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Is Sheriff Lamberti's Administration Crumbling?

Last week was a momentous one for Sheriff Al Lamberti.

Lamberti's director of law enforcement, Col. Rick Frey, rather abruptly retired. And then in a late-hour Friday news bomb, it was announced that Lamberti had fired Larry Strain, BSO's director of purchasing, and suspended (with pay) John Curry, the agency's Executive Director of Administration.

Overall the effect is like a wrecking ball hitting a corner of the sheriff's management structure.

So what's really going on? That's where it gets tricky. Nobody wants to say anything of any substance officially. In the news release, Lamberti said he fired Strain "due to a loss of confidence." The press release continues: "Later, some other circumstances surfaced that we are investigating."

So first Lamberti lost confidence in Strain, who had overseen millions in taxpayers' money, and then found cause to investigate him. I'm told by an official BSO source that Curry -- who was replaced on an interim basis with BSO Director Wiley Thompson (who ran against Lamberti in 2008) -- was suspended because he refused to cooperate in the investigation involving Strain.

Understandably, with another big shake-up, comes another round of rumors. It's a hornets nest at BSO -- what Frey called the worst morale he'd seen in 33 years at the agency. One rumor say Strain-Curry investigation involves the Super Bowl investigation, another that it's about the sheriff's health controversial consulting contract with Edify, the firm formerly co-owned and backed by Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein. Still another says the Strain firing had to do with the BSO police car contract with Maroone Ford initiated by Maroone manager Michael Albetta, a Democratic operative who has backed Lamberti, a Republican, in Democratic circles.

They're all rumors at this point. Another is that FBI agents were in the building yesterday (I was told this by a source inside BSO). An official sheriff's source confirmed an FBI agent was in the building but said the agent was only working in a joint venture with Al LaManna, the former FBI agent now heading BSO's public corruption unit.

It's impossible to know what to believe at this point, but I'm digging into it now.

Inside, see how far suspended attorney Hank Adorno has fallen since his glory days. This is a guy that used to get press like most lawyers could only dream about.

The following are high-lights from a Miami Herald feature on Adorno -- whose firm, Adorno & Yoss has crashed and burned -- that was published on February 19, 1988.

It's got some interesting tidbits, including the fact that Hank Adorno was born Enrique Nissim Sabina in Havana and Americanized the name after his mother moved to Brooklyn (his stepfather's last name was Adorno). He got his start as a prosecutor in Janet Reno's office before becoming a defense attorney and was tied in with the Cuban power structure in Miami, representing not only Jorge Mas Canosa but also accused anti-Castro terrorists Rolando Otero and Orlando Bosch.

The article:


There have always been big ones. The case against five Metro cops charged with killing Arthur McDuffie -- that led to the 1980 riots. The bombing case against Rolando Otero when he got E. Howard Hunt to testify. The $1 million scam at Flagler Dog Track.

There was the guy who beat his pal 24 times with a hammer and then offered the dead man a bowl of cereal. The sentence was 133 years. Peter Rosier, the Fort Myers pathologist accused of giving his cancer-ridden wife a lethal injection. Conviction of a Coral Gables cop killer.

Hank Adorno calls these his "high-profile cases." Star makers.

Even with those already under his alligator belt, Adorno's profile has never been higher.

... Last Tuesday the phone rang at home at 7 a.m. After 11 years, Orlando Bosch was coming back to Miami in four hours. His attorney: Hank Adorno.

"On a roll," says Adorno.

Adorno, former chief assistant state attorney under Janet Reno, is one of Dade's hottest lawyers. A wave maker who turned 40 on Dec. 14, he is at the prime of a career already smoking from dozens of cases most lawyers never get a whiff of.

"Formidable talent," says Ira Dubitsky, a former Dade circuit judge. In 1976, Dubitsky put Adorno in jail for contempt. Adorno refused to talk to a defense attorney about a settlement in a drug overdose case.

"He didn't want to be told what to do by me. He put me in a position where I had to assert myself," says Dubitsky. "A little bit of a hothead in the old days." The judge later vacated his order.

"Aggressive, pushy," says Lothar Genge, head of the Fort Lauderdale field office of the U.S. Justice Department organized crime and racketeering strike force. Genge lost a 1985 case against Adorno.

"If I have any further cases with Mr. Adorno, everything would be documented in writing. I would have no other dealings with him," says Genge.

"A stage presence without question," says lawyer Ed Carhart, one of those who beat Adorno in the McDuffie case. Carhart said if he were casting a movie, "I would cast Hank as the prosecutor."

"A very vigorous prosecutor," says one-time boss Reno.

Adorno on Adorno: "I will not be out-prepared. I don't ever wing it. Any lawyer who does is a fool. It is preparation and skill, not antics. Every one of us can be beaten, but I will not be out-prepared."

Adorno's legal reputation began to crackle in the mid- 1970s. Then-State Attorney Richard Gerstein assigned him to major crimes and terrorism cases. Adorno was 28.

"I got pretty much of everything in Gerstein's office. It was the right time. I had all of them," he says.

In October 1976, Adorno went to Caracas as part of the case against accused airport bomber Rolando Otero. Otero later got 40 years after Adorno tried the case. Also in jail in Venezuela was Bosch, then accused of blowing up a Cuban airliner off Barbados.

Adorno will not reveal if this was how he came to know Bosch. Adorno quit the state attorney's office in 1980. Today, instead of prosecuting cases like Bosch, he is defending one.

His link to Bosch came when he was "contacted by the family" living in Miami, he says. ...

Adorno, whose favorite speech was given by Maj. Gen. George S. Patton, looks back on public service: "Those were the best days."

He rates himself impulsive, conservative, pro law and order, pro police. He does not say he will never return.

"I would think about it. If I had any brains, no. It's a fishbowl."

He was born Enrique Nissim Sabina in Havana. His mother, Rosa, divorced his father and left the island in 1956. She married his stepfather, Anthony Adorno, and after living in Brooklyn where Enrique became Henry, the family came to Miami. Adorno went to Kensington Park Elementary, Citrus Grove Junior High and Miami High.

An avid Gator fan, he graduated from the University of Florida and Florida Law School. ...

Although his "Spanish is improving rapidly," he says most of his colleagues think he's Italian.

Adorno looks good. He stands 6 feet 1. He wears a size 40 long suit, usually with a designer label, and has a 34-inch waist. He has not gained five pounds since he left law school. He once sported a vest pocket watch and gold collar pin but says, "As I get older, clothes mean less and less to me."

His courtroom presence is legendary. He loves to close a case. As a prosecutor, one trick was to get the jury to watch a clock, counting down the seconds it took for a victim to die.

In 1977, while picking a jury, Adorno was attracted by the presence of Kay Derr, a potential juror. He excused her but sent a television cameraman to get her telephone number. The two were later married, he for the second time. That marriage ended after Kelly, now 8, was born.

Nearly six years ago, Adorno and Cathy Buckner were married. The couple has six kids: Sean, 16, Josh, 14, and Rachel, 13, from her first marriage; Kelly from Adorno's second; and two of their own, Samantha, 3, and Zachery, 14 months.

They live in a $197,357, four-bedroom, four-bath home with a pool and tennis courts in Pinecrest, off Old Cutler Road. They have a summer home at Hound Ears near Boone, N.C.

In Miami, Adorno likes to get up at 6 a.m. and work in the garden. Sundays are reserved for the family.

When he left the state attorney's office in late 1980, Adorno became a partner in the downtown Miami law firm of Thomson & Paul. His chief assistant's salary of around $60,000 doubled to more than $120,000.

Later, the firm became Thomson, Zeder, Bohrer, Werth, Adorno and Razook. As a partner, he could bill clients as much as $200 an hour.

In 1985, U.S. District Judge C. Clyde Atkins sanctioned the firm, saying one aspect of a case was frivolous. Adorno represented Norton Tire in a suit accusing Tire Kingdom of Lake Park of false advertising and antitrust violations. When Adorno withdrew one count after a year of litigation, the judge issued sanctions that held the firm liable for costs. ...

In December 1986, at age 39, Adorno started his own firm in the Grove. There were three lawyers. Fourteen months later there are 14 lawyers, including longtime alter ego, George Yoss, who was also Reno's chief assistant.

Today, Adorno spends most of his working hours out of the courtroom.

"I spend most of my time running the law firm. This is a little business, a little corporation." His office is filled with wooden antiques, mostly English, that he and his wife favor.

Adorno sees himself and the firm he has created as able to "bridge the gap between the Cuban community and the Non-Group. I was part of the downtown power structure but my roots, my family is part of the Cuban community.

"This is an exciting town. It is open to anybody."

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman

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