Fresh out of law school in 1972, Jenne did become a Broward County assistant state attorney. During his two years in that job, he formed something of a partnership with another youthful prosecutor, Bob Butterworth, who is now Florida's Attorney General. The two prosecutors pursued some public corruption cases that led to then Sun-Sentinel reporter John DeGroot (who now works for Jenne at the sheriff's office) to nickname them Batman and Robin. Jenne -- a diminutive, reddish, and balding man -- was Robin.
Being Butterworth's sidekick was as close as Jenne ever got to being a cop, and he didn't stick around the justice system for long. At the age of 28, he became a Broward County commissioner, and, a few years later, the still-boyish Jenne was elected to the Florida senate. At various times he chaired each major committee and served as Senate president. His legal career soared when Fort Lauderdale power-attorney William Scherer hired him as a partner in his firm and when Jenne assumed a powerful post at the North Broward Hospital District, where he controlled millions of dollars' worth of legal accounts. His political ties got him the sheriff's job in January, when Gov. Lawton Chiles appointed him to finish the term won by Ron Cochran, who died last year.
Amid the chorus of approval for Chiles' appointee, some dissenters argued that without any law-enforcement experience, Jenne wasn't qualified to be sheriff. He's won most of them over; Robin has become Napoleon -- an outwardly capable administrator and aspiring empire-builder who has energized the Broward Sheriff's Office (BSO) troops. He won the September primary by a landslide, trouncing little-known opponent George Albo, an unemployed former jail guard. The 51-year-old Jenne, relying on the electorate machine he'd built over the past 25 years, raised $274,000 and spent all but $23,000 of it, with big checks coming from leading lawyers, lobbyists, doctors, and businessmen (like Wayne Huizenga, who contributed at least $10,500 to Jenne's campaign, more than the hapless Albo raised altogether).
Jenne's wide array of high-caliber friends and his control of the sheriff's office -- which has a $250 million budget and some 3500 employees -- make him likely the most powerful political force in Broward County. But his political rise hasn't come without its dark side. A few of those friends have been convicted of crimes and provide a window into the very element Jenne has sworn to fight, the underworld of mobsters and drug-smuggling rings, savings and loan frauds, and corrupters of the political process.
One such friend is transportation mogul Jesse P. Gaddis, who gave at least $4000 to Jenne's recent run for sheriff. Another is Emerson Scott Allsworth, a lobbyist, lawyer, and former state representative, whose law firm contributed to Jenne's campaign.
Gaddis and Allsworth are also both convicted felons who between them have had ties to mobsters and major drug-smugglers. Jenne knew this when he accepted the contributions. Both Gaddis and Allsworth continue calling Sheriff Jenne a friend.
Gaddis was convicted of armed robbery at the age of 20, was charged with kidnapping and robbery at the age of 28 (the charges were later dropped), has been investigated for his association with high-ranking mobsters in South Florida, and was also investigated -- but never charged -- in connection with a drug-smuggling operation in which his brother and business partner, Donald Gaddis, was killed.
Despite the felony conviction and the many investigations, Jenne, who once served on former Gov. Bob Graham's Task Force on Organized Crime, has counted Jesse Gaddis as a friend and political ally during his entire political career, doing legal work for him and flirting with the idea of going into business with him. If the $4000 in campaign contributions says anything, the sheriff's relationship with Gaddis hasn't changed since January.
Allsworth, a former state legislator and prominent lawyer and lobbyist, was federally indicted in 1985 on charges of extortion in a case involving another felon named John Lomelo, who was then the mayor of Sunrise. The charges against Allsworth were later dropped on a legal technicality. In 1992 Allsworth was in trouble again, this time pleading guilty to federal charges of laundering money for a drug-smuggling ring. When Allsworth was sentenced, Jenne stood up in court as a character witness and helped convince the judge to go light on Allsworth.
Another friend of Jenne's is Ron Book, who is perhaps the most important lobbyist in South Florida. Book has also been convicted of crimes -- though his one felony charge was later reduced. Jenne's past also links him to a savings and loan business that lost millions and led to indictments against two of his business associates.