Reality TV meets reality as public defender wants contract of “Policewomen of Broward County” star

MONDAY UPDATE:  A Broward judge Monday declined to force prosecutors to turn over to a criminal defendant a copy of the television talent contract of a sheriff’s deputy who arrested him on camera in January.

Instead, after hearing the state say it doesn’t have the talent contract, Judge David Haimes suggested that the Broward Public Defender’s Office issue a subpoena for the document to the companies that produce Deputy Andrea Penoyer’s show,Policewomen of Broward County.

“It is likely we’ll do that, but first we’ll explore the judge’s ruling today to determine whether we have any appellate remedy,” said Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes.

The show’s producers, who have resisted disclosure of the contract claiming it is a “trade secret,” are Discovery Communications and RelativityREAL LLC. The cable television show appears on the TLC network.

Company attorney Michael Wrubel would not comment.

By Dan Christensen and Wanda DeMarzo,

Reality television meets reality in a Broward courtroom Thursday when defense lawyers will seek to compel prosecutors to produce a copy of a BSO deputy’s “talent” contract with the producers of the show Policewomen of Broward County.

The corporate rights of the TV show’s production company is pitted against the civil rights of a man arrested on the program in a small time drug bust.

In a twist, prosecutors aren’t the ones making the arguments to keep Deputy Andrea Penoyer’s contract under wraps. Rather, lawyers for the television shows’ producers – Discovery Communications and RelativityREAL, LLC –will argue the company’s claim that protecting trade secrets should trump a defendant’s right to discover helpful information for his legal defense.

Broward’s Public Defender’s Office wants a look at the contract of Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputy Andrea Penoyer, one of the TV show’s stars. The office also seeks the show’s contracts with other deputy-stars in its defense of six additional defendants.

Penoyer, who is paid an unknown amount to appear on the show, arrested defendant Kevin E. Wallace on camera last January for selling a small amount of cocaine in a buy-bust in Pompano Beach. She’s listed as a principal witness for the state.

But when prosecutors produced background information about the case to the Public Defender’s Office – material the state must turn over to criminal defendants – Penoyer’s Policewomen contract wasn’t included.

“The Office of the State Attorney…has effectively relinquished its discovery obligation to a tabloid TV show,” say court papers filed by Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes. Weekes called Policewomen of Broward County, which appears on the TLC cable television network, “train-wreck television that exploits victims and arrestees alike for shock value and ratings.”

Authorities don’t have a copy

Representatives for Broward State Attorney Michael Satz and Sheriff Al Lamberti each said Tuesday that they can’t turn over the contracts because they don’t have copies of them.

“We have no objection to the contracts being presented. It will be our position that, if the documents are at some point presented, the court should inspect the documents to determine if they do or do not contain favorable evidence to the accused,” said Satz spokesman Ron Ishoy.

“We did not scrutinize their contracts. Our 5,600 employees occasionally enter into contracts in their private lives without consulting BSO legal advisors or administration. It is their responsibility to avoid conflicts of interest,” said BSO spokesman Jim Leljedal.

Wallace’s defense contends his arrest is “inextricably intertwined” with the show, and wants to review the contract’s terms and determine whether the detective had any hidden conflicting interests.

“Entertainment contracts often lure talent with money awards for benchmarks on performance, fan base, number of viewers, renewal options, licensing, and the possibility of spin-off series. The defendant is entitled to know the details of Penoyer’s contract,” court papers say.

Nova Southeastern University law professor Bruce Rogow, a veteran criminal defense lawyer agrees.

“They are entitled when the contract relates specifically to the officer who makes the arrest,” Rogow told Broward Bulldog. “The state should make arrangements to get it.”

The Public Defender’s Office represents seven defendants charged with various crimes during the show. Penoyer and two other deputy/stars, Julie Bowers and Erika Huerta, were hit with subpoenas demanding that they produce their contracts.

Bowers and Huerta talked with defense counsel about complying, but ultimately didn’t after speaking with Dana McElroy, a Fort Lauderdale media attorney who represents Discovery Communications, court papers say.

McElroy was out of town and unavailable for comment. Her co-counsel, Michael Jay Wrubel of Davie, declined comment.

Not a new battle

Discovery has yet to formally reply to Wallace’s motion to compel, which was filed last week. But in another small drug sting case that was filmed involving defendant Neal Weinstein, in which Penoyer was one of several arresting officers, the company argued that the defendant’s claim of need to see Penoyer’s contract was a “red herring.”

“Deputy Penoyer is not such an important prosecution witness that defendant’s inability to obtain the documents will impermissibly impinge upon his Sixth Amendment rights,” the company’s court filings say.

Why is the defense trying so hard to keep the contracts out of the public record?

“Such contracts are jealously guarded by the producers because of the fierce competition in the reality show industry,” and contain “conditions that are not in any sense obvious,” the company’s filing says.

The hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Thursday before Broward Circuit Judge David Haimes.




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Latest comments

  • Great article! I wonder if it would bother BSO if the officers they employ were doing comcast installations on duty, in uniform… I couldn’t see that as a conflict of interest. Well maybe to the tax payers.

  • Great article. I always wondered how reality tv and Broward County police can work together without providing full disclosure. I am glad to see the public defender’s office is on top of things.

  • The hearing on Thursday didn’t get underway before Broward Circuit Court Judge David Haimes until almost 11 a.m. The large number of defendents on the docket had slowed down the proceedings and kept public defenders fidgeting in their seats.
    A large number of attorneys from the P.D’s office and the Broward Sheriff’s Office. At the heart of the dispute is the contract between BSO deputy Andrea Penoyer and TLC/Discovery Communications Cable TV show and whether BSO and/or the State must submit it to the Public Defenders Office.

    The hearing will resume at 3:30 p.m. Monday.

  • So these LEOs are dancing at the strip clubs and the cotton candy hair blond is allowed to run her escort service in uniform without getting permission.

  • [b][size=150]The Dirty Dozen of 2008[/size][/b]
    If only we could fit all the bums in…
    By New Times staff Thursday, Dec 18 2008

    Not surprisingly, Broward and Palm Beach counties had more than their share of backroom deals, slimy alliances, ego trips, and moral shilly-shallying this year. So many scoundrels, so many liars, so many wimps and turncoats. So many bums stalking our backyards in 2008, in fact, that New Times considered expanding its annual Dirty Dozen list. Each gets a rating on our Dirt Meter, with one being merely nauseating and 10 for downright despicable.

    [b]Scott Israel[/b] In the wide open, five-candidate race for the Democratic nomination for Broward sheriff that raged last summer, Scott Israel distinguished himself as the most desperate, unscrupulous option. The police chief of tiny North Bay Village had been a lifelong Republican, an affiliation he hoped would earn him an interview with our GOP governor. In the fall of 2007, Crist needed an interim replacement for Sheriff Ken Jenne, who pleaded guilty to corruption charges. But Crist didn’t even give Israel an interview before he appointed Al Lamberti. Then Israel changed his party registration to Democrat. Presumably, after selling that part of one’s political soul, it’s easier to part with what’s left. Israel hired a ruthless campaign adviser in Judy Stern, and then embarked on a fundraising drive that included vendors who served the Broward Sheriff’s Office, suggesting that he learned nothing from Jenne about the danger of mingling contracts with political favors. Flush with campaign dollars, Israel’s name was plastered all over Broward, though not on the malicious literature aimed at his rivals. One hit mailer portrayed former federal prosecutor Bruce Udolf, a Southwest Ranches resident, as a hayseed. Another contained a cartoon likeness of Wiley Thompson, an African-American, wearing a bow tie (a brilliant attempt to suggest Uncle Tom sell-out to black voters and black Muslim to paranoid white voters). Israel won the primary. But his dirty games backfired. In a general election where Barack Obama’s candidacy drove high Democrat turnout, droves of voters cast ballots for Republican Lamberti. Israel made a deal with the Devil, and he learned a hard lesson in how the Devil gets his due. Dirty Meter reading: 6 (Anything higher is like dancing on a grave.)

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