Ft. Lauderdale police snooped on investigator helping FBI probe police corruption, suit says

By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org 

Allen Smith, left, chief investigator for the Broward Public Defender's Offfice, with Public Defender Howard Finkelstein

Allen Smith, left, chief investigator for the Broward Public Defender’s Offfice, with Public Defender Howard Finkelstein

The chief investigator for the Broward Public Defender’s Office sued Fort Lauderdale last week alleging that a city policeman impermissibly obtained his driver’s license records while he was helping the FBI investigate police corruption in the city.

The federal civil action is the second since September to accuse police in Broward of using their otherwise legitimate access to a confidential law enforcement database to commit privacy violations against members of the Public Defender’s Office.

The incidents spurred Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein to ask the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles, which runs the database, to find out whether the license information of any other staff attorneys, investigators or administrators has been improperly checked. The DMV has not yet responded.

“We’re concerned,” said Finkelstein. “Clearly, the police had no legitimate reason to do this.”

Last week’s lawsuit was filed by Allen Smith, a 26-year veteran of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department who joined the Public Defender’s Office as an investigator in 1997. It alleges that in 2011, while Smith was assisting federal agents in their corruption probe, the FBI put his name on a watch list to be notified if his name was run through any government databases.

On Nov. 29, 2011, the FBI notified Smith that Fort Lauderdale Officer James Wood had accessed his records through the DMV’s Driver and Vehicle Information Database.

“Plaintiff was later informed that his driver’s license photograph was printed and used as a target on a dart board in the Fort Lauderdale police station,” says the nine-page complaint.

Smith, who the lawsuit says has never been arrested or stopped and ticketed while driving in the city, was made to “feel at risk as if he is subject to law enforcement scrutiny as a result of his work on police corruption investigations.”

Smith reported the matter to the State Attorney’s Office. In June 2012, prosecutor Stefanie Newman declined to prosecute. Her close-out memo says that while there was evidence that Wood exceeded his authority by obtaining Smith’s records for “personal reasons,” there “is no indication he disseminated that information in violation” of criminal statutes.

The department’s Internal Affairs division also cleared Wood, a decision later accepted without much probing by Fort Lauderdale’s Citizens Police Review Board, a body staffed by city Internal Affairs detectives and governed by a nine-member board that includes three city officers.

Officer Wood, who is not a named defendant in Smith’s lawsuit, did not respond to a request for comment passed through the department’s media relations office. The City Attorney’s Office also did not return a phone call seeking comment.

In separate interviews, both Finkelstein and Smith said the FBI approached the Public Defender’s Office in 2011 for assistance as the bureau was establishing an anti-corruption unit in Broward.

“We were asked by them to furnish information we had in our files,” said Smith. “Knowing police officers the way I do, I told them that if it got out I was working with the FBI, my name and personal identification information would be checked so I asked to be put on an alert list. Two weeks later was when it was run.”

Smith said he ultimately gave the FBI “half a box full of stuff” regarding incidents of apparent police corruption in Broward.

What did the FBI do with that information? What is the status and scope of the FBI’s previously unreported police corruption investigation?

Smith doesn’t know. “You know how the feds are. You feed them, but they don’t give you any snacks in return,” he said.

FBI Special Agent Richard Stout, who met with Finkelstein and Smith, did not respond to a detailed voicemail message requesting comment.

Smith’s complaint, assigned to U.S. District Judge James Cohn, contends that the city violated the federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), passed in response to the 1989 murder of television actress Rebecca Schaeffer by a crazed fan who obtained her address from the California Department of Motor Vehicles. It asserts that police obtained Smith’s records “without any permissible purpose for doing so.”

The suit seeks a declaration that the city broke federal law regarding the disclosure of personal information, and an order prohibiting the city from future violations. Also sought: liquidated damages of $2,500 per violation and unspecified punitive damages.

Assistant Public Defender Molly Caroline McCrae filed a class-action lawsuit citing the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act against both Fort Lauderdale and the Broward Sheriff’s Office this fall. She has the same lawyers that Smith does, Paul Kunz of Miami and Michael L. Greenwald of Boca Raton.

McCrae has been a public defender since 2009, handling homicide and other cases. According to her complaint, she has never been arrested or stopped while driving and has no reason to believe she is the focus of any criminal investigation.

However, after becoming concerned that her motor vehicle records may have been inappropriately accessed, McCrae asked the DMV to check. She got back a list showing that three law enforcement officers from Fort Lauderdale and BSO obtained her records four times in 2011 and 2012. The suit identifies those cases and policemen as:

  • Fort Lauderdale Officer Ethan Hodge obtained McCrae’s records on Sept. 17, 2011, ten days after she subpoenaed him to appear for a deposition in a third-degree felony case in which she was representing the defendant.
  • Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Ronald Cusumano obtained McCrae’s records on Nov. 3, 2011. At the time, Cusumano was listed as a witness in another third-degree felony case in which McCrae was the defense lawyer.
  • Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Anthony Lucca got McCrae’s motor vehicle records twice on Aug. 24, 2012.

The police actions to obtain her motor vehicle records “in violation of the DPPA” made McCrae, like Smith, “feel at risk and as if she is subject to law enforcement scrutiny as a result of her work as a public defender.”

Citing “repeated efforts” of police to improperly access McCrae’s motor vehicle records, the lawsuit contends that city officers and county deputies “routinely obtain private motor vehicle records of Broward County public defenders, without consent and without a permissible purpose for doing so.”

The proposed class in McCrae’s lawsuit: all current and former employees of the Public Defender’s Office whose motor vehicle records were obtained from Sept. 11, 2011 through Sept. 11, 2015 by an officer or deputy who got a subpoena or notice to testify.

Neither the Fort Lauderdale Police nor the Broward Sheriff’s Office responded to requests for comment about McCrae’s case.

Sex offender convinces appeal court to reverse Broward judge

By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org 

Fourth District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach

Fourth District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach

Every day, state prisoners flood Florida’s courts with appeals and pleadings about their cases that they’ve written themselves. Those pro se filings – Latin for “on his own behalf” – rarely get far.

This spring, however, an inmate sex offender serving a life sentence convinced the Fourth District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach that a Broward judge erred when she failed to order prosecutors to explain potentially serious discrepancies about his Miranda rights warning form.

The state introduced the Miranda form as evidence at Charles D. Williams’ 1998 trial, but Williams contends the document was a fraud and that police forged his signature. For years, Williams and his family filed public records requests seeking to obtain a copy.

“After serving multiple requests to the Broward County Clerk and the State Attorney’s Office over a course of years, his brother finally obtained a copy of a Miranda waiver form,” says the unanimous order by a three-judge appeal panel. “The date on the form produced differed from the date on the form introduced at trial, and the signature on the form produced varied from the petitioner’s signature.”

The panel ordered Broward Circuit Judge Lisa Porter to require prosecutors and the clerk’s office to respond to the “factual issue of whether the form produced is the same as the form introduced at trial.” If the response doesn’t resolve the matter, Porter was instructed to “hold an evidentiary hearing.”

Imprisoned sex offender Charles D. Williams

Imprisoned sex offender Charles D. Williams

The court issued its mandate to Judge Porter on June 12 after denying a request for reconsideration by Florida Assistant Attorney General Richard Valtunas, who in previous court papers called Williams’ assertions “outlandish allegations of fraud and skullduggery.” The judge had not taken action as of Monday.

Williams, who next week turns 76, was a longtime Pompano Beach resident when Broward Sheriff’s detectives arrested him in 1996 on multiple counts of sexually battering or molesting his teenage stepdaughter. He was convicted after a three-day trial in March 1998. His conviction was upheld on appeal.

Starting in 2006, Williams and his family began filing public records requests for a copy of the Miranda waiver form presented by the state as evidence at his trial. After repeated visits and phone calls, Clerk Howard Forman’s office advised that it didn’t have the form in their file. Meanwhile, the State Attorney’s Office provided a copy, but Williams claims it wasn’t the same form the state used at trial and that the signature on it isn’t his signature.

Williams, housed at the Department of Correction’s South Florida Reception Center in Doral,  petitioned Broward Circuit civil Judge John Bowman in 2011 to compel the state to produce a “true” copy of his Miranda waiver form. He based his claim on the signature discrepancy and “trial testimony from a police officer in which the officer referred to the document as an ‘Affidavit of Conform’ and described the rights on the form differently than as written on the ‘Waiver of Counsel’ form provided by the State Attorney’s Office to his brother,” according to the appellate decision.

Bowman found Williams’ petition legally sufficient and transferred the matter to Porter in the criminal division, where it sat for three years until Porter denied it and entered an order prohibiting Williams from further pro se filings.

“Because the petition established a legally sufficient basis for relief, as determined by the civil court judge, the criminal court judge erred in denying the petition,” the appeal court’s decision says.

The tragic story of Josh Stein: A sick tortoise, an urge to help and a fatal trip through Broward’s Felony Mental Health Court

Josh Stein, a mentally troubled man of 38, died of an apparent accidental drug overdose the day after Christmas.  Broward’s elected public defender, Howard Finkelstein, says Stein’s death can be traced to anxiety and stress caused by “cattle car justice” meted out in Broward’s Felony Mental Health Court. In a letter last week to Chief Judge Peter Weinstein, Finkelstein chronicled Stein’s journey through the system after his burglary arrest in July 2013 for an ill advised taking, without permission, of a sickly red-footed tortoise that Stein wanted to nurse back to health. Finkelstein, who helped establish the specialized court to protect the mentally disabled in 2003, now says Felony Mental Health Court is a failure that must be shut down. 

Josh Stein

Josh Stein

Dear Chief Judge Weinstein,

Josh Stein is dead. A 38-year-old man has been forever silenced. His mother and father will never again see his smile, hear his laugh or hold and hug him. Their only son is lost forever. Now they are left with only pictures and memories.

He died a victim of Broward County’s Felony Mental Health Court’s callous, misguided treatment of the mentally ill. (more…)

“Serious concerns” about court orders altered by BSO prompt Broward judges’ meeting

By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org 

Broward County Court Judges Sharon Zeller, right, and Ginger Lerner-Wren

Broward County Court Judges Sharon Zeller, right, and Ginger Lerner-Wren

Concerned that the sheriff’s office has altered the terms of misdemeanor probation orders without informing judges, Broward’s top county court judge has called a meeting of judges for next week to assess what’s happening.

“It is apparent that there is a practice of modifying the terms of probation without the knowledge or input of the judiciary,” Administrative Judge Sharon Zeller said in a recent memo to all criminal division judges that announced the Dec. 10 meeting.

“This raises serious concerns: the legality of probation, with probation, instead of the court, determining the terms of probation; modifying terms of probation without knowledge of the court, and enforcement.”

No law or administrative order of the Broward court authorizes the Broward Sheriff’s Office to engage in the little-known practice of unilaterally changing court-ordered reporting requirements to reduce how often defendants must report in person to a probation officer.

Florida Statute 948.03 gives judges the sole authority to “determine the terms and conditions of probation.”

As BrowardBulldog.org reported last month, Broward County Court Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren discovered what BSO was doing in early October while questioning a defendant. She quickly found that dozens of her probation orders had been changed, and prohibited the practice in her courtroom, calling it “outside the law” and “not in the interest of public safety.”

A probation officer later told the judge in open court, “This is occurring in order to alleviate workforce shortages or pressures.”

In an interview, Judge Zeller said that an attorney for the circuit court, Alexandra Rieman, has researched the matter and “believes that Judge Lerner-Wren is correct.” Zeller said a new administrative order of the court might be needed to address the problem.

“It seems easily solvable,” Zeller said.


BSO Community Programs Director David Scharf, who oversees probation, said in an interview that BSO adopted the practice as policy about 2009, but he declined several requests over the past month to make public a copy of that policy.

The practice, known as “dosage probation,” is based on what Scharf said are “evidence-based” risk assessments of probationers to determine how many doses, or times, a probationer must report in person to an officer. He cited language in standard misdemeanor probation order forms that he said authorizes probation officers to modify conditions imposed by a judge. The form tells defendants that “each month you will make a full and truthful report in person to your probation officer, unless otherwise directed by your probation officer.”

Thousands of misdemeanor defendants are adjudicated guilty every year and many are sentenced to varying terms of probation. Asked how many times BSO changed court-ordered reporting requirements for misdemeanor defendants last year, Scharf declined to answer.

Judge Zeller said she does not plan to ask BSO to provide such an accounting, but said individual judges may do so.

Probationers instructed not to report are nevertheless required to pay BSO the full cost of supervision, a monthly fee of $75.

Take the case of Christopher Thurlow, a Fort Lauderdale man found guilty last April of battery and sentenced to “make a full and truthful report in person to your probation officer” once a month for 12 months. A standard special condition of probation required him to pay the full cost of his supervision, $900, at a rate of $75 a month.

Court and BSO records show BSO later deemed Thurlow a medium risk, placing him on what’s known as Level 2 supervision. Level 2 offenders are told to report in person every other month – or six times a year. In the months they aren’t required to show up for an in-person assessment, they mail in a form with several questions including, “Have you used alcohol excessively or any controlled substances this month?”

No matter how often he reports in person, however, BSO still requires Thurlow to pay the full $900 for 12 months of reporting supervision. “Probationers do pay monthly costs of supervision regardless of their report in status,” BSO spokeswoman Keyla Concepcion explained.


Misdemeanor probation supervision fees represent a significant sum for BSO. During the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, BSO supervised 12,500 misdemeanor probationers and collected $2.8 million in such fees, according to information provided by BSO.

BSO’s probation workload is crushing. Last year, BSO employed just 31 probation specialists to handle the onslaught of probationers.

The State Attorney’s Office has taken a wait-and-see approach, with a spokesman indicating sympathy for Judge Lerner-Wren’s concerns, but saying it’s “not directly our fight.”

In a Nov. 18 memo about the matter to her fellow judges, Judge Lerner-Wren mentioned receiving a call from Sheriff Scott Israel days after BrowardBulldog.org reported the story.

He “wanted to say he was 95 percent in agreement. He also stated he only wants to work with the judges and his office will gladly comply with whatever a judge wants for his or her division,” said Lerner-Wren.

Lerner-Wren, who declined to be interviewed about her conversation with the sheriff, also cited “pertinent” Florida law, including the Separation of Powers provision of the Florida Constitution.

“It seems logical to conclude that unless county criminal division judges transmit a directive to BSO to curtail the systemic practice of changing sentencing orders of probation without court notification or court approval, this practice will continue,” she wrote.

BSO’s practice of altering probation terms could also run afoul of another constitutional provision which expressly grants victims of crime “the right to be informed, to be present, and to be heard when relevant, at all stages of criminal proceedings.”

In Thurlow’s case, for example, the battery victim was not informed about a Nov. 13 hearing at which his terms of probation were discussed, according to a transcript of the proceedings.

Broward’s criminal justice system failing mentally ill, too costly

Broward Chief Judge Peter Weinstein, left, and Public Defender Howard Finkelstein

Broward Chief Judge Peter Weinstein, left, and Public Defender Howard Finkelstein

Editors Note:
Last month, BrowardBulldog.org  published the story of Broward’s “Forgotten Soldier” – a mentally ill ex-Marine in his late fifties whose journey through the county’s long broken mental health system was marred by illegal confinement and a lack of appropriate care.

The compelling story of the Forgotten Soldier was written by Owen McNamee and Douglas Brawley, two assistant public defenders who represent him. Last week, their boss, elected Broward Public Defender wrote to Broward Chief Judge Peter Weinstein to compare the treatment of the mentally ill by the criminal justice systems of Broward and Miami-Dade. Finkelstein concluded that Broward’s mental health system is backwards, cruel and unnecessarily costly.

“We need to get back on track and Miami-Dade has provided a successful model to follow,” Finkelstein said. Here is Finkelstein’s November 19 letter to Weinstein: (more…)

BSO quietly changes court’s probation orders; Broward judge blows the whistle

By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org 

Broward County Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren, left, and David Scharf, director of community programs for the Broward Sheriff's Office

Broward County Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren, left, and David Scharf, director of community programs for the Broward Sheriff’s Office

Fort Lauderdale resident Christopher Wayne Thurlow was adjudged guilty last April of misdemeanor battery and violating a restraining order. His sentence: 12 months of reporting probation – that is, to appear personally once a month before a probation officer.

But that’s not what happened.

Without informing the court, the Broward Sheriff’s Probation Office changed Thurlow’s court-ordered reporting requirement to once every two months.

Broward County Court Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren, who signed Thurlow’s probation order, chanced to find out October 2 when Thurlow appeared in her courtroom again for arraignment on new charges of resisting arrest without violence and a related criminal traffic charge.

“I asked (the prosecutor) to contact probation, as I knew defendant was currently on probation. The defendant indicated to the court that he was told he did not have to report,” Lerner-Wren told Chief Judge Peter Weinstein in a memo the next day.

At a hearing, Judge Lerner-Wren soon learned from a probation officer that BSO had similarly modified other probation orders without her knowledge.

“This is being done with no court order or other known administrative authority,” she wrote.

Lerner-Wren signed an order banning the practice in her courtroom, calling it “outside of the law” and “not in the interest of public safety.” Her memo adds that Charmin Gilbert, the probation officer, stated “this is occurring in order to alleviate workforce shortages or pressures.”

Since then, Lerner-Wren has informed the court’s top administrative judges by memo that she’s identified dozens of similar cases in her court culled from a list of 125 pending court-ordered probation cases compiled by the probation office.


“The majority appear to have been modified, changed or altered without court notification, opportunity for court review and without court approval,” she wrote in an Oct. 29 memo obtained by BrowardBulldog.org. “The practice seems to have emerged as early as 2010, with the pattern apparently being systemized in 2014.”

Lerner-Wren, a veteran member of Broward’s bench, declined comment. But in her Oct. 29 memo she expressed concern about BSO’s actions.

“In my view, this situation raises a number of serious legal issues, particularly as to the integrity of court process, legal enforcement of sentencing orders by the court and potential public safety issues,” she said.

The memo indicates particular concern that BSO Probation’s actions violate the rights of victims of violent crimes.

“It is unknown how many modified cases involve a victim and/or are violence related,” she said. “In my view, this raises constitutional issues relating to the legal question of whether or not victims had a right to be notified and be heard pertaining to a change in post-conviction sentencing.”

County Court administrative Judge Sharon Zeller and Criminal Division chairwoman Judge Mary Rudd Robinson did not respond to requests for comment over several days. Chief Judge Weinstein is on vacation.

Ron Ishoy, a spokesman for State Attorney Michael Satz, said his office is aware of the matter and has been in contact about it with BSO officials.

“It’s not directly our fight (but) we certainly understand Judge Lerner-Wren’s concern and we’ll continue to monitor it,” Ishoy said.

Florida Statute 948.03 gives judges the sole authority to “determine the terms and conditions of probation.”


But David Scharf, who oversees probation as BSO’s director of community programs, indicated in an interview that his office has modified the terms of court-ordered probation in each of Broward County’s misdemeanor criminal courts because it is standard BSO policy. If so, hundreds or perhaps thousands of cases could be affected.

Scharf added that while he’s aware of judicial concerns about possible illegality, he sees no actual problem.

“Our practice is not contrary to any court order,” he said, citing standard language in misdemeanor probation orders that he says authorizes probation officers to modify conditions imposed by a judge.

That language on forms defendants sign says, “Each month you will make a full and truthful report in person to your probation officer, unless otherwise directed by your probation officer.”

Scharf explained that the practice, known as “dosage probation,” is rooted in what’s known as “evidence-based decision making” that involves the use of “objective risk assessment” criteria to assess whether a probationer is high, medium or low risk. BSO, without court input, then determines how many doses, or times, someone on probation must physically report to an officer.

“We as an agency are committed to public safety. The claim that we are compromising public safety we refute tremendously,” Scharf said. “Our successful completion rates are up.”

Scharf said he does not understand why Judge Lerner-Wren was not aware of BSO Probation’s policy because dosage has been part of BSO policy since about 2009.

“I don’t know what she doesn’t know,” said Scharf, who did not produce a copy of the policy despite several requests. “We have probation officers in court and have for many years. There’s never been a question or an issue about how we operated.”

He said BSO is currently developing a response to the court.

“We’re ready to work with the judiciary and formulate a plan, and if they want more discretion in how they are handling things we certainly are willing to do that – with the caveat that what we are doing is working,” said Scharf.

Meanwhile, Judge Lerner-Wren has informed judicial higher-ups of her plans to schedule “review hearings of all cases identified by BSO Probation to reaffirm court orders, hear input from the parties and evaluate the need for further court action.

“I wanted to share this new information in order that my colleagues may consider what steps, if any, to take in their respective criminal divisions,” she said.

Broward prosecutors vilify BSO detective who alleged misconduct; ‘Bloody…not improper’

By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org bsohomicide

A Broward Sheriff’s homicide detective who reported that Fort Lauderdale police unleashed a dog on a murder suspect who was in custody and no longer a threat should not be believed, according to a memo by local prosecutors closing the case.

“A violent, bloody, confused, quickly-developing, and unfortunate turn of events, but not improper action by the Fort Lauderdale Police Department officers and not a violation of Florida law,” concludes the 10-page memo signed by Timothy L. Donnelly, chief of the Broward State Attorney’s public corruption unit.

Jeffrey Kogan, a featured detective on the A&E channel’s police reality show The First 48, claims he was ostracized and demoted to road patrol in Pompano Beach for reporting what he saw. In July, he filed a whistleblower suit against Sheriff Scott Israel, claiming unlawful retaliation.

The state’s investigation began after a brief conversation between Kogan and homicide prosecutor Lanie Bandell three days after the April 4, 2013 arrest of murder suspect Walter Morris Hart. Bandell said Kogan had asked her whether the use of the dog would negatively affect the prosecution. When she asked why, Kogan said, “You know, they let the dog loose after we had him in custody.” Bandell alerted her colleagues in public corruption.

The inquiry that followed ended with the Feb. 26 close-out memo, written by Assistant State Attorney Nickolaus Hunter Davis, that castigates Deputy Kogan for giving sworn testimony that the memo says was “inconsistent” and “not credible.” Worse, the memo suggests Kogan deliberately lied – though prosecutors filed no criminal charge against him.

Broward Sheriff's Homicide Detective Jeffrey Kogan Photo: A&E Network

Broward Sheriff’s Homicide Detective Jeffrey Kogan Photo: A&E Network

The recommendation to State Attorney Mike Satz: take no action against Robert Morris, the city K-9 officer on scene who unleashed his dog “Grief” on murder suspect Walter Morris Hart in the early morning hours of April 4, 2013. The memo also recommended no action be taken against Fort Lauderdale Officers Jason Marcus and Craig Sheehan, who were also present.

Still, the state’s investigation offers no satisfactory explanation for why Kogan, a veteran BSO detective with a history of superior performance evaluations, would make such an unfounded accusation against his fellow officers.

The memo asserts the lawsuit gave Kogan a reason to lie – “a direct financial motive to testify in a manner that makes Officers Morris, Marcus, and Sheehan’s conduct seem as outrageous as possible.”

Yet the lawsuit wasn’t filed until three months after Hart’s capture and a month after Kogan gave a pair of sworn statements to state investigators.

Moreover, Florida’s Whistleblower Act is not a path to a windfall. Employees who prevail under the act are only entitled to reinstatement to the same or an equivalent position with full seniority and benefits, compensation for any lost remuneration and attorney’s fees and costs.

Kogan’s demotion cost him $75 from his biweekly paycheck, according to his lawyer.

“He doesn’t have a financial motive. Does anyone really think he’s going to taint his career for $150 a month?” said attorney Tonja Haddad Coleman.

Both the state’s investigation, and the ongoing whistleblower lawsuit, arose from the April 3, 2013 fatal stabbing of 20-year-old Keema Gooding in a residence at 3024 NW Eighth Court in unincorporated Fort Lauderdale. Hart, who lived there, was identified as the prime suspect.

Hart, now 20, was soon determined to be hiding out at another home within Fort Lauderdale’s city limits. BSO deputies and Fort Lauderdale police arrived at 1701 NW 15th Place about 1 a.m.  A short time later, Hart fled out the back door where city officers were waiting.

Murder suspect Walter Hart Photo: BSO

Murder suspect Walter Hart Photo: BSO

In his lawsuit, Kogan said that when he entered the backyard Hart was sitting on the ground with his hands behind his back and was not resisting or being combative. Then, the lawsuit said, the Fort Lauderdale K-9 officer “unnecessarily deployed his canine, who bit the suspect on his right arm.”

The memo says Hart’s injuries to his right arm later required “eight or nine stitches to close.”

Hart, who remains jailed while awaiting trial on charges of second-degree murder and resisting an officer with violence, refused to be interviewed by prosecutors, but gave a similar account to friends and relatives he telephoned from jail. The calls were tape-recorded by authorities, the memo says.

“I dropped on the ground and they still let the dog bite on me for five minutes…you know how city police is,” Hart said in one conversation on April 11, 2013, the memo says.

Prosecutors later dismissed Kogan’s testimony as “imprecise and impeachable.” Hart’s statements were discounted as coming from “a murderer.”

Instead, prosecutors credited the testimony of BSO Sgt. David Ellwood, Kogan’s supervisor and fellow star on The First 48, and BSO Sgt. Ian Sklar, a K-9 deputy who was on scene but kept his dog in his vehicle.

BSO Homicide Sgt. Dave Ellwood Photo: A&E Network

BSO Homicide Sgt. Dave Ellwood Photo: A&E Network

According to the memo, Ellwood stated under oath that he never entered the backyard and was thus unable to see how Hart was taken into custody. However, Ellwood testified that Kogan didn’t enter the backyard until after he heard Hart scream as the police dog was biting him.

“I’ve been a cop for 23 years. I know what that screaming sounds like. That is a person, a human being, being bit by a dog,” Ellwood said.

Sklar testified that he managed to “peek” over a six-foot wooden fence and saw Officers Marcus and Sheehan struggling with Hart on the ground while trying to handcuff him. As the struggle continued, Morris appeared with his dog. Marcus and Sheehan disengaged and then Morris released the dog.

Sklar said K-9 procedure is that a dog should not be removed until the suspect is handcuffed. He said, “they did not remove the dog until after the guy was handcuffed…that’s what [Kogan was] standing there witnessing.”

The memo concludes the testimony of Ellwood and Sklar “makes it seem very unlikely Kogan would have even had an opportunity to see whether Morris had cause to deploy the dog,”

A status conference in the homicide case is set for April 23 before Broward Circuit Judge Raag Singhal.

The governor and the felon: the profitable, private partnership of Rick Scott and Ken Jenne

By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org 

Before he was governor, Rick Scott, left, funneled stock options worth $375,000 to then Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne

Before he was governor, Rick Scott, left, funneled stock options worth $375,000 to then Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne

Kimberly Kisslan’s sudden resignation from Broward Health’s governing board two weeks ago followed news of her immunized testimony in the 2007 corruption case that brought down Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne.

Since then, Gov. Rick Scott, who appointed Kisslan in July, has refused to answer questions about the matter or explain why a state background check failed to uncover Kisslan’s involvement in Jenne’s criminal scheme. Kisslan was BSO legal counsel under Sheriff Jenne.

Scott, however, has a little-known reason for not wanting to talk about Jenne. The governor and the convicted felon are old friends and business associates.

“I’ve just known (Scott) for years and years and years,” Jenne told this reporter in 2005.

Scott was a wealthy private investor in April 2003 when he funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars Sheriff Jenne’s way by recommending him for a lucrative seat on the board of directors of CyberGuard, a Deerfield Beach computer security company. At the time, Scott owned nearly 40 percent of CyberGuard’s stock.

cyberguardlogoLess than three years later, California-based Secure Computing bought CyberGuard for $295 million in stock and cash. Cyberguard’s annual report made public a few weeks after the announcement listed Jenne as the beneficial owner of 42,555 CyberGuard shares valued at $375,000 under the terms of the deal.

Jenne acquired most, if not all of those shares via stock options he received for serving on CyberGuard’s board.

CyberGuard’s core business was building and selling digital firewalls to shield computer networks from intruders. Its “target customers,” according to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission records, were “companies, major financial institutions and government entities.” Cyberguard did not identify specific clients.

Why Scott wanted Jenne on CyberGuard’s board is not known, and neither the governor nor Jenne would comment for this story. Jenne, who went to prison for mail fraud and not disclosing benefits he received from BSO vendors on his income tax returns, previously said CyberGuard was not a BSO vendor.


Richard L. Scott, as the governor was known before he ran for office, made his initial investment in Cyberguard in August 1999 via Fernwood Partners II, which acquired $3.7 million in company debt, according to SEC and other records. Fernwood was a Delaware firm that bought, sold and invested in the stock and debt of other companies. Scott and his wife, Annette, were major equity shareholders in Fernwood.

As part of the deal, CyberGuard added Scott’s brother, William Scott, and former Columbia/HCA Healthcare executive David Manning to its board of directors. Gov. Scott was Columbia/HCA’s chief executive until 1997 when he resigned amid a federal Medicare fraud investigation.

Fernwood went on to acquire nearly 50 percent of CyberGuard before it was dissolved and its holdings distributed to its members in March 2003, SEC records say.

With that, Scott became CyberGuard’s largest individual shareholder. By August 2005, when Secure Computing announced it would acquire all of Cyberguard’s shares, Scott owned 8,249,597 shares worth $72,356,000 in cash and Secure Computing shares, according to SEC records.

Scott’s total investment in Cyberguard: about $10 million, the records indicate.

“When I initially made my investments in Cyberguard, I felt Cyberguard had superior products in the firewall industry,” Scott said in the press release that announced approval of the takeover by Cyberguard’s shareholders. “What was accomplished over the last five years is a testament to the management team we put in place and their commitment and focus.”

Scott kept nearly 4 million Secure shares when he joined Secure’s board after the transaction was completed in January 2006. He was briefly chairman before computer giant McAfee bought Secure in a $462 million cash deal in 2008. Scott walked away with $23 million.


SEC records identify Scott crony Alan L. Bazaar as another member of Fernwood Partners in the CyberGuard investment.

For a decade before Scott was elected governor, Bazaar helped manage his portfolio at the better-known Richard L. Scott Investments LLC. Today, as co-CEO of New York’s Hollow Brook Wealth Management, Bazaar oversees the “blind trust” established by the governor in 2011 to avoid conflicts of interest and manage much of his large personal investment portfolio.

Lobbyist William Rubin with Gov. Rick Scott Photo: Tampa Bay Times

Lobbyist William Rubin with Gov. Rick Scott Photo: Tampa Bay Times

Serving with Scott and Jenne on Cyberguard’s board was Fort Lauderdale lobbyist William D. Rubin, a longtime friend and political supporter of both men. Rubin was listed in SEC records as having 58,000 CyberGuard shares worth $510,000 in cash and stock.

In 2003, while together on CyberGuard’s board, Sheriff Jenne made Rubin an “honorary deputy sheriff.” He also bestowed a BSO “Friend of Children Award” on a lobbyist in Rubin’s firm, Noreen Reboso.

The Tampa Bay Times quoted Rubin about his friendship with Scott on the day of Scott’s election in November 2010.

“I got to know Rick in 1991 when he started his hospital company, and we’ve stayed close ever since. I love him,” said Rubin, who in 2009 lobbied in Tallahassee on behalf of Solantic, Scott’s walk-in clinic company. “He’s a very good friend. We’ve stayed in touch ever since.”

Rubin added that he would not benefit from Scott being in the Governor’s office. “I won’t be. I’ll quickly dispel that perception.”

Nevertheless, Rubin is today registered to lobby Scott and the Executive Branch on behalf of nearly 60 corporate and government clients, including Scott’s old firm, now called HCA Healthcare, and BSO under Sheriff Scott Israel.

Rubin did not respond to a request for comment.

Knowledgeable sources have said privately that they believe Rubin and/or Jenne prevailed upon Scott to appoint Sunrise City Attorney Kimberly Kisslan to the board of the North Broward Hospital District, also known as Broward Health, but there is no evidence to support it.


Kisslan resigned Oct. 18 – three months into her four-year term and two days after BrowardBulldog.org reported about her grand jury appearance under a grant of immunity.

Kisslan got into trouble with federal prosecutors due to personal legal work she did for Jenne while he was sheriff. Specifically, she and a BSO vendor coordinated the demolition of an old house with code compliance issues that Jenne owned in Lake Worth.

At the same time, Kisslan was negotiating a BSO lease extension with the vendor – quickly signed by Jenne – that called for the police agency to lease additional office space from him at a cost of $348,000.

The vendor, developer Philip Procacci, later paid the $8,130 demolition cost for Jenne and the matter became part of the corruption charges to which the sheriff pleaded guilty in September 2007.

Kisslan’s role in Jenne’s scheme is spelled out in public court documents filed at the time of his plea. Yet despite a background check, Gov. Scott was unaware of that damaging information when he installed Kisslan on Broward Health’s board, said spokesman John Tupps.

The governor’s office declined to discuss the vetting process for gubernatorial appointees.

There is, however, an intriguing Broward connection inside Scott’s Executive Appointments Office that dovetails back to both Jenne and Rubin.

Former Fort Lauderdale resident Carrie O’Rourke is the governor’s $116,000-a-year Director of External Affairs. Her duties include oversight of gubernatorial appointments.

From 2007-2009, O’Rourke was director of organizational development in Fort Lauderdale for Edify, LLC. That’s the health benefits consulting firm whose owners included convicted Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein.

Jenne worked at Rothstein’s law firm after his release from prison in 2008. And in September 2009, New Times reported that Edify paid Jenne’s son, former State Rep. Evan Jenne, $30,000 as a consultant.

As finance director for Scott’s inaugural committee, O’Rourke worked with Rubin and his lobbying firm, The Rubin Group, to select candidates for the governor’s transition healthcare team.

In December 2011, as the governor’s deputy chief of staff, O’Rourke traveled to Israel with Rubin and his wife Lys as part of a 48-member trade mission delegation led by Gov. Scott, according to Sunshine State News.

Governor’s office clams up about Kisslan resignation, breakdown in appointment process

By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org 

Gov. Rick Scott

Gov. Rick Scott

Gov. Rick Scott’s office says it vetted Sunrise City Attorney Kimberly Kisslan before her recent appointment to the governing board of Broward Health, yet failed to uncover damaging information that led to her abrupt resignation last Friday amid an inquiry.

The governor’s office, however, has refused to explain that breakdown in the appointment process or say what steps, if any, were taken to ensure that such a lapse would not reoccur.

“In this case, either the vetting process was inadequate in design and execution or the appointee deliberately failed to disclose relevant information, or both,” said Anthony V. Alfieri, director of the University of Miami School of Law’s Center for Ethics and Public Service.

Said John Tupps, a spokesman for Gov. Scott, “Our office conducts appropriate back-grounding on all applicants.”

Kisslan was the sheriff’s legal counsel under Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne. Jenne went to prison in late 2007 after pleading guilty to federal corruption-related charges of mail fraud and filing false income tax returns.

While working for BSO, Kisslan did personal legal work for Jenne that later became a focus of the criminal investigation. On May 1, 2007, she testified under a grant of immunity before a grand jury after apparently invoking her Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.

While Kisslan’s testimony is secret, her role in Jenne’s scheme is a matter of public record in court papers that explain the factual basis for Jenne’s guilty plea.

Kimberly Kisslan as BSO general counsel in 2007. Photo: BSO

Kimberly Kisslan as BSO general counsel in 2007. Photo: BSO

One document signed by Jenne, his lawyers and prosecutors says Kisslan helped Jenne to coordinate with a BSO vendor to obtain the demolition of a house with code compliance issues that Jenne owned in Lake Worth. Philip Procacci, a developer who leased office space to BSO, later paid $8,130 to have the house demolished. Jenne never reported the payment on his income tax return.

Kisslan and Procacci appeared on Jenne’s behalf before the Lake Worth Code Enforcement Board on June 28, 2001. Kisslan later wrote the sheriff a memo about it, but “deliberately” didn’t use BSO letterhead because she knew it was personal work for Jenne, the document says

As Kisslan and Procacci were arranging for the demolition, Procacci and Kisslan also were negotiating an amendment to a BSO lease with Procacci for space in a Plantation building.

Sheriff Jenne signed the deal committing BSO to lease an additional 5,000 square feet of space for five years – at an added cost of $348,000 – two days after Kisslan and Procacci appeared on his behalf before the code enforcement board.

In addition to negotiating the lease deal, Kisslan witnessed Jenne’s signature, the document says.

Kisslan did not respond to requests for comment on the matter.

An important duty of the governor is to appoint leaders to an array of government jobs – from a vacant judgeship or seat on a county commission to board members who serve on housing authorities, planning and service councils and hospital and water districts.

The governor’s appointments office supports Scott in his “major obligation to appoint qualified, representative and appropriate people.”

Requests to speak with Scott and Carrie O’Rouke, who oversees appointments as the Director of External Affairs, were declined by the governor’s office.

Individuals who have applied for and obtained appointments under Scott describe a process that is not necessarily uniform.

Gov. Scott interviews some applicants personally. Others he does not. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement conducts background checks if requested.

Applicants for a gubernatorial appointment are asked to complete under oath an eight-page questionnaire. Among the 30 questions: Have you ever been “arrested, charged or indicted” or “has probable cause ever been found that you were in violation of the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees?”

No follow up questions seek to explore the subject further.

Kisslan answered “no” to both questions on her questionnaire.

Broward Sheriff Israel makes winners out of Coventry Health Care, lobbyist Rubin

By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org 

BSO's Ron Cochran Public Safety Complex   Photo: WPLG-Local 10

BSO’s Ron Cochran Public Safety Complex
Photo: WPLG-Local 10

Broward Sheriff Scott Israel has named incumbent and low-bidder Coventry Health Care of Florida as his choice to provide group medical insurance to BSO’s 5,800 employees – a contract worth more than $355 million over the next five years.

Israel directed BSO staff to enter into contract negotiations with Coventry on Friday after receiving rankings from an internal selection committee “and input from our labor union partners,” according to sheriff’s General Counsel Ron Gunzburger.

The Coventry deal marks the second large contract the sheriff has handed down in as many months.

In August, the sheriff chose Miami-based Armor Correctional Health Services to provide healthcare services to inmates at the Broward County Jail at a cost of about $143.6 million over five years. Unlike Coventry, Armor was not the low bidder.

Israel’s selection of Armor, and now Coventry, were big wins for those companies. But the sheriff’s choices also delivered huge victories to Fort Lauderdale lobbyist, William Rubin, who Israel hired in February for $7,000-a-month to lobby for him at Broward County.

Fort Lauderdale lobbyist William Rubin

Fort Lauderdale lobbyist William Rubin

The reason: Rubin’s other lobbying clients include Armor and Coventry.

Sheriff’s officials previously have said those conflicting relationships would nonetheless have no impact on the sheriff’s decision-making.

“It was made very clear that (Rubin and his firm) could not play any role in lobbying BSO on behalf of any of their other clients,” Gunzburger told BrowardBulldog.org after Rubin was hired.

Coventry’s bid proposed that BSO pay an annual premium of $71 million for medical and prescription drug coverage in 2014. That was $8.6 million less than that of its closest competitor, Humana Health Insurance. Cigna bid  $80.2 million; United Healthcare bid $82.5 million.

Coventry’s bid is about $1 million less than it currently charges, according to BSO.

Coventry has provided group medical benefits to BSO employees for 20 years under different names. HIP Health plan, which won the bid in 1993 under Sheriff Nick Navarro, merged in 2000 with other health benefit companies and became VISTA Healthplan. In 2007, VISTA was bought by Coventry, a Maryland-based firm with an office in Sunrise.

On May 7, Coventry was acquired by insurance giant Aetna in a deal valued at $8.7 billion when it closed, according to the Bloomberg news service. Coventry Health Care

“Coventry continues to be focused on helping BSO manage their dollars, enabling a sustainable, long-term benefits program,” Coventry Florida Chief Executive Christopher Ciano told Israel in a July 8 bid cover letter.

The contract to be negotiated with Coventry is for three years with two one-year renewal periods upon mutual agreement.

In the past, BSO asked bidding companies to provide specific dollar bids for each year of a proposal. Under Israel, bidders have been told to submit only one-year prices.

Without specific annual pricing, cost comparisons over the life of the contract are difficult. The final cost of such contracts is further obscured because, as a BSO spokesman has said, “the entire contract, including the contract amount, is subject to negotiation.”

Further clouding the ultimate amount BSO will pay are two alternative proposals that Coventry included in its bid proposal that will now be negotiated.

Those plans, featuring higher coverage levels for prescription drugs, would raise BSO’s annual cost more than $3 million to between $74.4 million and $74.8 million. The plans would lower “co-payments and deductibles to go toward maximum out-of-pocket enhancement.”

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