Back from vacation to find that the Larry Seidlin special we broke last week is hitting the fan. That wacky lawyer Jack Thompson prompted the Broward State Attorney'd Office to request that Florida Gov. Charlie Crist assign an independent prosecutor to determine whether Judge Larry broke the law. And the Miami Herald's Wanda DeMarzo and Sun-Sentinel's Tonya Alanez followed it in their respective pubs (with commendable citations of New Times).
The Broward State Attorney's Office is calling for the governor to appoint an independent prosecutor to look into Seidlin's acceptance of gifts, land, and large sums of money from a lonely elderly woman in his condo building and a Louis Vuitton purse and other items he allegedly received from a lawyer whom he was appointing to juvenile cases in his courtroom. In a letter to Gov. Charlie Crist on the matter, SAO spokesman Ron Ishoy mentions that Seidlin used to be a prosecutor under Michael Satz. The fact is that Seidlin and Satz have been friends for many years. Seidlin's wife, Belinda, told me she met Seidlin on the tennis court when she was 16. Playing with them were Satz and former public defender Al Schreiber, she said. It's cozy at the top of Broward (in?)justice system, that's for sure, but Satz has done the right thing in calling for an independent investigation.
While the brunt of the coverage has been focused on Seidlin's actions, some have taken to bashing Lawrence "Chris" Roberts, the lawyer who only reluctantly went on the record regarding gifts he says the judge solicited from
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him (it was only when I got a confirmation from his former secretary, Nikki Jarema, about the Louis Vuitton purse that Roberts agreed to let his name be used). It's true that Roberts shouldn't have purchased the gifts, but when you have a supposedly well-respected judge leaning on you, as he reports, it has to be hard. I truly believe that Roberts, who was admitted to the Florida Bar 35 years ago, finally became so disgusted with the state of affairs at the courthouse that he finally decided to speak out.
In her front-page story, DeMarzo writes about a Polo shirt Seidlin allegedly had Roberts buy. I mentioned that in the original article, but only in passing. That story, if true, may actually be the most damning thing against Seidlin of all. Why? Well, here's the rest of the story:
Roberts told me before the original story was published that Seidlin asked him to buy him the shirt just before a DUI trial. Seidlin was the judge and Roberts was representing the defendant. Roberts says he went to Macy's with his client in tow, bought the shirt, and presented it to Seidlin. Then, when they got into the courtroom, Seidlin told the prosecutor that he had serious problems with the case, according to Roberts, and they bumped it down to reckless driving and had it done. Roberts still believes the shirt made all the difference that day. "It was so petty," Roberts told me. "That's what's so incredible about them. They'll sell out for a nickel."
Interesting, that use of the plural. I didn't include the allegation in the original article because I already had enough to go on and Roberts says it happened so long ago that it will be next to impossible to identify the case and client. An investigation should be able to find out the truth, though. Whatever happens in the case of the Polo, it looks like the horses are out of the barn and charging hard on this thing.