Judge and Jury | Bob Norman | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida

Judge and Jury

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But I can't blame them for their lack of mojo. Their boss, State Attorney Michael Satz, is skittish when it comes to corruption. His office hadn't taken an elected official to trial since the Reagan era. If anything, Maus and Donnelly were courageous for bringing the case forward.

And Maus, who questioned all the witnesses, hit her stride in the middle of the trial. She jousted with Mayor Giulianti, who was ... well, Mara. She was sarcastic in her tone on the witness stand, almost leering, a combustible mixture of nervousness and hostility. No wonder. The mayor's son was Wasserstrom's law partner and was also working for the sewage company.

On the stand, the mayor was evasive about her own role but expansive about her supposedly good intentions. Maus gamely stood her ground and kept plowing away, showing how Giulianti and Wasserstrom plotted together — via e-mails and meetings — to get Schwing Bioset the contract. Several times, it devolved into near chaos as Giulianti talked over Maus and even Lazarus, who had to practically shout her down twice.

"Excuse me," Lazarus said politely at one point.

The mayor kept talking.

"Excuse me!" Lazarus snarled loudly, at which point a startled Giulianti finally stopped moving her gums.

After her testimony, Giulianti sat outside the courtroom talking on a cell phone about the trial. "I don't know about the prosecutor," she said. "She's real snitty, snippy. I don't think the jury is going to take to her. But Keith's attorney is, I don't know, warm. Much more personable. The judge is scary to me. He's stern... It was disconcerting. I don't want to be the star of the day."

In terms of the prosecution's case, she wasn't. Goldman was the state's gold mine. A bald man with a gray beard and bat-like ears, Uncle Arnold spilled the details about the dirty work done by both him and his nephew, with Maus backing it all up with e-mails and other documents she'd gathered during her two-year investigation.

Maus even got Goldman to admit that one of Wasserstrom's jobs was to go into neighborhoods where Schwing Bioset wanted a contract and solicit people to create an issue by complaining about the smell from sewage — whether it was offensive or not. Talk about an odious occupation.

Even after the scandal hit the news and the company severed ties with them, Wasserstrom kept pressing for money. Goldman testified that Wasserstrom told him, "You shouldn't take less than a million dollars for the work you've done." Half of that, of course, would have gone to Wasserstrom and his law firm.

The prosecutors must have thought Goldman was all they needed — they rested after he was finished. Hirsch, who had promised the jury that Wasserstrom would testify, then rested without putting on a defense.

Then he made the motion for Lazarus to rule on the charges.

Donnelly looked properly dejected after the ruling.

"I was hoping we could at least get it to the jury and let them decide," he told me outside the courtroom.

All hope, however, wasn't lost for the prosecution. Yet.

Still remaining were four official misconduct charges related to public disclosure forms that Wasserstrom filed with his city. This column went to press before the jury's verdict, but I'm betting it'll follow the judge's lead and acquit him.

And that could lead to Wasserstrom's return to the commission. If that happens, he can thank a man named Lazarus for bringing his scandalous and morally bankrupt political career back to life.

Editor's note: Norman bet wrong: The jury convicted Wasserstrom of two counts of official misconduct.

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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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