The Florida Bar has filed a complaint against former Broward Judge Ana Gardiner over what the bar calls a "significant personal relationship" between her and a prosecutor who was trying a capital murder case she was presiding over in 2007.
A jury recommended a death sentence for Omar Loureiro on May 20, 2007, but after the bar claims Gardiner and former Assistant State Attorney Howard Scheinberg exchanged 949 phone calls and 471 text messages -- while the trial was pending -- Loureiro was retried and sentenced to life in prison.
The complaint describes that on March 23, 2007, Gardiner and Scheinberg "encountered" each other at a local restaurant, which began the so-called "significant personal relationship."
That relationship included "assist[ing] each other in dealing with traumatic life events, such as recent marital difficulties, and the death of family members," the complaint says.
That's when the 949 phone calls and 471 text messages happened, and the relationship was never known to Loureiro's attorneys -- leading to the state granting a new trial.
Gardiner had to appear before the Judicial Qualifications Commission Investigative Panel in late 2008 to explain what was going on between the two.
The bar claims that Gardiner "misled the panel into believing that there was only minimal contact between herself and Scheinberg."
Here's what she said in response to a question about whether she had "any kind of social relationship" with Scheinberg:
If I saw him maybe at one retirement -- they give plaquings to the younger prosecutors when they leave after three years. He could have been at a plaquing where the attorneys and the judges go. But I don't ever remember even sitting with him and socializing.
She never mentioned the phone calls or text messages until she was ordered to appear at a deposition to postconviction proceedings in Loureiro's case in April 2009.
The bar alleges Gardiner broke two house rules in all this, and it's up to the Supreme Court to decide a punishment, if any.
A copy of the complaint was delivered yesterday to Gardiner's attorney, David Bogenschutz, who are allegedly now engaged. And this is still allegedly awkward.
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