UPDATED: Charges Brought in "Ynot" Case

Categories: Crime
Ynot with son Max just days prior to his death
UPDATED: The SAO just announced that it has filed charges in the case of graffiti artist Jonathan "Ynot" Corso. The release:

The Broward State Attorney's Office has charged Reynaldo Rodriguez, 32, with vehicular homicide in the July early-morning death of a man in the parking lot of a Davie nightclub.

Davie police arriving at the Club Eden about 4 a.m. July 28 found Jonathan P. Corso, 30, lying between two parked cars and being administered CPR by a bystander. Witnesses told police that a white Cadillac Escalade driven by Rodriguez struck Corso following a verbal and physical confrontation in the parking lot involving the two men and several other club patrons.

At the end of the fight, witnesses told investigators, Rodriguez got into the Escalade and backed the vehicle into a small group of men. The impact knocked down Corso, who was then run over by the Cadillac's back tires. The back tires ran over Corso  a second time when Rodriquez reversed direction and pulled the Cadillac forward, investigators learned.

Rodriguez surrendered at the Broward County Jail Wednesday and was released on $2,500 bond. Vehicular homicide is a second-degree felony and is punishable by a maximum 15 years in prison. 

Inside, see how this year was the year of corruption in Broward County and how State Attorney Mike Satz does, indeed, deserve a hand.

JAABlog called out the Pulp the other day, writing: "Hey Bob Norman - stop applauding Satz, who looked the other way for over thirty years!" 

I guess I have, but it's like Bizarro World because I've criticized Michael Satz more than anyone for his footsie-playing with corruption in Broward County. It's true that his office simply didn't prosecute corruption cases for, to be fair, 25 years. Some said he'd sworn them off after flamboyant former Sunrise Mayor John Lomelo, who was ultimately brought down by the feds, beat state charges in court. That may have had an effect, but I always thought he was just following the path of least resistance. Satz, after all, is a politician. He relied on the same corrupt political machine as the corrupt politicians he was supposed to investigate and prosecute. And Satz, who is very attached to his powerful position, wasn't about to be a hero -- or political martyr.

That's one reason for the public pressure on Satz. I threw his lackluster investigations -- many of them prompted by my own newspaper reports -- back into his face like it was sport. His well-paid corruption prosecutors seemed to be more adept at finding ways not to charge corruption cases than the other way around (the two Johns, Countryman and Hanlon, were particularly expert at it). It wasn't until 2006 that his office, led my ASA Catherine Maus, actually followed one of those reports with an arrest. It was Hollywood Commissioner Keith Wasserstrom, who struck up a corrupt deal with a sewage company called Schwing Bioset. The political lawyers and lobbyists in Hollywood swore a jury would never convict him, but it did anyway.

At the time Satz threw the book at Wasserstrom, I was investigating the antics of Deerfield Beach Mayor Al Capellini. Lo and behold, Satz's prosecutors also arrested Capellini after investigating this report. Capellini, who hired David Bogenschutz, was suspended from office by the governor and still awaits trial on the corruption charges.

These were groundbreaking cases -- and proof that Satz could at least act. But they were also in a sense sideshow acts. There was much more systemic corruption happening at the Broward County School Board and Broward County Commission. Satz knew this. He undertook a grand jury investigation of the school district's construction department in the '90s that spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, uncovered a lot of corruption, and didn't make a single case.  

Then came the federal cases against county commissioner Joe Eggelletion and School Board member Beverly Gallagher. I'd dug into them before the arrests, and Satz had, not surprisingly, either looked the other way or, in Eggelletion's case, cleared them. Then the Rothstein case rocked the town. Then dirty developers Bruce and Shawn Chait flipped and told tales of corruption on a slew of politicians.

It was the perfect storm, and it led to an historic year in Broward County, the greatest period it's ever had in fighting corrupt and greedy politicians. A recap of cases:

June 25: The State Attorney's Office arrests Tamarac Commissioner Patricia Atkins-Grad on charges of bribery, unlawful compensation, and official misconduct. She is accused of accepting unlawful gifts -- including a campaign victory party and a BMW lease payment -- from the Chaits in exchange for her support of their controversial housing project. She awaits trial.

July 6: The SAO issues an arrest warrant for Broward County Commissioner Diana Wasserman-Rubin. The case is founded in a New Times report from 2005 and involves her votes for and advocacy of grants written by her husband, Richard Rubin, on behalf of Southwest Ranches.

October 4: The SAO arrests Broward County School Board member Stephanie Kraft and her husband, Mitch Kraft, on corruption charges related to the Chaits and a $10,000 payment made to Mitch that involved the Krafts' help in getting the developers a $500,000 reduction in a school district mitigation fee.

November 2: The SAO arrests former Tamarac Commissioner and Democratic condo commando Marc Sultanof on a slew of charges, again related to the Chaits and their golf course development in Tamarac. This strikes at the heart of the Democratic establishment in condo-rich central Broward.

We also have numerous open investigations involving a number of current politicians that should make for a fruitful new year.

Now, do these cases make Satz a hero? Hell no. These cases (am I forgetting anybody?) should make for an average year in Broward County. And let's not forget that a couple of tough prosecutors -- the aforementioned Maus and Jeanette Camacho -- did the work, admirably. But to say Satz shouldn't get any credit -- or some respect -- for filing these cases because he has been MIA on corruption in the past isn't fair either. To claim that the feds basically forced him to file the cases isn't correct either. The SAO (and BSO, for that matter) has a long history of throwing it in the face of the feds.

And the idea that it's motivated by politics, that it's a ploy to capitalize on the anti-corruption frenzy to win himself another term in 2012, well, that may have a grain or two of truth to it. But rocking the political establishment the way Satz has this year also carries political risk. It may be a wash.   

Some say it will depend on convictions. Well, there will be convictions, but the cases themselves serve a very important public purpose apart from what happens in court. Satz can't control what happens in the courtroom, but he can follow the rule of law as he sees it and bring forth solid corruption cases. These officials need to be dragged up to the public square and flogged (figuratively speaking, of course). Nobody in their right mind would say that any of these cases shouldn't have been filed, and their very filing has already brought some justice to this long-abused county.

But the jury isn't out yet on Satz. He needs to follow through on his historic opportunity. Remember that he cut a sweetheart deal with the Chaits that gave that dirty duo no jail time and basically allows them to continue in business and likely make a mint off the development yet. Remember that a few of the most corrupt politicians are still in office, making a mockery of Broward as I write this. Remember that a quarter century went by with little or no retribution for dirty officials that allowed the culture of corruption to grow and fester. Mike Satz has a ways to go to set his legacy right, but at least he's on the right road.

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