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Rothstein in Review: Who Wouldn't Have Thunk It?

Attorney Scott Rothstein hasn't been charged with any crime, and there's no evidence of wrongdoing at this point, but this morning, it's become clear that there will at least be very serious civil suits against him, the type that will call into question whether he was honest with people who invested money with him.

Can we skip over the stage where we talk about how he had us all fooled? Whatever Rothstein did, he did it in very public fashion. There's simply no excuse for not having at least a gut feeling that Rothstein's honeymoon with high society couldn't last.

One year ago in this newspaper, columnist Bob Norman began a profile that reflected both the fascination and the skepticism of the region's big shots.

Rothstein's big-spending ways and race to the top of the Fort Lauderdale glitterati has legal and business insiders wondering: Who is this guy? Is he for real, or is he building a house of cards?

For real? Or house of cards? If that's a coin flip, then maybe it's not the kind of bet you want to make with your investment dough.

Sun-Sentinel columnist Michael Mayo also sat down with Rothstein, then wrote a column that was also littered with the kinds of questions that should have terrified investors. After expressing bewilderment at Rothstein's fast rise, he quoted the lawyer saying:

"I'm going to ride this wave as long as God allows."
Now there's a comforting thought. And it's not just investors who should have been wary. A slew of politicians -- most of them Republican -- courted Rothstein campaign contributions when they should have known there was danger that those dollars could drag their names into an ugly controversy.

If the wild spending of Rothstein wasn't a clue something was amiss, then at least there was reason to be concerned about his mercurial ways. A fair question for an investor or politician: Why would a guy who truly believed in his charitable causes and who made so much money from ostensibly legitimate business practices also prove to be so sensitive about allegations he was crooked? Back to Norman's column for this Rothstein quote:
"Anyone who says anything about me or prints anything about me that is not true will have a battle on their hands," he says. "Nobody is going to hurt the people I'm close to. And anyone who does it, I guarantee, will pay dearly. When you lie about me, it's going to be like touching the sun."

And who can forget a more recent tirade, from Norman's famous Jewish Avenger column:
"I'm going to sue your wife, and I am going to file a suit against you," he said.

He then went on a three-minute beratement, telling me he was going to basically lay my existence to waste. It was a barrage of words. I can't pretend to quote that part of it verbatim. But the message was clear: He was going to destroy me.

That was a few months ago, and maybe by then he already knew that his good name might not stay that way for long.

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Thomas Francis

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