Finkelstein says Satz favors bigshots, police over “everyday citizens”

By Dan Christensen,

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.

The Broward County Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers sent its own letter to Satz on Thursday saying it “strongly” backed Finkelstein, who is best known throughout South Florida as Channel 7’s “Help Me Howard.”

Satz, who like Finkelstein is an elected constitutional officer, counterattacked on Wednesday.

In a written reply, the prosecutor instructed the public defender that he’d misinterpreted the law. Satz said Finkelstein’s accusation that Broward prosecutors give special treatment to a favored few was “both false and irresponsible.”

“The members of the State Attorney’s Office work hard to represent all citizens of Broward County who are victims of crime, regardless of their station in life,” wrote Satz, Broward State Attorney since 1976.

Underlying the Finkelstein-Satz dispute is a tussle over evidence – who gets to see it, and who decides who gets to see it.

According to Finkelstein’s letter, Broward prosecutors “either through neglect or by design” have until recently failed to disclose favorable evidence to criminal defendants as required by law, particularly evidence of police misconduct.

 Such evidence, known as Brady material, can sometimes be used by the defense to exonerate or to impeach the testimony of a police officer on the witness stand.

The term comes from a 1963 Supreme Court decision in Brady v. Maryland. The court held that prosecutors who suppress evidence favorable to a defendant who asks for it violate due process of law.

Local questions about the state’s obligation under Brady arose Sept. 6 when Assistant State Attorney Sheila Alu emailed a Brady disclosure regarding one case to a counterpart at the Public Defender’s Office, Finkelstein said. The information was a list of police officers under investigation by Satz’s office.

Finkelstein’s office hadn’t seen the list before, even though those officers were listed as witnesses in other open cases.

Public defenders reviewed hundreds of closed cases in which those officers were listed as defendants, but no Brady disclosures by the state were found, Finkelstein wrote.

The Public Defender’s Office filed public records requests seeking the names of all police officers investigated since 2006, and again found no disclosures.

Finkelstein cited a number of examples of investigations of police officers that were not disclosed, but should have been. In some cases, Finkelstein also questioned why those officers were not prosecuted – and wrote that it appeared as if the decision not to prosecute was used as an excuse not to disclose the existence of such cases as Brady material.

“Fort Lauderdale Police Officer Daniel Zavadil and Lauderhill Police Officer John Lafontant both admitted to forging names and falsifying police reports, yet they were not prosecuted and no Brady notices were filed,” he wrote.

“Margate Police Officer Joseph Devito was determined to have filed a false police report after hitting a pole with his assigned police car. Four BSO deputies and the Margate Chief of Police were involved in the investigation, yet no Brady notice was filed.”

“It appears that the Broward State Attorney’s Office gives great deference to law enforcement; it would clearly have filed charges if the same allegations were made against a civilian,” Finkelstein wrote.

Satz’s office recently changed the way it handles Brady requests, and since then hundreds of disclosures have been made, Finkelstein said. In all, more than 300 officers have been identified by the state in either Brady notices or investigation close-out memos sent to the Public Defender’s Office.

“We have received more Brady notices in 12 weeks than we have in the past 30 years,” Finkelstein wrote.

Prior “systemic nondisclosure” is “of particular concern” when it comes to closed cases, Finkelstein told Satz. The reason: people convicted of crimes who did not have access to favorable information that’s only now been disclosed have either limited, or “in most instances, no remedies available.”

Satz did not provide a detailed rebuttal regarding the Brady issues, but told Finkelstein he intends to send him a further response “based on specific facts.”

Satz’s office has long said it will not file criminal charges in a case unless there is a reasonable likelihood of conviction.

But according to Finkelstein, police officers and others get special treatment from Satz in that regard.

“Although the office espouses a filing standard of ‘likelihood of conviction,’ that standard has two distinct meanings. For everyday citizens, the ‘likelihood of conviction’ filing standard means nothing more than probable cause. For police officers or other influential or wealthy citizens, ‘likelihood of conviction’ means that the State Attorney’s Office cannot possibly lose the case.”

Satz denied that accusation, saying the same standard applies “to all persons accused of crimes, whether they are rich or poor, a police officer or a civilian.”

Satz said that in 2009 his office reviewed more than 25,000 felony cases and tens of thousands of misdemeanor and juvenile cases for the filing of criminal charges.

“In each and every one of those cases our policy was – and is – to do the right thing for the right reason. This has always been our policy. Your allegations are misguided and an insult to every assistant state attorney in this office,” Satz said.

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Latest comments

  • “Judge” Seidman was part of this whole Satz charade when he and racist Dan Futch enjoyed hurting people. There is always something very smelly about Seidman.

  • Why is it that every time something happens around the court house Sheila Alu is behind it? I am surprised that she is allowed to work at the SAO, especially after wearing a wire for four years. Don’t trust this woman when you turn your back. She seriously wants Satz’s job. How she is going to get it after all the enemies she has made, does she think she would be elected to this high office?

  • Because of the revelation as to suppression and the non-prosecution of corrupt police officers, I now understand why Satz directed his assistant Brad Edwards to persist in the prosecution of Donald Baker even after it was clearly and unequivocally demonstrated that the surveillance video evidence provided to the State Attorney by the Hollywood Police Department was false and would have exonerated Baker when compared to the Ch. 119 video later secured by Vic Tobin’s erstwhile investigator. Satz secreted the exculpatory evidence alleging that it was lost (by virtue of the State Attorney’s inability to identify or determine the origin of its own Brady video, which was part of the discovery package delivered to Finkelstein). Of course, Satz could not have gotten away with this chicanery but for Mr. Finkelstein’s Office, and his assistant Madeleine Torres, falsely representing that the Public Defender “lost” their entire file on this case. Satz should be compelled to take the same chair that he has sent so many to sit in by secreting exculpatory evidence. Then, the victims of Satz atrocities should collectively yell, “Pull the damn switch! Pull the damn switch! Only for the next few seconds, then, would Satz really grasp the finality of false executions and false imprisonments. Oh, and for anyone to criticize Alu for having demonstrated character (a sense of right and wrong), speaks loudly in support of their own absence of character and willingness to “outlawyer” an accused by secreting evidence favorable to the accused. It must have been someone from the SAO; they have a habit of posting anonymously. Alu would certainly have the votes of non-corrupt attorneys in Broward County and those who have a distaste for sending innocent people to prison or to their death.

  • Contrary to Mr. Finkelstein false and defamatory statements in the above article, Ft. Lauderdale Police Officer Daniel Zavadil NEVER admitted to forging any signature nor falsifying any Police Reports. That is simply not what happened and the allegations to the contrary are without legal and factual merit. In fact, contrary to the statements made, Ofc. Zavadil was cleared of any and all criminal wrongdoing.

  • GO Finkelstein!
    Satz- You have built your career based on lies, and it’s starting to show.

  • Excellent article – please keep this up!

  • In response to “Informed”: The two cops who attempted to murder Baker were “cleared” of any wrong-doing in the case, also. The persons responsible for the alteration and falsification of the videos were “cleared” of any wrong-doing. Tony Roads opined on Channel 7 that Baker got exactly what he deserved. Forest Jeffries, the head of Internal Affairs at HPD testified at Baker’s trial, saying: “A citizen does not have the right to resist excessive force by a Hollywood police officer and must ‘fall down and curl up’ — (in a fetal position and accept whatever beating, torture of death the police officer may decide to inflict). When Torres and Schweiker ordered Baker to go to Internal Affairs and provide a statement to the police, they violated the basis tenants of Escobedo v. Illinios (an attorney worth his salt will advise his client in no uncertain terms to make absolutely no statements to the police). Of course, Torres admitted her malpractice in these regards to habeas counsel, Melissa Minsk Donoho, but with the assurances of Mr. Satz’ Office that she enjoyed immunity from prosecution for perjury, Torres testified falsely at the habeas hearing (against her own client) that it was Baker’s idea and plan to provide the police department with a sworn statement. The history of the case, however, showed that Baker had already written to Jeffries and stated that the City is corrupt from the top to the bottom, and he will not be complying with the City’s persistent requests that he file an IA complaint as a follow-up to Baker’s allegations that the surveillance videos were altered and falsified by the City of Hollywood, which portendeded further corrupt acts on the part of the City. So, simply because IA or some other predisposed agency (even such as Satz) says that the cop was cleared, it damn sure doesn’t mean that they are not guilty. Indeed, Satz actively defended Hollywood, so when he found that the cops had done no wrong, he also exonerated himself from charges of malicious prosecution. Again, I say, if you need proofs of the corruption of Satz, Hollywood PD, Mr. Finkelstein, Scott Raft, Brad Edwards, or anyone working with them, go to and scroll down to the truths. Doing “A LITTLE WALT DISNEY ON THE EVIDENCE” IS COMMONPLACE at Hollywood and part of their history of corruption. Finkelstein was informed by Diane Cuddihy and Melissa Donoho that his assistant, Madeleine Torres committed the most trecherous of acts against her own client by testifying falsely at his habeas corpus hearing. Howard maintains her employment with his office; he has not advised any prosecutorial agency of the Torres perjury and conspiracy to deprive Baker of his constitutional rights to access to eht courts, and each of these morally bankrupt Sons of Bitches are detriments to their own office, for who can now trust Satz? Who can trust Hollywood? Who can trust “help-Me-Howard” Finkelstein? Do you believe that the Torrensvillas corruption would have been brought to light and the cops fired if the Chief of Police or Internal Affairs had gotten to the evidence first? That evidence would have been flushed or doctored to perfect the same ultimate conclusion as they did in the Baker case, which is on all fours with the “DOING A LITTLE WALT DISNEY ON THE EVIDENCE CASE”.

    John McNamara

    All I ask is that you look at the evidence. The corruption in the Baker case goes all the way from the cop on the street to the prosecutor on the bench pretending to be a judge; i.e., Michael Gates, silent partner to Mr. Satz (He is so incompetent that he just doesn’t know. He just doesn’t know), and for that I feel truly sorry for “Judge” Michael Gates.

  • Yesterday, I was advised by a friend that Mr. Satz recently gave an interview to some news agency and stated that his budget will not allow him to prosecute police officers and that he, therefore, leaves such prosecutions to the FBI. Can anyone direct me to that article, or newscast?

    In a Civil Rights Act case, Satz is practically immune for suborning perjury, falsifying evidence, or doing any other corrupt act to secure a conviction against an innocent person. So says the U.S. Supreme court as well as the 11th Circuit, as long as those acts are in the process of litigating a case. However, what Satz is not entitled to do is to set up a two-tier system of charging persons with crime, wherein he refuses to prosecute police officers and other perceived elite or connected. Satz enjoys no immunity for defending arrant and corrupt police officers and agencies and in giving such agencies advice on how to alter and falsify evidence. Satz is not protected by immunity of any sort in allowing budgetary matters to dictate that he should prosecute an innocent person rather than prosecute a corrput police agency, or corrupt police officers. (SUCH AS WE HAVE DOWN THERE IN THE CITY OF HOLLYWOOD). When one of the city Commissioners first found out about the altered and falsified evidence in the Baker case, she phoned me on a Sunday and told me that she would get to the bottom of this use of false and altered evidence. She assured me that Wagner “is an honorable man, and can be trusted.” I didn’t dispute her assurances, but did note that previous Chiefs of Police at Hollywood have been fired for trying to clean up the corruption in the city. Now, some six months later, nothing has changed; the city is still “DOING A LITTLE WALT DISNEY ON THE EVIDENCE,” beating homeless persons nearly to death, issuing citations for open containers even though the container was never opened until the cop slammed the can of beer onto the ground and caused it to explode, saying, “now it is opened.” Beating persons inside their elevator into a state of unconsciousness and destroying the video capturing the beating, using homeless persons as punching bags for night-stick training and dumping their near liefeless bodies at Mrmorial Regional. And, Mr. Satz refuses to prosecute these arrant bastards. Satz would rather prosecute an innocent person than to prosecute a morally bankrupt cop. This refusal to prosecute cops has nothing to do with budget problems; it has to do with the absence of moral compass of the State Attorney’s Office. It is time for a correction.

    John McNamara

  • Excellent article. I would like to know who are the movers and shakers that will address this? For years I have been in litigation and engaged in legitimate complaints about an elite family. People call it the “Good old Boy Network” in our neck of the woods. I have not intentially tested it and found it to be true. My opposers are repeat offenders in illegal dumping, violations of the clean water act, and I have also reported them for creating and maintaining nuisances in violation of both state and local ordinances. My first complaint was ignored by the prosecutor. The second charges were filed. the big shots got an attorney. The case was continued four times and dismissed with the nuisances remaining. The police harrassed me and the big shots parked the dump truck they used to illegally dump next to my home without police action. I complained about the police. They warned me to keep off the offenders property. The attorney’s in the law suit have warned me that they have more money than I and proised the suit will go on. After recently receiving a chapter 7 bankruptcy order, the attorney ignores the fact they cannot pursue the contested escrow money as it is discharged. There is a cross petition pending I am trying to find counsel for. My attorney stopped working for me a long time ago, but officially withdrew after bankruptcy. The big shots have never been reported on in the news for federal crimes of illegal dumping, violations of the clean water act, or the two nuisance complaints. The un-influential are reported for these and less reported violations.

    Where can equal justice be found? These elite have the local governent even the state in their pocket it seems.
    I have been to the senator who went to school with the family. How high do we need to go.

  • Mike Satz is the poster boy of Broward corruption. Until Karma takes over, or he isn’t re-elected, this will continue.

    “Don’t let an inocent person get in the way of a good conviction” That’s been their slogan for years.

  • I have been watching this Leyritz trial and I kept wondering ‘WHY WOULD THE STATE OF FLORIDA PUT THIS PROSECUTOR UP AGAINST THIS DEFENSE LAWYER?


    It just kept diggin’ in my craw. So I did some diggin.

    Now I know. CORRUPTION.

  • I can only speak for myself, but in my particular case I was looking at some very serious charges involving “self defense” actions against a career criminal and rapist. Due to the publicity involved in the case, they required I come in for a depo before filing formal charges. The State were tough but in the end they realized that Police protocol might not have been what it should have and dismissed the charges. I thought in my case The State Attorney’s Office were professional, truly sought the truth and did not lean on the side of the police. I am not wealthy and not connected. Just an average citizen who fell under an umbrella of bad police actions. In fact the State was truly outraged over what happened to me. But like I said, this was my experience.

  • Hey Val, NOONE cares what your old, gun-toting, shoot first-ask questions later ass thinks. You have nothing to offer accept your Opinion. You believe because you scream the loudest and type the most comments, people will “side” with you. You want to “keep the tide going in the right direction”. Fine, fine. I don’t know about you, but I’ld rather have a sex offender who had sex with an underage GF living next door, than a deranged mad-woman, who thinks it’s ok to pull her gun on an Unarmed sex offender, simply because he disagrees with her HARASSMENT. Geez, Val, looks like we ALL have skeletons in our closets don’t we? Look up Valerie Parkhurst, and HER police record. Good luck with your crusade, Val.

  • Did Finkelstein become infected with this disease of corruption, also?


    and when Howard was informed that one of his assistants perjured her testimony against one of Howard’s own clients, did he do anything about it, or did he sweep it under the rug and maintain the employment of the offender, Madeleine Torres?

    To date, has Howard done anything; has he raised one finger to remediate this criminal conduct on the part of his assistant, or his, for violating Title 18 U.S.C. s. 4 (Misprision of felony)?

    Ask Howard. He knows why he did what he did in allowing his office to intentionally send an innocent man to prison for 5 years.

    the web site that Howard wanted taken down was, and is:

    The videos addressed by Hecker and Finkelstein are the ones that the City of Hollywood Police Department did “A Little Walt Disney” on:

    Why did Howard assign a brand new law school graduate to this felony case where he knew, or should have known, that the City of Hollywood has a long history of corruption, where his own guidelines and policies dictated that she was required to have had 2 years criminal felony trial experience?



    John McNamara

  • Will Mr. Satz sabotage the prosecutions against the Disney Cops from Hollywood?

    An open letter to the prosecuting attorney:

  • Help me Howard

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