Do Broward Courts Treat Cases Differently Based on Media Attention?

ian-richards-howard-finkelstein.jpg
Judge Ian Richards and Public Defender Howard Finkelstein
That seems to be the implication of some emails between the public defender's office and a judicial assistant regarding the case of Charles Harper. (Harper pleaded guilty on February 2 to stalking his former foster dad, Broward Circuit Judge John Bowman).

The public defender's office refused to represent Harper because of a supposed conflict of interest: Bowman occasionally rules on whether to charge their clients. Harper's next option for a lawyer, the regional counsel, pulled out for similar reasons. He was finally assigned DUI attorney Bill Direnzo.

While the PD was trying to withdraw from the case, Harper was essentially without representation. This was not lost on the public defender's office, which knew the case was getting media attention. The assistant public defender, Jessica Medina, sent an e-mail
to Judge Ian Richards' judicial assistant on Sunday, January 23, asking to set a hearing for the following Tuesday to withdraw herself from the case.

The response from the judicial assistant, Lorraine Talamini, was curt:

Thursday, January 27, 2011 @ 9:00

Medina's reply on Monday morning:

Thank you, but it cant be set for tomorrow? It's a two minute hearing. I just talked to Mr. Harper who can make it tomorrow from Dade county.

Talamini:

No it can not. We already have too much set for tomorrow... Please do not wait to ask for the last minute for hearings and expect them to be put on right away...

Medina:

The Judge told me I can have the hearing set if the client contacted me... This client needs an attorney ASAP. The hearing was previously set and it will take literally two minutes. It's a local media case. I will ask the Judge today in open court to set it for tomorrow.

Talamini:

You should have stated what you just said from the beginning. I will be taklking to th Judge about allowing you to set hearings in thecourtrom. It is not the way it is done.

I will set for tomorrow since you say the Judge instructed you. In the future make yourself clear with regard to it being a media case and the Judge telling you.

Emphasis is ours. As it happened, Judge Richards allowed Medina to file the motion to withdraw that day in the courtroom, without setting a hearing. This allowed the process of eventually assigning Harper a lawyer -- which Medina said needed to happen "ASAP" -- to proceed.

Talamini says that she was responding to the fact that the judge had told Medina she could set the hearing. "As far as it being a media case, I just threw that in [the email]," says Talamini. "The most important statement there is what the judge, who is my boss, is telling her."

Catherine Keuthan, executive chief assistant to Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, says that the office identifies "media cases" based on lawyers' concern that media coverage could influence a jury or trial, and a corresponding need to move quickly. With regard to the exchange with Talamini, Keuthan says "it sounds like [Medina] was trying to get the [judicial assistant] to move her butt... if that's what she said in order to do it, I'll give her credit for it."

As for the influence of media presence? "I suspect that would definitely make the judge want to move on the case," says Keuthan.

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5 comments
Daniel Thomas Pryor
Daniel Thomas Pryor

Here's my take on this. Nearly three years ago some scum-bucket named Jim Howard handed a BSO deputy a bunch of receipts and said, "He took this stuff." I was arrested. It took two years for the case to make its way through the wash, and when it was over, the SA finally realized a whistle blower witness, under a Federal subpoena, was being tampered with.

If anyone else was the accuser, and anyone else was the accused, how long would it take to have this judge under investigation. I have no opinion as to his guilt or innocence, but considering the implications, would not it be safer to err on the side of caution in this situation. It hardly seems reasonable to exercise "restraint as the better part of valor" in this situation. What if Bowman - I have read already participated in a conflict by even having this child in his home - is doing this to other children? It is unconscionable that there is no greater attention on this case than New Times. Where is the Miami Herald? Where is the Sun Sentinel? Where is the freakin' FBI?

Well, where ever they may be, I hope they are enjoying the surf and the sand in which their heads are buried.

Anonymous
Anonymous

@TruthJusticeandtheBrowardWay, Everything you say is true!

Charles Harper's allegations read very credibly as the truth. Further, when he gets older, it adds up that Bowman is a done with him and wants him out of the house. JUST LIKE A PEDOPHILE!!!

Howard Finkelstein really wimped out on this one. What is wrong with you Howard?!!

TruthJusticeandtheBrowardWay
TruthJusticeandtheBrowardWay

BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT -- The PD wanted to get their hands off this case like there was no tomorrow and concocted a TOTALLY BULLSHIT REASON for getting out of it. And what did it cost, except a poor young man's criminal record and letting a possible child molester in a robe continue on doing what he does.

Let's look at the reasons for the supposed "conflict".......

Broward County currently has a full-time First Appearance Judge -- John "Jay" Hurley.

As a result, it is only on the weekends or when Hurley is on vacation/ill that any other judge would handle the First Appearances.

So there are 88 other judges and Judge Bowman who can be assigned to the temporary weekend or vacation days for Hurley -- meaning that Bowman might be assigned by the luck of the draw to one weekend every year and a half.

Judge Bowman is assigned to civil court. The PD's clients don't appear in front of him.

So basically, because the judge is an alleged victim (and alleged perpetrator), the elected Public Defender decides there is a conflict on the mere possibility that a PD client could appear in front of Bowman when he is in Magistrate Court (which again could happen about once ever year and a half).

Ummm, so if the PD represents Harper, wouldn't the appropriate thing be for Judge Bowman to recuse himself from that one weekend of Magistrate Court, or recuse himself from the potential PD client that might appear in Magistrate Court -- rather than have the PD drop off the case.

Look, if the PD thinks that it would be bad to aggressively defend a kid on stalking charges by claiming the charge is a sham to cover up for a sitting judge's molestation -- ok, I can see how the PD might think that attacking Judge Bowman might cause other judges to have some disdain for the PDO......

But that argument would only hold water if the PD wasn't already attacking judges that he has issues with -- the PD does it every day. The PD had numerous assistants running against sitting judges.

So this whole "media case" withdrawal nonsense is just that -- nonsense.

"Help Me Howard" chose to have his office back away from defending an 18-year old kid on a Bullshit charge of stalking when that same kid was accusing his "victim" (a sitting judge) of sexually molesting him repeatedly when that judge was his foster parent.

The whole thing sucked from the get-go.

There should be some system in place that when a sitting judge is the alleged victim/defendant in a case that the Broward SAO/PD/Judiciary is recused from the case and a neighboring county's SAO/PD/Judiciary comes in that avoid the appearance of a conflict and a cover-up.

But considering we're in Broward -- the powerless just keep getting fucked -- and the beat goes on.

sparkylivewire
sparkylivewire

Well as his step father, ive stood and watch the tears and drama while Charles painfully wrote down the events of 5 yrs which i have a copy off, and we know for a fact that charles and joey having talked to the other young men they were visiting that day , we also talked to the waitress at the little diner down the street, we also have the two all day buss passes they had in hand when they they were arrested (that's when one cop said to the other well we have too find a reason to arrest them } and so on and so on . IF anyone wants to respond to this travesty of injustice My Email address is Sparkylivewire@gmail.com .

sparkylivewire
sparkylivewire

Well, D T P to ans your question where is the fbi? they were the first people we called yes that's right ,and as soon as they herd the word judge they said well get back to you well were still waiting!!, I know more than most about this case, and we are awaiting for the results of today's test this should get more and more interesting , unless broward just berries this situation to protect there own!!

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