2. Kim Rothstein's lawyer Scott Saidel was sentenced to 3 years in federal prison yesterday. From the Sun-Sentinel:
The courtroom was packed Monday morning, nearly 30 strong with supporters of the fallen attorney.
Saidel's defense attorney, Tama Beth Kudman, said her client was not driven by profit or greed and that he erred by viewing Kim Rothstein as a friend rather than a client.
"He saw this woman drowning and he tried to help her," Kudman told the judge. "She was losing everything in the world through no fault of her own. … He handled this horribly, and what he did was absolutely wrong."
Kudman, in her quest for a minimal sentence, emphasized Saidel's "extraordinary life of kindness, and empathy and giving."
"He has lost his career … his wife and child have moved out of their home. … He has no money left," Kudman said. "He's lost everything in the world."
As part of his plea deal, Saidel has agreed to forfeit $515,000 to federal authorities — including the $65,000 he received in legal fees from Kim Rothstein, four expensive pens and a pair of mother of pearl, diamond and sapphire cuff links.
Federal prosecutor Lawrence LaVecchio did not discredit Saidel's good deeds or cooperation with authorities, but he did take issue with minimizing the forethought and planning that went into the scheme to hide the jewelry.
"Nobody gets dragged into federal criminal court in cases like these because they committed errors in judgment," LaVecchio said. "It's not some isolated event, or lapse in judgment, that brought the defendant here today."
From a lectern in the middle of the courtroom, Saidel offered a round of apologies to the government, prosecutors, the judge, the Florida Bar, friends, family and — his voice cracking with emotion — to his client, Kim Rothstein.
"I am profoundly sorry for the conduct that led me here today," he said. "I apologize to my family and friends, who I have let down and hurt and embarrassed, and to my client Kimberly Rothstein, who might not find herself standing here in this very same spot at a later time, if I had simply been a better lawyer."
Seems like a huge sentence to me. What are your thoughts?
3. Meantime, why do misbehaving prosecutors get a pass in court opinions? The Huffington Post examines the interesting issue in this interesting article:
Last month, a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that a prosecutor in San Mateo County, Calif., committed "textbook" misconduct when she "knowingly elicited and then failed to correct false testimony" during an armed robbery trial. A judge from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California also found misconduct in the case, but ruled it was a "harmless error" and upheld the conviction of the defendant, La Carl Martez Dow. The appeals court panel overturned that ruling, and Dow's conviction.
But an important detail was missing from both those rulings -- the prosecutor's name, Jennifer Ow. At the time of Martez Dow's conviction, she was an assistant district attorney for San Mateo county. She currently holds the same title in Nevada County, Calif.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal alleging misconduct by a federal prosecutor who made racially offensive remarks during a drug trial in Texas. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a separate opinion that excoriated the prosecutor, who, she wrote, "tapped a deep and sorry vein of racial prejudice that has run through the history of criminal justice in our Nation."
"It is deeply disappointing to see a representative of the United States resort to this base tactic more than a decade into the 21st century," she wrote. "Such conduct diminishes the dignity of our criminal justice system and undermines respect for the rule of law. We expect the Government to seek justice, not to fan the flames of fear and prejudice."
But Sotomayor didn't name the prosecutor, either. And while her opinion attracted a fair amount of media attention, those initial accounts also failed to give the prosecutor's name.
Ken White, a former federal prosecutor who now blogs at Popehat.com, checked the legal document service PACER and tracked down the name: Sam L. Ponder. He is still an assistant U.S. attorney in Texas.
After White found Ponder's name, many media outlets amended their original reports to include it. But the case is an exception. The names of misbehaving prosecutors are rarely if ever included in appellate court opinions that find misconduct. Those opinions aren't all that well covered in the media to begin with, but when they are, it can take a fair amount of digging for a reporter on the courts beat to match the prosecutor to the case. So most don't.
There's no formal rule precluding the publication of a prosecutor's name in an opinion. White says it's more about professional courtesy.
"It's tradition. It's an informal practice driven by the government's fairly strong stand that the names shouldn't be published," he said. "I've seen some really egregious, outrageous examples of misconduct in which the government actually asked for opinions to be republished to remove names of specific prosecutors."
4. The Sun-Sentinel has this long piece on how the Sunrise police department and others like it are making millions off of the cocaine business:
Police in this suburban town best known for its sprawling outlet mall have hit upon a surefire way to make millions. They sell cocaine.
Police confiscate millions from these deals, money that fuels huge overtime payments for the undercover officers who conduct the drug stings and cash rewards for the confidential informants who help detectives entice faraway buyers, a six-month Sun Sentinel investigation found.
Police have paid one femme fatale informant more than $800,000 over the past five years for her success in drawing drug dealers into the city, records obtained by the newspaper show.
Undercover officers tempt these distant buyers with special discounts, even offering cocaine on consignment and the keys to cars with hidden compartments for easy transport. In some deals, they’ve provided rides and directions to these strangers to Sunrise.
This being western Broward County, not South Beach, the drama doesn’t unfold against a backdrop of fast boats, thumping nightclubs or Art Deco hotels.
It’s absurdly suburban.
Many of the drug negotiations and busts have taken place at restaurants around the city’s main attraction, Sawgrass Mills mall, including such everyday dining spots as TGI Fridays, Panera Bread and the Don Pan International Bakery.
Why would police bring criminals to town?
5. Is a hot bench always a good thing at the Supreme Court. The NY Times looks into it:
The Supreme Court has what lawyers call a hot bench, and temperatures are rising.