Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Arthur Teele commits suicide at Herald building

This is a tragic story. Soon after hanging up the phone with Herald columnist Jim DeFede, Art Teele (recently indicted in federal court) committed suicide. The Herald report is here.

One reader notes that the "Miami New Times cover story, which appears in print Thursday but is online tonight here is about Teele and is quite explicit -- looks like he may have gotten a look at it."

On a personal note, I'm just sickened by this. It's an eye-opening reminder that targeting someone (either by the press or by the state or by the feds) has real consequences. I am not suggesting that anyone is to blame for Teele's actions. That said, I have wondered why the feds needed to prosecute Teele after he had been convicted in state court and after he had lost his job and his life. In the end, was it necessary? Even assuming that he committed a crime, there are times when our prosecutors should use discretion. It's easy, of course, to say now that this was one of those cases, but I still wonder why this man (after what he had already gone through) needed to be prosecuted. I'm sure this comment will draw criticism and I'm eager to read and respond to any comments.

UPDATE -- Herald columnist Jim DeFede has been fired for taping his calls with Teele. ''As Teele was becoming unglued [on the phone], I turned on a tape recorder because I could tell that he was distraught and bouncing off the walls,'' DeFede told more than a dozen staffers in the newsroom. "I made an illegal tape and the company decided to fire me.'' DeFede, who did not want to comment further, issued a prepared statement: ''In a tense situation I made a mistake,'' he said. "The Miami Herald executives only learned about it because I came to them and admitted it. "I told them I was willing to accept a suspension and apologize both to the newsroom and our readers. Unfortunately, The Herald decided on the death penalty instead.''

UPDATE 2 -- The Sun-Sentinel caught up with the now unemployed Jim DeFede. Read here.

9 comments:

Brian Tannebaum said...

If it was reversed, the State wouldn't have indicted with pending Federal charges. This is because the notion that the appointed federal system is less political than the elected state system is untrue.

I have a high-profile client, Geralyn Graham, who is now charged with the murder of Rilya Wilson (even though there is no body and no evidence other than the statement of a now 16 time convicted snitch)

When Geralyn was first charged with unrelated fraud just to jail her, a probation offer was made. One week later, the feds indicted on Geralyn's use of a social security card to obtain 7 credit cards. The feds held a press conference and with a straight face announced that this was a signal that social security fraud would not be tolerated.

It was actually a signal that the panicky state prosecutors needed a way to keep her in jail.

I had her brought over to federal court to enter a guilty plea while serving time in state custody and was prevented by the magistrate from doing so. I was told until the feds arrested her, I could not plea guilty.

That's right, a defendant who learns of an indictment cannot enter a federal courtroom and plea guilty unless they are formally arrested. Well, actually, my client couldn't. Funny thing - they didn't arrest her and still haven't.

So while the federal prosecutors will say that Teele committed a crime and that's why he was indicted, the truth is that they just had their claws and fangs in Teele, and were never going to leave him alone period.

That being said, Art Teele will be remembered like a lot of politicians in Miami - a brilliant person who went down the wrong road one too many times.

MrSpkr said...

I have a slightly different take on this -- I don't question the prosecutors so much as the media's reporting.

From my perspective (a lawyer in Dallas, TX), Teele looks corrupt. I can understand prosecuting him if that would ensure he could never again hold public office (remember Marion Barry in D.C.?). I think the media's relentless attacks, and particularly the muckraking article by the Miami New Times, was a major factor in Teele's suicide. I've blogged on it a little, but plan on further exploring the question of how much coverage/investigation of political figures is too much.

David Oscar Markus said...

Steve,

Interesting thoughts. And an interesting post at your blog: http://mrspkr.blogspot.com/2005/07/how-far-is-too-far.html. Again, I don't think anyone is to blame. It seems that the New Times piece had some role, but I don't think one can discount how tolling a federal prosecution can be on an individual and his family.

Michael Carmichael said...

The case of Art Teele is a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. How anybody - especially a practicing attorney - can state categorically as "Stephen" did above, that Art Teele "looks corrupt," as a defense of the federal prosecutors in this case is beyond the bounds of rational deliberation. At this point, the worst crime Art Teele was ever convicted of was making a "threat" to a Miami police officer who had him and his wife under 24 hour surveillance rather like the Gestapo in the 1930s who persecuted Jews in Hitler's Third Reich. On the face of it, Teele was bankrupt and the federal and state government had him under investigation for "corruption". The facts: the feds were investigating $59,000 in fees (a paltry sum) he earned from one client over a six year period. The cost of the federal, state and local investigations and prosecutions of Art Teele is currently unknown, but it was at least several million dollars. Art Teele represents a case of pure political persecution in a cultural climate where racism is deeply embedded into the police, the courts and government. That Jeb Bush was eager to depose Art Teele - which he did prematurely - reveals the depth of political corruption arrayed against a popular, charismatic Afro American politician in South Florida.

aprosecutor said...

how can you possibly say that teele shouldnt have been charged "because of all he went through"? this is not logical. what part of prosecutorial discretion calls for any prosecutor to ignore the fact that someone has committed a crime simply becuase they have already been charged by another jurisdiciton? by your logic teele gets rewarded becuase he was a convicted felon. the co-defendants who were charged with him in his case in your opinion were properly charged, but because he was a convicted felon the state should have "excercised discretion". so let me see if i have this straight in the wonderful world of markus the elected official who is a convicted felon should get a pass becuase he has already suffered enough by losing his job? usually a criminal defendant gets a heavier sentence becuase of a prior but in your case he gets immunity?

aprosecutor said...

as a former state prosecutor who now practices in the area of criminal defense, I cannot understand how much heat Katherine Fernandez Rundle has taken on this whole issue. she gets crucified every four years for being soft on public corruption, she finally finds some big time corruption in the case of teele and everyone is now mad at her. The media keeps blaming her office for releasing the reports of teele's sex life but she really had no choice as the Florida Rules dont give the state an option not to turn over investigative reports. the fault lies with his defense lawyer who could have and should have filed a motion for a protective order seeking that the reports not be disclosed.

David Oscar Markus said...

aprosecutor:
I disagree that Kathy Rundle has been getting heat over this case. I don't think "everyone is now mad at her." As for your earlier comment, my main point is that prosecutors should take into account that when they bring charges it affects people. Whether Teele should have been charged we can debate, but do you really disagree with my central premise?

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