Now-former Tamarac Mayor Beth Talabisco had more bad news when she learned who would be presiding over her case: Circuit Judge Cynthia Imperato, who has a reputation as one of the toughest judges on criminal defendants in Broward County.
Imperato is former police officer and prosecutor who has kept that mentality in the courtroom. She's not a fan of motions to suppress evidence and other defense-oriented techniques -- and when it comes to sentencing those who are found guilty, she usually drops the hammer.
A judge informed me yesterday that Imperato has been assigned the Talabisco case.
"[Judge Imperato] is very flexible when it comes to pleas, but God help you if you go to trial because you better win," said defense attorney Bill Gelin, who runs JAABlog. "There's always a chance she'll max you out."
Hey, how do we get Imperato on all these corruption cases?
-- I told you I was going to get into the role of political operative Beverly Stracher today, so let's just ring off some of her connections.
Bribe-giving developer Bruce Chait told prosecutors he gave Stracher $100,000 cash for her help insecuring him the votes of politicians like Talabisco. At the same time she was running Talabisco's mayoral campaign, making money on both ends.
There's plenty more. Chait said he hired Stracher at the behest of Broward County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman, whom he said pressured him to put her on his payroll. Lieberman is of course now a key witness in the criminal case against Talabisco.
In addition to working as a campaign consultant for Lieberman, Stracher was a paid consultant on the 2006 commission campaign of Stacy Ritter, who also voted for the Chaits' project and accepted a golf cart as a gift from him.
As an aside Stracher was also the campaign manager for huckster and accused crook Shak Dhanji, who was charged with receiving illegal campaign contributions and falsifying records after his run for sheriff.
[As another aside Stracher also managed the campaign for John Sommerer, the former Coral Springs mayor, when he lost to Scott Brook in 2006. In 2008, Sommerer was charged with child molestation and was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison after striking a plea deal. The judge on the case: Cynthia Imperato, who with her not so harsh sentence in that case indicated her flexibleness with plea bargains).]
On top of it all, she was married to former Scott Rothstein attorney Les Stracher -- who at times used the power of the fraudulent law firm to intimidate the cabal's political enemies, including activist and Tamarac commission candidate Patti Lynn. Les Stracher filed for divorce against Beverly last August.
It's connections like these that to speculation that Stracher was the bag lady for the Chaits, the conduit for his lucre.
I have been told by sources that she has denied receiving that amount of cash -- but I wonder how deeply the State Attorney's Office has delved into the banking accounts of their cooperating witness, who from all signs doesn't seem to be paying off very well.
At the same time, in a move that shows just how arrogant and corrupt these people are, Lieberman hired Stracher as her aide at the county last year, after the onset of the investigation, raising the specter that she may be paying off a potential witness with taxpayers' money.
This is only speculation -- but you sense that some secrets will remain buried in this investigation.
-- Florida Republicans, riding high on the batshit Tea Party, are taking off the veil, folks. They've always had designs on robbing the public blind, but now they've come up with a plan to build golf courses -- along with hotels and restaurants -- on our public parks.
The horrendous idea was apparently birthed by Jack Nicklaus himself -- and it would be Nicklaus who would profit from the destruction of our parks.
While the bill would open the door for numerous parks to be turned into golf-oriented tourist traps, the only one slated for the firing line in the bill is Jonathan Dickinson State Park in Martin County, a camping treasure for us South Florida folks.
Sponsoring the legislation is Republican Sen. John Thrasher and West Palm's own Rep. Dan Rooney. The two men should be publicly flogged.
The terrifying part is that with Scott and the Republican Legislature this thing could actually go through. From the Palm Beach Post:
The bills are even more alarming than early reports suggested. For starters, the legislation would allow hotels in the parks and beer and liquor sales at golf facilities. The golf courses would not have to follow any city or county government regulations.
The legislation is an incredible sweetheart deal for Mr. Nicklaus, who met with Gov. Scott early on to suggest the plan for a "Jack Nicklaus Golf Trail" of courses in Florida's public parks. Nicklaus' lobbyist Jim Smith, former attorney general and secretary of state, told the St. Petersburg Times the governor endorses the idea.
Nicklaus Design has exclusive rights to design all the courses, though the firm agrees to lower its usual rate of $2.5 million per course to $625,000 each. In a down economy, not a bad deal.
The governor, indidentally, was in town today talking to the Florida Venture Capital Conference (when it comes to Scott's public appearance, it's either elite business groups or the Tea Party). And billionaire Wayne Huizenga loves him.
"I think the governor is doing a fabulous job," he told reporters today after Scott spoke at ... He's going to do what he says he's going to do."
Here's a Sun-Sentinel video of Huizenga singing Scott's praises after his speech where he promised to stop regulations that are designed to keep profiteers from raping the public: