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Cell-Out: Jenne Breaks Silence

Heads up, Broward County: Your ex-sheriff ex-con gave an interview to former Sun-Sentinel columnist Buddy Nevins that was posted on Broward Beat over the weekend. It's a cream-puff interview, but whatever. Ken Jenne was convicted, served his time, and no one can doubt his regret is genuine. Besides, there's enough active corruption so that we don't have to dwell on the old stuff. Based on the comments thread, some readers object to what seems to them Jenne's (or Nevins') play for sympathy. And maybe there's grounds for that. My own sense was that in describing the roaches, the meth addicts, and general filth he encountered in his year in federal prison, Jenne meant to give us a sense of satisfaction that he has paid his debt to society. If so, thank you, Citizen Jenne. Honestly, as your fellow taxpaying citizen of Broward County, I feel a little better about the cause of justice.

But neither is this time to dredge up Jenne's positive contributions to the region, as some of Jenne's ardent defenders would do, with preambles like, "He's far from perfect, but..."

He's very, very far from perfect. Yes, Jenne did some good deeds. He was a public servant, doing a job that was a special privilege and an awesome responsibility. But he still performed that job in an incompletely honest fashion. Maybe he was only busted for one episode of naughtiness, but Jenne's legacy ought to include all the felonious friends he counted on for campaign contributions and for whom he interceded as a powerful voice of forgiveness, attributes that shine through in this Bob Norman feature story from 1998. Or check out Bob's 2005 story about the PowerTrac scandal in which deputies cooked cases that, in effect, made Jenne a more popular, powerful figure and that frightened him enough, apparently, to lead him to hire not an independent investigator but an old friend lobbyist who absolved Jenne of blame.

Plus, paying Jenne compliments has a way of distinguishing the ex-sheriff and state legislator from "hardened" criminals. Prisons are filled with people who have good intentions, and most of them had neither the aptitude nor the opportunity that Jenne squandered. This makes him a tragic figure, but his fall from grace is not tragedy on a scale that his fellow inmates know.

The word grateful is used, and Jenne damned well better be grateful. Because while I don't blame Scott Rothstein for scooping up Jenne, with all the knowledge and experience he can offer the firm's clients, the other inmates graduate to destitution, no matter how much redemption they show; and those inmates don't have the vicarious pleasure of watching their bright, Google-proofed progeny rise through the political ranks.

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Thomas Francis

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