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By Dan Christensen, browardbulldog.org

Michael Satz

Michael Satz

Howard Finkelstein

Howard Finkelstein

In what’s shaping up as an extraordinary clash of legal titans, Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein has accused Broward State Attorney Michael Satz of routinely violating defendants’ rights and applying a double standard of justice in the county.

For years, the state attorney has given favorable treatment to police officers and “influential or wealthy” citizens facing prosecution, Finkelstein alleged in a six-page letter sent to Satz on Tuesday. The letter asks Satz to provide better training for prosecutors and to establish new office procedures.

“It is imperative that the Broward State Attorney’s Office treat all persons it considers for criminal prosecution equally. The two systems of justice in Broward County must end,” said Finkelstein, an assistant public defender in Broward since the 1980s.

Gabrielle Shaink Trudeau

Gabrielle Shaink Trudeau

By Dan Christensen, browardbulldog.org

A 78-year-old Hallandale Beach grandmother ticketed for driving on a suspended driver’s license spent 15 days in jail before authorities announced her license wasn’t suspended and an outraged judge set her free.

County Court Judge Lee J. Seidman ordered Gabrielle Shaink Trudeau’s release in December at her arraignment.

“She’s handcuffed like Houdini, for the record. She’s got chains around her waist, and she’s got handcuffs in front around her hands as if she was some kind of a violent criminal,” said Seidman, according to a transcript.  “I want her released. I think she’s suffered enough at our system’s mistakes.”

Safeguards built into Broward’s judicial system are designed to prevent what happened to Shaink Trudeau. But the prolonged jailing of an elderly woman with no previous criminal record over a traffic ticket has left red-faced authorities admitting they botched her case.

By Dan Christensen, browardbulldog.orgpbsjLogo

PBS&J, the giant Florida-based government contractor already rocked by a pay to play scandal that led to guilty pleas by two of its former chairmen, has informed the Justice Department and federal securities regulators that it is investigating other possible crimes involving its overseas construction projects.

“The purpose of the internal investigation is to determine whether any laws have been violated, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act [FCPA], in connection with certain projects undertaken by PBS&J International Inc., one of the company’s subsidiaries, in certain foreign countries,” chief financial officer Donald J. Vrana wrote in Dec. 30 filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, D.C.

The FCPA prohibits corrupt payments to foreign officials for the purpose of obtaining or keeping business.

Robert Wexler

Robert Wexler

By Dan Christensen, browardbulldog.org

South Florida U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler’s 13-year sojourn in Congress is almost over, but his campaign – or rather his campaign’s fat bank account – will run on indefinitely.

But the Wexler campaign’s final takeaway is likely to be lighter than the congressman expects. The reason: the apparent total loss of Wexler’s unusual and secretive investment of $150,000 in campaign funds in a business associate’s real estate company.

Records show that Wexler’s campaign had nearly $1 million cash on hand at the end of September. And by the time the congressman finishes paying bills, handing out staff bonuses and contributing to fellow Democrats his campaign will finish with about $700,000, his chief of staff said.

“He hasn’t decided what to do with the rest of it and wants to keep his options open. It will be there for him if he wants the option of returning to public service,” said Eric Johnson.

Zachariah Zachariah

Zachariah Zachariah

Mammen Zachariah

Mammen Zachariah

By Dan Christensen, browardbulldog.org

The former chairman of the Florida Board of Medicine and another Fort Lauderdale physician have agreed to pay substantial sums to settle federal civil charges of insider stock trading.

Dr. Mammen P. Zachariah, appointed to the board of medicine by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2004, and Dr. Sheldon Nassberg allegedly reaped illegal windfalls by acting on stock tips supplied by Mammen Zachariah’s brother, prominent Broward heart specialist and major Republican fundraiser, Dr. Zachariah P. Zachariah.

Zach Zachariah, who has raised millions of dollars for Republican causes and candidates – including both Presidents Bush, faces similar charges, but has declined to settle his case.  A federal magistrate has set trial for Aug. 23, 2010.