Democrat Butterworth, state appeals court judge testify for embattled GOP fundraiser Zachariah

Zachariah Zachariah

Zachariah Zachariah

By Dan Christensen,

Fort Lauderdale heart doctor and major GOP fundraiser Zachariah P. Zachariah has picked up two influential allies in advance of his federal insider stock-trading trial this summer.

Former Florida Attorney General and top Democrat Bob Butterworth and Fourth District Court of Appeals Judge Melanie May, both Broward residents, testified under oath two weeks ago as character witnesses for Zachariah.

Their depositions are not public, and neither responded to requests for comment. They are identified in court records.

Judge May supported Zachariah despite judicial rules that discourage testifying as a character witness.

Florida’s Code of Judicial Conduct prohibits judges from giving such testimony voluntarily “because to do so may lend the prestige of the judicial office in support of the party for whom the judge testifies.” It says judges may testify if subpoenaed, but nevertheless “should discourage a party from requiring the judge to testify as a character witness…except in unusual circumstances where the demands of justice require.”

A source said Judge May testified in response to a subpoena from Zachariah. Whether she took any steps to discourage such testimony is not publicly known.

Zachariah, former chairman of the Florida Board of Medicine who has raised millions of dollars for Republicans, is accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission of using nonpublic information to rake in more than $400,000 in profits from illegal stock trades in 2005. You can read about the alleged scheme here.

His trial on those civil charges is set for Aug. 23 before U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra. If Zachariah loses, the case could be referred to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution.

Two other Holy Cross Hospital physicians, including Zachariah’s brother, agreed to substantial payouts last December to settle federal civil charges that they acted on Zachariah’s stock tips to reap tens of thousands of dollars in illegal windfalls. You can read about those settlements here.

Butterworth has personal and political connections to Zachariah, dating back two decades. For example, in 2001 Zachariah performed a balloon angioplasty on Butterworth, and implanted a stent in his chest, to repair a clogged artery.

Federal and state campaign records show that Butterworth is one of only two Democrats – Broward State Attorney Mike Satz is the other – to snag a campaign contribution from Zachariah since the mid 1990s.

In 2002, Butterworth’s office quoted Zachariah in a press release announcing an attorney general’s initiative that sought to prevent doctor-shopping for illegal narcotics prescriptions.

Miami attorney Curtis Minor, who represents Zachariah, did not respond to requests to discuss why the testimony of Butterworth and Judge May was sought.

But Butterworth, a former Broward sheriff and judge, is a political Mr. Clean who over the years has helped mop up some of Florida’s most unsightly government messes. In 2007, for example, Gov. Charlie Crist brought in Butterworth to head Florida’s troubled Department of Children and Families.

Crist turned to Butterworth again in May when he appointed him and former Republican Attorney General Jim Smith to spearhead the state’s legal advisory team on the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. Butterworth also serves today on a blue-ribbon ethics panel appointed to review the Broward school district’s operations following the corruption arrest of former board member Beverly Gallagher.

Butterworth has used his stature to help others in trouble.

In 2007, at the sentencing of former Sheriff Ken Jenne, Butterworth told a judge about the personal sacrifices Jenne made for his job before his conviction on corruption charges.

“He literally almost gave his life doing it,” Butterworth said before Jenne drew a shorter than expected prison term. “My hat is off to him.”

Zachariah’s lawyers also called  two other character witnesses. One was Ocala Republican and former Florida Board of Governors member Carolyn Roberts.

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Latest comments

  • Let’s see — a Judge from Broward County supposedly under oath (of which there are so many), but especially to be obedient to the Code of Judicial Conduct. Quite a few years back, there was a little problem with the type of support extended by several of the Judges of the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit (in and for Broward County) when writing letters for the benefit of State Representative Emerson Allsworth. Each & every one of the 4 Judges violating their Oaths of Office were publicly reprimanded, for their decision to act beyond that which has been prescribed in the Canons, as can be witnessed at

    How right you are about Broward’s own Mr. Clean (seemingly as an untouchable). Remember when State Senator Ken Jenne’s Broward County law firm of Conrad Scherer James & Jenne wrote that Blockbuster Park Bill? The decision to adopt that piece of legislation, made by the Florida Legislature, was overturned at first crack. It seems as though the Bill had transmogrified into something that it wasn’t and had ended up as one of the General Laws of Florida, planted into the 1994 Supplement as Chapter 191, F.S.. (No offense to the later adopted General Law of Chapter 97-256.) The Attorney General at the time, a Mr. Bob Butterworth from Broward County, refused to investigate how a piece of legislation that simply amended preexisting Law had become its very own Law. Only in Florida — where even the Laws can’t be trusted to be Law!

    I guess it was Batman & Robin forever in providing testimony for the fallen. That would bring about Butterworth speaking about personal sacrifices short of giving life — like what the selling of one’s soul?

  • Me thinks that Rothstein was connected to the stock scam at Ivax. I also think that Debra Villagas had a real name of Debregeas, like in French pharma co involved with Ivax. But, just one more bellybutton.

  • There’s just no end to it, is there?

  • Does the court still need character witnesses? I would LOVE to provide a character witness for Z-Zach. I can tell about all the aggressive, persistent, disgusting and unwanted sexual advances to women, (me included) while he was married and lots more! What about his position on the state board? Has anyone done a real comparison of the punishments and decisions for violations brought to the board on doctors who have donated to the campaigns Zach got credit for supporting vs the docs who did not donate?

  • What exactly is the connection between Melanie May and Zachariah? Did they know each other during her appointment process to the bench.

  • Nice to know that a powerful Appeal Court Judge is so cozy with the Florida Medical Association. Good medical malpractice victims – if you win at trial ole’ Melanie May will take care of it on appeal.

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