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Miami Herald Does It Again

The Sun-Sentinel covered the hell out of the Wasserstrom verdict today, with a front-page piece by John Holland, a story about the jury's decision by Ihosvani Rodriguez, and a perspective-inducing column by Michael Mayo.

The Miami Herald? Well, I could spend a lot of time dissecting the horrendous coverage by reporter Todd Wright throughout the trial, but I'll say that if he ate up any more of the defense's red herrings, he would need to have his stomach pumped.

Two things. First the lede of his story: "Suspended Hollywood Commissioner Keith Wasserstrom never made a penny off a sludge-processing deal he helped orchestrate in 2004."

That happens to echo the lede of Wasserstrom's attorney, Milton Hirsch, in his opening statements ("Not one penny"). The problem is that its completely irrelevent. It was clearly established at trial that Wasserstrom intended to make millions of dollars off the sewage company and, even after the scandal broke, tried to make a cool million (between himself and his uncle, Arnold Goldman).

I have never in my 15 years in this business seen a reporter so smitten with a huckster defense in a criminal case. Here's another passage:

Three of the state's key witnesses disputed claims that Wasserstrom acted corruptly and, instead, seemed to endorse Wasserstrom's actions. Giulianti and Maus butted heads during her testimony, in which the mayor said it was then-City Attorney Dan Abbott, not Wasserstrom, who filled out her disclosure forms.

An expert witness in purchasing, Windol Green, testified that Wasserstrom wouldn't have even been able to make money off the alleged scheme, perhaps damaging the state's unlawful compensation case.

Wright loved him some Windol Green, a retired bureaucrat who had little to nothing to do with the case. And, for the record, Green never testified that "Wasserstrom wouldn't have even been able to make money off the alleged scheme." Green was sitting in an office somewhere completely in the dark about the scheme. The bureaucrat did say that "piggybacking" off the Hollywood contract in other cities wouldn't have been allowed. Which, again, is 100 percent irrelevent, since Goldman testified that he and his nephew intended to piggyback off the contract.

Green also never "endorsed" Wasserstrom's actions. The two witnesses who did? Why, Mayor Mara and Uncle Arnie themselves, who were knee-deep in the corruption and who both proved to be boons to the winning side.

(Also, in Breanne Gilpatrick's sidebar on the rarity of the conviction, she writes that Satz has brought charges against 20 elected officials. That can't be true. She must be talking about "public officials" -- a whole different ballgame.)

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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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