are numerous stories about his intracompany philandering. Even before he was the lead name on the shingle, he had no qualms about office affairs. Remember that back in 1993, he had a daughter -- whom he initially denied fathering -- with a woman who worked at his law firm at the time. At one Christmas party, around 2005, Rothstein gave a speech to the entire staff during which he unexpectedly confirmed rumors that he was having an affair with

a young attorney at the firm. That lawyer left the firm shortly thereafter. Then there's the erotic dancer he kept at the Ritz, a rotation of different women, and frequent visits to strip clubs.

In addition to being a "financial serial killer," as one Rothstein lawyer put it, the guy was a total dog.

News of the affair with Lewis provides more evidence of the general air of immorality and corruption in Rothstein's orbit. He was a tempter and a user -- let's not forget the Julie Timmerman story either. Lewis left Rothstein's firm and joined Shutts & Bowen before returning to work under Stuart Rosenfeldt. Lewis' family told me she hated Rothstein. I believe she probably did, affair or not.

But what does it mean in terms of the murder case?

Short answer: almost surely nothing.

We're talking about a 9-year-old affair. Absent any other information -- i.e., that the affair had been resparked or there were signs of jealousy between the two -- it's pretty much irrelevant.

It seems pretty clear from the known evidence that the person charged in the murder, Debra Villegas' estranged husband, Tony, killed Lewis. Now some have wondered if perhaps Tony Villegas was hired for the murder or framed for it. The first theory is ludicrous. The whole point of hiring a killer is that they would never be considered a suspect because they've never had contact with the victim. Why would anyone hire a natural suspect for the job?

The framing theory is almost as implausible. Too much work, too many moving parts, too many people involved. Tony Villegas is sort of the Lee Harvey Oswald of the Rothstein saga -- and it's pretty clear he acted alone.