Friday, July 03, 2009

Sealed Mutual Benefits stuff starts to leak

Jay Weaver has the lengthy front page story here. Our prior coverage is here. The bombshell from the article is that Paul Huck Jr. was one of the reasons a number of documents were sealed and a number of judges recused (including Judge Huck). Of course Huck Jr. has been cleared of all wrongdoing -- he is a stand-up and ethical lawyer. But for him to have to go through this is terrible. From the intro to the Herald article:

The U.S. Justice Department is investigating corruption allegations made by an indicted Fort Lauderdale insurance executive who, in a bid for a favorable plea deal, has named lawyers, lobbyists and fundraisers he claims plotted with him to thwart a state crackdown on him and his industry.

Justice officials have convened a federal grand jury to pursue the claims of former Mutual Benefits Corp. chief Joel Steinger. The wealthy businessman contends that he orchestrated a campaign to stifle a 1999-2000 statewide grand jury probe by attempting to improperly influence public officials, three knowledgeable sources have told The Miami Herald.

One of the officials Steinger named was lawyer Paul Huck Jr., a former deputy to state Attorney General Charlie Crist. But Huck confirmed that he was one of six public officials already cleared of any wrongdoing by the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section. Huck said authorities have told him that he was "a reputational victim of statements made by a third party.''

Others who remain under scrutiny: several prosecutors and officials who worked under Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth and his successor, Crist.

Judge Jordan had this to say:

''Disclosure of those names, and the matters being investigated, could have devastating consequences for those persons who have been cleared of any misconduct, as well as for those still under investigation,'' Jordan wrote, adding that the grand jury probe was ancillary to the Mutual Benefits fraud investigation.

Jordan stressed that, according to the Public Integrity Section, the six exonerated officials "had no knowledge of, or participation in, any of the alleged wrongdoing.''

More on Huck Jr. and his comment about having to go through such an ordeal:

Among them: Huck Jr., who was a deputy attorney general in Fort Lauderdale when Mutual Benefits was being prosecuted in Broward by the statewide prosecutor. The post is part of the attorney general's office. Mutual Benefits pleaded guilty to racketeering charges in 2007. Huck was not the prosecutor on that case.

Huck, who later became Gov. Crist's general counsel and now is in private practice in Miami, confirmed that he is one of the public officials the judge referred to as being cleared. Huck declined to comment further, saying he does not want to interfere with the probe.

''It's a real shame when folks in public service have to deal with that, and it makes it that much harder to attract people to go into public service in the first place,'' Huck told The Miami Herald.


Anonymous said...

Was it proper for Judge Huck to hear criminal cases during the course of his son's investigation by DOJ?

Anonymous said...

Not one witness to the Grand Jury and six subjects are cleared of all wrongdoing, including the son of a USDC judge? Something's rotten somewhere.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry Huck was slimed. I am sure he is a good guy. But how about this issue: if he wasn't named Huck and his case was sent to Huck, he and his lawyer would have about 20 days to gather evidence before being forced to plea or go to trial. And as that 20 days approached and he asked for a continuance here is what Huck would say (because he said it to me)

"of course you're entitled to a continuance. You've never had one. The trial is set for Tuesday the 10th. You say there are over 8,000 documents and you haven't read them all? Ok. How about Thursday the 12th?"

Maybe because this strikes closer to home Judge Huck might relent a bit and give attorneys a real chance to get ready. We all don't live in Roy Black's rarefied air where we only work on one or two cases at a time.