Sun-Sentinel columnist Micheal Mayo weighs in on the Seidlin story this morning with a piece focused on Lawrence "Chris" Roberts, the man who blew the whistle on Judges Larry Seidlin and Robert Zack. The piece has its merits, including being the first to report that Roberts was planning to move out of the area (I only learned that Friday afternoon myself) and squarely looking at the ethical quagmire involved. But Mayo, in the midst of the column, takes flight from reality:
"It's hard to say whether Roberts should be lauded for his 11th-hour integrity or lambasted for his self-serving timing.
After all, it's pretty easy to set the town ablaze on the way out. True virtue would have meant refusing the gift and loan requests and immediately reporting the judges."
True virtue at the Broward County Courthouse?
Pardon me while I laugh my ass off. The courthouse has been so deeply corrupt for so long that finding "true virtue" there is like finding true peace in Iraq. It's just not there. That place is packed with stories about prosecutors cavorting with judges, of undisclosed gifts and illicit favors, of justice subverted, of, in fact, every sin imaginable. But those stories will never be told. I know a few ditties myself that would take the Seidlin matter to another level and make for a new scandal or two.
But the people at the heart of them, namely lawyers, know what will happen if they snitch (and Roberts' use of the word "rat" in Mayo column is telling). They'll be blackballed. They'll be smeared. They'll be destroyed, plain and simple. They can't tell the story, and if they do it's off the record. And if it's repeated, they'll deny it.
And yes, a lot of them may already be compromised. Like Roberts, who bought that purse for Seidlin and loaned the $2,500 to Judge Robert Zack. But Mayo mischaracterizes the
sequence of events in how Roberts came to tell those stories. He writes that Roberts "first" outed Seidlin. Actually, Roberts came out against Zack first. Why? He wanted his damn money back. Zack had asked for the money to help fix his home of its Wilma damage and promised to quickly pay it back. He never did -- until Roberts told the story to Channel 7.
I heard about the Zack story before it aired on television and called Roberts, trying to get the scoop on Zack. He told me that he had promised Channel 7's Carmel Cafiero that he wouldn't blab about it to another reporter. Of course, I respected that. Then he started talking about Seidlin, saying that I should investigate him.
But he didn't want his name used -- he didn't want to be perceived as a snitch at the mafia-like house of justice on Southest Sixth Street. I did what any good reporter does, I listened and encouraged him to keep talking. After a while, he said, just so I would understand, he would tell me a story, but it was "top secret" and I couldn't tell anybody. That was the story about the purse, which was followed by the anecdote about the Polo shirt.
I only had a few days, but decided I was going to do a Seidlin story and I made great headway on the allegation that Seidlin was financially exploiting Barbara Kasler, an elderly woman in his building. During the course of the reporting, I asked Roberts to go on record several times. He wouldn't agree, but as time passed he became less immobile on the issue.
Then I got lucky and got his former secretary, Nikki Jarema, on the phone. I found her phone number online after learning that she was now a realtor. She was the one who actually purchased the Louis Vuitton purse. I asked her if she remembered. She was suspicious of me, but I told her that I had spoken to her former boss and that I was just confirming his story. She said she remembered buying the purse, but didn't think it was that big of a deal. After all, she said, the purse wasn't even for Seidlin, it was for Seidlin's wife.
That was on the record. I called Roberts, told him about the conversation, and he agreed to go on the record.
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Hardly a strategy. The truth is that Roberts wanted the truth to come out about Seidlin, but he didn't want to be anywhere near the story. Ultimately, he came forward. And, believe me, the machine is now trying to bring him down, smearing him based on his past, which included some legendary drunkenness in the early 80s that cost him his own judgeship. He's even had a Bar complaint lodged against him recently for the Zack matter.
The fact that Roberts who is 60 years-old is planning to leave means that Roberts was only taking a great risk rather than simply committing professional suicidal. And for pious and puffy Norm Kent to come out in Mayo's column with a holier-than-thou quote about Roberts committing a "tremendous disservice" by not coming forward at the time Seidlin asked for the purse is disgusting. I like Kent, who has all the vices and virtues of America wrapped up in his hard little self-promoting soul, but he is absolutely full of sanctimonious shit here.
Kent has been writing rather schizophrenic posts on JAABlog lately about the Seidlin scandal. In one, he seems to warn future whistleblowers that they will be destroyed. In the latest, he comes off like some grandiose justice seeker. Speaking of the excellent JAABlog, there's a mess of lawyers who comment there about these matters. And they're all sound and fury who in the end signify nothing. They bitch and whine and complain but they don't have the stones to come forward for the good reasons listed above.
Only Roberts has had the fortitude to do it so far and you're damn right he should be lauded for doing so, even if it did come at the 11th hour.