Mayor's Boy

There's been a lot in the newspapers, this one included, about Hollywood Mayor Mara Giulianti's son, Stacey, especially after his former law partner, ex-Hollywood commissioner Keith Wasserstrom, was hit with corruption charges and kicked out of office last year.

But you haven't heard from Hollywood's other favorite son until now. Michael Giulianti, the family's tough guy, has had his own troubles with the law. "I didn't do shit," the stringent 36-year-old attorney told me last week. "I got railroaded but sometimes you have to take it like a man to protect your family. Everybody thinks their life is a movie, but my life is a movie. It's a very interesting story that's going to make one hell of a book."

The denial of wrongdoing is a familiar stance for members of the Giulianti family. Both Mara and Stacey were investigated in the Wasserstrom fiasco and, even though prosecutors found that the mayor had filed false conflict-of-interest forms, they both managed to stay out of handcuffs.

Michael, who works on his mother's campaigns and has been credited by her as a key to her political success, wasn't so lucky. He has been charged during the past year with a number of crimes — including forgery, grand theft, and making criminal threats — in two states.

While he denies he did anything wrong, he pleaded no contest to the charges and was sentenced to probation and ordered into a drug treatment program.

It's not the first time he's been hit with criminal charges. He has a long history of playing on the edge of the law, especially when he was a teenager running around Hollywood.

Even the name of Michael's makeshift California-based law firm echoes his criminal ethos: Outlaw Legal Group. The firm's website is decorated with pistols and bullet holes and promises that Giulianti and his "network of fierce legal guns" will help fix any criminal problem you might have, from a traffic ticket to a murder rap.

In the bio section, which includes a photograph of Michael grimly posing with crossed arms and slitted eyes, he writes of his boyhood:

"While growing up, Mr. Giulianti was no different than most 'normal youths.' He loved skateboarding with his crew, was 'wearin' fat laces and spinning on his back,' playing football and earning an all-county accolade for center, and of course, hustling to make pocket cash. Like most guys his age, he spent his time running with 'The Brotherz,' falling in and out and back in love with his High School sweetheart (now wife), and of course, experienced the typical teenage 'run-ins' with the law!"

Then he tells of how his mother helped him out.

"Thankfully for Mr. Giulianti, his teenage transgressions were settled without much further ado ... But then, Mr. Giulianti was luckier than most teens; he grew up the son of the then and current Mayor of Hollywood, Florida — the Honorable Mara Giulianti."

It has long been rumored that the mayor used her political clout with local police to get Michael out of trouble. The issue even arose in an ongoing lawsuit filed against the city by former Hollywood Police Chief Richard Witt. Witt testified that Michael was arrested for possessing marijuana, "narcotics equipment," and illegal prescription drugs (Percocet) in Lee County in 1993, according to court records.

The former chief said the mayor contacted him, told him the arrest of her son, who was then 22, was a "mistake," and asked him if he knew any officers in Lee County who could "help," Witt testified in a 1997 deposition.

He testified that Mara told him that the Percocet was legal and had been prescribed by either her husband, Donald, a neurologist, or another doctor. When Witt contacted detectives in Lee County, they told him that they would go easy on Michael — but only if he were to give "substantial assistance" in other narcotics investigations.

"I got the impression that it was time for Dick Witt, chief of police, law enforcement officer, to get his nose out of another jurisdiction's business," Witt testified.

Michael Giulianti said the Lee County charges were dropped. "As any loving parent would when concerned about their child's well-being, [Mara] may have contacted Witt for advice at the time of that wrongful arrest," he wrote me in an e-mail.

Witt's testimony indicates far more than a request for advice; rather, it points to an abuse of mayoral power. And in the more recent case, the mayor tried to influence Broward prosecutors to go easy on her son.

Giulianti's latest crime occurred on March 16 of last year, when he walked into a Citibank branch in Hollywood and tried to cash a $5,970 check. The check, made out to Michael, was drawn on the account of a California-based construction company.

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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