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Satz, Finkelstein fight yields change at the courthouse

scalesofjusticeBy Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org

The smoke has cleared in the recent public dustup between State Attorney Michael Satz and Public Defender Howard Finkelstein over the quality of justice in Broward County.

Neither man has changed his mind.

Finkelstein still contends Satz favors the influential and the police over the average citizen when it comes to charging decisions. Satz calls that assertion “false and irresponsible.”

Still, important change has taken place – change that could someday spread out from the Broward courthouse and across the state.

“What’s happened is a tremendous step forward,” said Teresa Williams, an officer of the Broward Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

The change has to do with access to evidence, particularly evidence of possible police misconduct.

The issue is one of fair play. The courts decided long ago that prosecutors cannot withhold evidence that is favorable to a defendant because it violates due process of law. Such material, known as Brady information after a landmark 1963 Supreme Court decision in Brady v. Maryland, can sometimes be used by a defense lawyer to exonerate a client or impeach the testimony of a police officer.

The hitch is in who makes those disclosure decisions, and the standards that are used. State case law says Brady requires prosecutors to disclose “material information.”

Until recently, Satz let each assistant state attorney under his control make his or her own call as to what should or not should not be turned over to the defense.

“That’s the reason we didn’t get many Brady notices for 30 years,” Finkelstein says.

But in a letter to the public defender last month, Satz explained his “streamlined and improved” office policy regarding the delivery of information sought by the defense.

“The new process no longer leaves it up to the individual assistant state attorney to determine if the information is ‘material’ and therefore Brady,” wrote Satz.

In the past, the names of police officers who were under investigation would be fed into a computer that would then spit notices to individual prosecutors to decide whether there was Brady information to be passed on to the defense. Now, the notices are automatically sent directly to defense lawyers.

Satz says his new disclosure standard “far exceeds” his legal obligations under Brady.

The result has been a recent “onslaught” of state Brady notices sent to both public defenders that represent the indigent, and privately retained criminal defense attorneys, according to Finkelstein.

Why is this important?

Teresa Williams cites the case of a client who told her she’d been sexually assaulted by a local police officer. Williams later got a tip the officer was suspended for sexually assaulting women during traffic stops.

“There was no Brady information on it. We just happened to find out,” she said. “If I’m not told this happened in the past, it’s my client’s word against a police officer’s word.”

Satz has made other changes, too. He now discloses the existence of pending investigations on all police officers, “so long as no investigation is compromised.” He also advises the defense when pending investigations against police officers are closed, said spokesman Ron Ishoy.

Before, investigations that cleared police officers were not disclosed because they weren’t considered material under Brady, defense attorneys said.

Defense attorneys credit Satz’s action and Finkelstein’s outspokenness for the changes, along with an improving climate regarding Brady following a federal judge’s dismissal last year of the government’s corruption indictment against former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said prosecutors improperly withheld relevant information that would have aided Stevens’ defense.

“Satz is trying to do the right thing, and what he’s done is a great thing for justice,” said Jamie Benjamin, a Fort Lauderdale attorney and secretary of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Benjamin said Satz is now at the forefront of Brady reform statewide.

FACDL President-elect Brian Tannebaum, a Miami lawyer, says he expects his group will likely establish a committee soon to assess the situation elsewhere.

“This issue blasted out over the last 60 days. Now that it is exposed in Broward, we need to address the other 19 state attorneys and say ‘What’s your policy’?”

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  • I don’t believe for one minute that Satz would have acted in an honorable way if his ass was not on the line. Satz has intentionally and maliciously secreted exculpatory evidence in the past. For example, in the Donald Baker case, Satz had in his possession a surveillance video that would show any thinking person that the charging package video tendered by the City of Hollywood Police Department had a great deal of “Walt Disney” done to it before it was submitted to Satz. That video (the false one authored by the City of Hollywood Police Department’s Disney Productions Unit) was provided to Finkelstein as Brady material, with the second video being secreted by Mr. Satz and his staff. The SAO’s IT Unit examined the Brady video and compared it to the secreted video and concluded that the Brady video was altered and false. Satz sent his ASA to the City to inquire as to the falsified video, and his ASA Brad Edwards asserted that the video production Unit at the police department could not explain the falsified video. Did Mr. Satz dismiss or nolle prosse the information in this case? No. Mr. Satz undertook to protect the fabricators of the false evidence and the other officers who mercilessly beat and tortured Baker. Satz became the attorney for the arrant police officers. In fact, in 1977, Satz assigned his super ASA, Scott Raft, the “prosecutor of the year” to defeat a habeas action by the pro se litigant, Baker. Raft first advised Judge Gates that if he found any evidence that any of the videos were altered, he would ask that the court “undo the conviction.” But, what did Raft and Mr. Satz do to enlighten the court? They falsely represented that the State Attorney lost the exculpatory video. Right! Mr. Finkelstein, who sat on the falsified video for 6 months and failed to seek a discernible copy of the video, in like manner, falsely represented that it (the PD) had lost the Brady video. Mr. Raft, consulted with Satz for direction. Satz advised Raft to suborn the perjury of the assistant public defender, Madeleine Torres, and force her to recant the confession she provided on the previous day to habeas counsel. Torres was, in fact, baker’s witness, but Raft ex parte’d her to force her perjury. Torres took the stand and in diametric contradiction to her confession of the previous day, testified falsely against her own client, Baker. In opening statements, Raft gave extensive prologue on the testimony that he would elicit from Torres, and he elicited testimony exactly as he stated that he would. The question has become, and is before the 4th DCA, today, “Why would Torres not simply take the stand and reiterate her confession as she had given on the previous day?” Why? Because Satz and Raft promised Torres immunity for testifying falsely against her own client. Diane Cuddihy was privy to the perjured testimony of Torres but did nothing about it. That is why I cannot understand why Cuddihy received an ethics award from the association. She should have refused it. Cuddihy did order a copy of the transcript wherein Torres perjured her testimony, and Mr. Finkelstein was advised of the false testimony given by Torres. But, what did Howard do? Torres is still working for his office; she has not been charged with perjury, and the SAO has no intent to file an information against her or to take action with the Bar against her for testifying falsely AGAINST HER OWN CLIENT!!! How can anyone justify crap like that? For an attorney to testify falsely against their own client in order to defeat a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel and to shield themselves from a malpractice claim is lower than whale dung, and that lies on the bottom of the ocean. So, thanks to Mr. Satz, who would rather prosecute an innocent man than to attempt to prosecute an arrant and corrupt police officer and police force, we have a corruption in Broward County that stinks all the way to Tallahassee. This two-tier of charging policy by Satz is about as corrupt as it gets, and when you put that in concert with his over-willingness to secret exculpatory evidence (apparently for the past 30 years), the system is broken, and corruption prevails. Satz had the opportunity to make things right in the Baker case. Instead, Mr. Satz called out his 16″ gun, Raft, to defeat and outlawyer a pro se haneas action by “all means necessary.” It has probably been 15 years since Raft handled a trivial case, such as Baker’s 5-year assault on a LEO conviction. But, Baker was about to unearth the corruption of the Hollywood Police Department, as well as the corruption of the State Attorney’s Office in secreting exculpatory evidence, and that, Mr. Satz concluded, would not happen. The ministerial “loss of evidence” and ministerial “secreting of Brady material” has left Mr. Satz without his cloak of prosecutorial or quasi-judicial immunity and, soon, he will be called upon to take responsibility for his corrupt acts. A Petition for Writ of Error Coram Vobis is on file with the 4th DCA and will be prosecuted in the near future. For further information, please go to http://www.terrorisminblue.com and scroll down to find the draft of the Coram Vobis Petition with links to the falsified videos secreted and speciously represented by Mr. Satz and Mr. Raft as lost, or unable to be identified or the origins thereof determined. What a bunch of chicanerous bunch of shitheads there are at 201 S.E. 6th Street in Ft. Lauderdale, and these corrupt bastards are running for office/re-election? GIVE ME A BREAK!

    John McNamara

  • What a joke. Satz has been doing this for years. What about the victims of his criminal actions that were covered up by Carney as a persecutor and a judge, Gardiner, Raft and Cuddihy–yes darling Dianne.

    Yet NOBODY wants to acknowledge that ALL the PLAYERS in these situations are the SAME.

    Wasn’t it just as illegal then as it is now. Every case needs to be re-opened and re-examined. Satz’s admission only proves his past acts. In fact, wasn’t it the Sonny Jacobs case tht Satz himself got reversed because this mighty fraud withheld favorable evidence because an naive attorney stood up for the victim of Satz’s dishonor. Oh, and did Satz ever face a Bar Complaint for his dishonesty and lack of candor to a tribunal or opposing party or opposing counsel? dis any other attorney obey their Bar Rules and “drop the dime” on Mike, even AFTER the movie about it. Did Sonny’s attorney ever file a Bar or Ethics complaint? Did her attorney ever file an honest services fraud lawsuit? No, because the phony Bar would pull a Conway on the “whistleblower.”

    What the Brady decision said is that when the state decides what the relevance is in its withholding and concealment, it’s fundamental error and the state, as the beneficiary of that error, is liable to be the beneficiary of the reversal. BUT, the problem is, judges who arbitrarily follow the law in the crap-shoot called an appeal. And once “contrivantly convicted” the burden never met by the state in the first place had “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” actually been told, still shifts to the defendant to prove his innocense to overcome the crimes of the prosecutor and to get, not convince, but GET an appellate court to do something about it. The stupid logic that because a judge says so, it must be true, is over. Gardinet proved that, and she is merely the tip of the iceberg.

    If Dan Christiansen really wants to do some good, he will open the door and be a real “investigative reporter” and not just a puppet for the politically correct. And that includes Mike Mayo, Tanya Alanez, Ronnie Green and the rest of these ostritches when their part of the “consent by their silence” is exposed.

  • Now we find that Mr. Satz has not charged the five City of Hollywood police officers who conspired to falsely imprison Alexandra Torrens-Vilas and to deprive her of her constitutional right to meaningful access to the courts. Mr. Satz’ Office has advanced several specious grounds for failing and refusing to prosecute these arrant/corrupt police officers, or the corrupt department for which they worked, nor the corrupt City from whence these matters persistently arise. See, e.g., http://www.terrorisminblue.com and other New Times articles addressing the corruption rampent within the City of Hollywood.

    http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/broward/hollywood/sfl-tercel-damaged-gallery-072909,0,6959599.photogallery

    Satz cites the Police Officer’s Bill of Rights as an obsticle to these prosecutions. What about the Crime Victim’s Bill of Rights? What about the Rights of the People to Due Process of Law and Equal Protection of the Law? Police Officers have no immunity from criminal prosecution for crimes. Come on, Satz, it is time that you abandoned your two-tier system of initiating prosecutions, and it is time that you ceased in your policy and practice of secreting exculpatory evidence, such as was done in the Donald Baker case.

    OR, SIMPLY STATED, IT IS TIME THAT WE ELECT A NEW STATE ATTORNEY.

    John McNamara
    http://www.motionbox.com/videos/0097dabe101ce2c98f

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