Sunday, November 27, 2005

Judges Bill Overton and Amy Williams, Bernie McCabe and Anne Borghetti's DUI: double standards

Anne Borghetti's DUI

This story is adapted from William R. Levesque's excellent investigative article Attorney's plea deal lifts some eyebrows in The St. Petersburg Times, 5-27-01, p. 1B

Last year the Sixth Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) recommended to Governor Jeb Bush that Pinellas County Judge Amy Williams fill the vacancy opened by the sudden resignation of Judge Charles W. Cope who was about to be impeached for misconduct. Jeb Bush agreed and appointed Judge Williams to the Sixth Circuit despite the fact that she is, well she is a Democrat. Former Pinellas County Judge Williams was best known as being the judge who ordered Evel Knievel to stay away from his ex-wife Krystal. But there is a better story about Judge Williams, that's not really about her at all. Actually it's about her former campaign manager Anne F. Borghetti.

On Aug. 3, 2000 a police officer pulled over Anne Borghetti, 41, for doing 70 on McMullen Booth Road, speed limit 45, in Clearwater, Florida. Ms. Borghetti is a St. Petersburg attorney and just happened to be Pinellas County Judge Amy Williams campaign manager when Judge Williams had run successfully for her judgeship. The officer said he smelled alcohol on Ms. Borghetti's breath. Furthermore he said her eyes were red and watery. He asked her to take a field sobriety test. Ms. Borghetti told him she had not been drinking and refused to take the field test. She also refused to take a Breathalyzer. So the officer arrested her for a misdemeanor DUI charge.

Not long after her arrest, Ms. Borghetti hired Skip Olney as her defense attorney. Bernie McCabe is the states attorney in Pinellas County. Jan Olney is one of McCabe's lead trial attorneys. Skip Olney's wife is assistant states attorney Jan Olney.

Since the arrest had been made in Clearwater the case was assigned to--no, not Pinellas County Judge Amy Williams--it was assigned to Pinellas County Judge Myra McNary in Clearwater. But strangely, Pinellas County Judge Bill Overton, who presides over traffic cases in St. Petersburg and who has a "reputation for handing out less-severe sentences" had the case transferred to himself without bothering to consult Judge McNary. Judge Overton later told a reporter that, "I wouldn't normally move something from north to south county. But Olney wanted it done here rather than driving all the way to North County. I didn't mind. I was trying to do Skip a favor."

According to The St. Petersburg Times, Pinellas County prosecutors rarely reduce an alcohol-related charge to reckless driving when defendants refuse both Breathalyzer and field sobriety tests. But they did this time. On Feb. 22 prosecutors presented a deal to Judge Overton. They were willing to accept a plea of no contest to reckless driving! Chief prosecutor Bernie McCabe was not available for comment but assistant states attorney Bruce Bartlett, McCabe's chief assistant, told a reporter, "I've seen Anne Borghetti in court and at other times. It is my opinion, based on what I observed [on the police video] she was not intoxicated."

So Anne Borghetti plead no contest to reckless driving. Judge Overton accepted the plea, admitting to a reporter afterwards that the prosecutors' offer had been "generous". Judge Overton withheld a formal finding of guilt and ordered Ms. Borghetti to pay $250 in court costs. Borghetti already had attended DUI school and her license had been automatically suspended for one year for her refusal to take a Breathalyzer. According to The Times an alcohol-related reckless driving charge usually leads to penalties that include up to a $500 fine, a year probation and community service. But Borghetti wasn't fined anything, received no probation and no community service!

After the trial, Judge McNary, the judge who had originally been assigned the case, told a reporter that as far as she could remember prosecutors in her court had never offered anyone such a generous deal in a DUI case. Assistant states attorney Bruce Bartlett said, "she [Borghetti] didn't get away scot-free." Anne Borghetti said, "I got no preferential treatment. The facts warranted the disposition I got." Her attorney Skip Olney said, "I thought this case should have been dropped. Prosecutors felt she needed something more than a slap on the wrist. It wasn't a sweetheart deal. She took a beating."

Since Jeb Bush placed Florida's judiciary under the executive branch 80% of his judicial appointments have been Republicans--almost twice the percentage of the registered Republican electorate. Yet he did appoint Democrat Amy Williams to a circuit judgeship. But don't kid yourself; if 100% of his appointments were Republicans, the federal government would step in--his brother being the President notwithstanding.




Saturday, November 26, 2005

Jeb Bush ends 30 years of separation of the judicial from the executive branch

If you are in the know you know that for 17 years Ambassador Melvin Sembler and his wife Betty operated the world's largest juvenile drug rehabilitation program. You also know that Straight was one of the most destructive rehab programs the world has ever witnessed. You also know that the virus started 30 years ago in Ft. Lauderdale at a US government-backed program called The Seed which lost its momentum towards becoming a national program in 1974 after the US Senate accused it of using North Korean brainwashing methods on kids.

Another reason was because citizens in Dade County had refused to allow a Seed there because the state of Florida had no provision in state code to monitor Seed foster homes where Seedlings slept at night. Art Barker appealed to then governor Reubin Askew and Askew formed a commission to recommend proceedures for the state to monitor Seed foster homes. The commission returned a recommendation that basically said the kids need to be allowed their human rights. Barker balked on this recommendation and so it was up to the state of Florida to try to enforse the new regulations on the Sembler's Straight program which followed.
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But Gov. Askew, a Democrat, had other problems too. Before he came to office the governor of Florida had complete discretionary powers to appoint judges and many bad appointments had been made by Askew's immediate predecessor, Republican Claude Kirk. One of those had been the appointment of Supreme Court Justice David McCain who turned out to be so corrupt and unethical that he had to resign to save himself from impeachment.

To solve the problem Gov. Askew limited his own powers by promoting legislation to have judges appointed from beyond the control of the chief executive. Essential to system was the institution of 26, nonpartisan Judicial Nominating Commissions (JNCs) established around the state. For each commission the governor appointed three commissioners and the Florida Bar appointed three. Together those six selected three more from the public. Thus there were 26 JNC with nine commissioners each. When there was a need for the governor to appoint a judge (say a judge dies in office or is impeached and removed) attorneys interested in the vacant bench would apply to the JNC which would screen applicants and submit a list of from three to six finalists to the governor who would make the final selection. And that's how things worked in Florida for 30 years until Jeb Bush became governor.

A 1999 eMail to Jeb Bush from Frank Jimenez, the governor's assistant general counsel, outlined a proposed plan to recruit judges who are ideologically compatible with Bush. Jimenez noted that Bush himself had asked his staff to "organize attorney friends throughout the state to help recruit ideologically compatible, desirable candidates" to apply to the JNCs." "We need to be careful," wrote Jimenez, "because we don't want to create a 'kingmaker' perception." St. Petersburg attorney (now mayor) Rick Baker was specifically mentioned as a potential attorney friend. Back when he was just an attorney Rick Baker had been the local campaign chairman for both Gov. Jeb Bush and President George W. Bush. The governor made a one-line response to Jimenez's eMail, "Come by and visit with me on this."

In 2001 Bush persuaded Florida's Republican-heavy Legislature to change Askew's 30 year old system to let HIM appoint all nine members of each nominating commission. Later the law was changed to placate the Florida Bar by allowing the Bar to appoint four commissioners and the governor five. But the Bar must submit a list of three names to the governor for each recommended position, and he can reject any list. Thus, once again, the governor of Florida has total control of appointed judges. Not surprisingly, today nearly eight of every 10 commissioners are now Republican--"more than twice the party's share of the electorate."

Bush appointed his general counsel (and a former congressman) Charles Canady to the 2nd District Court of Appeal at Lakeland (the appeals court over Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough Counties). Bush has even appointed one of his staff members to a circuit judgeship.


In 2002 Gov. Bush appointed the following to the Sixth Circuit JNC: Cassandra D. Jackson, 42, of St. Petersburg, family development specialist, Family Service Centers; Sallie D. Skipper, 52, of New Port Richey, attorney, Law Offices of Skipper & Skipper, P.A.; and George E. Tragos, 52, of Clearwater, attorney, Law Office of George E. Tragos.

Related articles:

Sources:

SPT 10-1-1999
SPT 5-1-2005
SPT 5-22-05
SPT 9-7-03




Sixth Circuit denies request to videotape Mark Adams' Monday hearing

A hearing will be held Monday Nov. 28 at 0900 at the Pinellas County Criminal Justice Center before Judge Robert Beach to hear Mr. Adams' motion to dismiss a criminal contempt charge brought agaisnt him by Judge Crockett Farnell. Mr. Adams' wife Lisa Adams, who is a citizen journalist member of the Tampa Bay Independent Media Center and the Tampa Bay Community Network, has submitted two requests to videotape court proceedings in this case but Judge Beach has denied both. Attorney Mark Adams claims that the court has shown favortism to the Battaglia law firm in this matter.

Recent publicity in the case:

North Country Gazette Article 10 18 05

North Country Gazette Article 10 23 05

North Country Gazette Article 10 25 05 Judge Beach Refuses Camera Request

North Country Gazette Article 11 5 05 Florida Supreme Court Refuses to Limit Camera Coverage in Courts

Fintan Dunne's interview with Mark Adams on BreakforNews.com

Teknosis Link - This site has links to many more articles and contains documents showing the games played at the infamous Second District Court of Appeal

The Rule of Law has background information on this case
http://www.rule-of-law.info/adams-smith.htm

Since Judge Beach has denied requests to have the proceedings videotaped, we urge our Pinellas County readers to attend the hearing so as to keep the court fair and honest.

Where/When
Hearing before the Honorable Judge Robert Beach
Monday, November 28, 2005 at 9:00 AM
Courtroom 14 or 16 on the 3rd Floor
Pinellas County Criminal Justice Center
14250 49th Street North in Clearwater, Florida 33762.

From Tampa, take I-275 south. After you cross the Bay, take the second exit which is the exit for Largo via Ulmerton Road. Take Ulmerton Road approximately 3 miles to 49th Street, and turn right. The courthouse will be on your left just past the first traffic light.



Friday, November 25, 2005

Jeb Bush selects Pinellas judges: merit or Republican politics?
by Wes Fager

Judges are elected in Florida. But sometimes it is necessary for the governor to appoint a judge as when there has been a death or when a judge has to be released for malfeasance. To assist the governor in his selection, Florida has what is called a Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC). In the event it is necessary for the governor to appoint a judge, the JNC screens applicants and submits a list of three to six best qualified finalists to the governor. The governor selects a judge from that list. For 30 years the JNC was as independent as reasonable and possible from the executive office of the Governor of Florida. But that all changed when Jeb Bush became governor. [See Jeb Bush ends 30 years of separation of the judicial from the executive branch by Wes Fager]

A 1999 eMail to Jeb Bush from Frank Jimenez, the governor's assistant general counsel, outlined a proposed plan to recruit judges who are ideologically compatible with Bush. "We need to be careful, because we don't want create a 'kingmaker' perception," wrote Jimenez. Jimenez noted that Bush had asked his staff to "organize attorney friends throughout the state to help recruit ideologically compatible, desirable candidates" to apply to the JNCs." St. Petersburg attorney (now mayor) Rick Baker was specifically mentioned as an attorney friend. Back when he was just an attorney Rick Baker had been the local campaign chairman for both Gov. Jeb Bush and President George W. Bush. The governor made a one-line response to Jimenez's eMail, "Come by and visit with me on this." [SPT 10-1-1999]

The St. Petersburg Times reported on Oct 4, 2005 that Governor Bush had selected three new judges for Pinellas County courts. They are George Jirotka of Belleair Shore, John Carassas of Palm Harbor and Edwin Jagger of Seminole. The question is were they selected for their abilities or because they are ideologically compatible to Jeb Bush?

George Jirotka. August 8, 2000 was an important day for Straight[1] cofounder Betty Sembler. It was her 70th birthday and Governor Jeb Bush had just declared it Betty Sembler Day in all of Florida for her work at Straight. The party was at Gratzzi's Italian Restaurant in BayWalk the multi-million dollar shopping complex her husband Ambassador Melvin Sembler, AO had built in St. Petersburg, Florida. Instead of gifts Betty had asked everyone to contribute to the Straight Foundation, Inc. which now calls itself DFAF. Almost everybody was there. Even Mayor Rick Baker, who was at another nearby luncheon, managed to stop in to say hello. Another distinguished guest was Sixth Circuit Judge Irene Sullivan who could only stay for salad.

Now this story is not about Mayor Baker, Judge Sullivan or Betty Sembler. It is about Governor Bush's appointments of judges to Pinellas courts in October 2005. Nevertheless it is worth mentioning Judge Sullivan and her husband Donald before we get to the latest judge appointments. In 1989 an inspection team for the Florida Dept. of Health out of Tallahassee was in St. Petersburg, Florida to look at Straight. The mission--to close Straight for repeated violations. But according to a later IG report, the head of the inspection team received a telephone call form her boss and was told give Straight a license or you will be fired on the spot! The IG report concluded that pressure to the Secretary of Health's office was apparently coming from Mel Sembler and from certain state senators.

After the incident, Wesley Pennington, the president of Straight, ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for the state assembly, and Donald Sullivan, MD resigned his post as secretary of Straight Foundation to run successfully as a Republican for state senator. Ultimately he joined the state senate's Children and Families Committee which oversees Florida's Office of Children and Families--the very same office that had been prepared to deny Straight's license in 1989. He seemed to be in a position to act upon any investigation of Mel Sembler's prior actions.

St. Pete Times writer Stephen Nohlgren once wrote, "Florida goes to great lengths to keep judicial campaigns above the political fray. Elections are nonpartisan. Candidates can't discuss political issues. And in most counties, political parties and their executives were forbidden by state law to endorse judicial candidates." [SPT 6-10-98] But that was about to change. Early in 1998 Paul Bedinghaus, chairman of the Pinellas County Republican Party, initiated a lawsuit against the state of Florida, which would allow political parties to endorse judicial candidates. He and the party's attorney George Jirotka contended that the ban violated the party's First Amendment rights to free speech. In March 1998 Paul Bedinghaus flatly stated, "the Pinellas Republican Executive Committee has no plans to endorse judicial candidates if the lawsuit is successful. I am primarily motivated by trying to get out from under this ridiculous infringement of our rights." [SPT 3-10-98] On June 10, 1998 Sixth Circuit Judge Catherine Harlan agreed with Bedinghaus and Jirotka when she declared that the "the ban on judicial endorsements is an unconstitutional restriction of free speech."

Back in March Paul Bedinghaus had said this was a matter of principle that "the Pinellas Republican Executive Committee has no plans to endorse judicial candidates if the lawsuit is successful." Look at the newspaper report on the left. Six months after his statement the Republican party was already endorsing judicial candidates and one of them was Donald Sullivan's wife Irene. And while the Republican Party could by then promote judicial candidates, the canons of judicial ethics still prohibited a judicial candidate from seeking or touting a political endorsement or party affiliation.

In 1997 then attorney Irene Sullivan lobbied her husband's legislative colleagues to oppose a bill that would have allowed adult children of parents killed by medical malpractice to sue doctors for pain and suffering. Former state senator Don Sullivan is a noted surgeon. The bill was successfully blocked. Of the flier The St. Petersburg Times editorialized, "Perhaps Sullivan and Brown, if elected to the bench, will carry out their duties in an entirely independent and impartial manner. However, they are now officially beholden to the Republican Party, and that leaves the indelible perception of conflict of interest." On September 8, 2000 Pinellas-Pasco Chief Judge Susan Schaeffer had been the guest speaker at the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club when she acknowledged that there were problems with the 6th Circuit. One problem she noted was that some judges had run openly on the Republican Party ticket, though no Democrats had.

[As a sidebar, it should be noted that Straight people have been very generous to Judge Sullivan's campaign. According to the Florida Department of State, Division of Elections Irene Sullivan received $1,000 from Mel and Betty Sembler in four separate $250 donations between 1997 and 1998. Former Straight Foundation President Walter Loebenberg donated $500 to Ms. Sullivan's campaign in 1998 and $250 in 1997. Former Straight board members or advisory board members attorneys Guy Perenich and Myron Mensch, Dr. Bruce Epstein and wife Amy, and Mel Gross and Raymond Bourgholtzer threw in $650 combined. DFAF Advisory Board member Susan Latvala and her husband state senator Jack Latvala donated $550 between 1997 and 1998.]

In 2000 the Pinellas County Republican Party called on George Jirotka's knowledge of Florida's Constitutional once again. By then it was legal for a local political party to endorse candidates in primary elections, but if the party used that right, the state would withhold the party's share of filing fees which had been collected from local candidates for office. Mr. Jirotka, representing the Republican Party, sued the state claiming that part of the law was unconstitutional too. This time is was the Sixth Circuit's infamous judge Charles W. Cope who agreed with him. On April 26, 2000 Judge Cope ruled that the financial penalties are unconstitutional. [In 2004 Bush filled Judge Cope's vacancy with Pinellas County Judge Amy Williams. Judge Williams is a Democrat. In fact, look back at the flier above. Amy Williams beat the Republican Party endorsed George Brown for her county judgeship.]

George Jirotka is a politician, himself. He used to be the mayor of Belleair Shore. He had three commissioners that he frequently locked horns with. But he had a plan. He persuaded three friends to run against the three incumbents. Since there hadn't been an election in Belleaire for years, the three incumbents didn't bother to file qualifying papers. After the qualifying period had ended Jirotka notified the three commissioners that they were out and that his three friends were in. The three commissioners wouldn't budge. They took a vote, ousted their boss, and elected one of themselves to be mayor.

In 2000 Governor Jeb Bush appointed Susan Bedinghaus, an assistant state attorney who had been out of law school just four years, to the Judicial Nomination Committee. She was so desirous to see that appointed justices would be selected for their expertise, that she wrote in her application for the commission that she was "committed to selecting persons who would best represent Governor Bush's ideals and principles." Her husband was Pinellas County Republican Party chairman Paul Bedinghaus. By 2003 Susan Bedinghaus was chairman of the 6th Circuit JNC!

George Jirotka was not only a legal adviser to the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee. In 2004 he was also a regional chairman of President Bush's Pinellas / Pasco Counties' legal team. Governor Jeb Bush appointed him to serve on the JNC where he quickly became chairman. He was no longer on the JNC when the commission nominated him to Bush for a judgeship. George Jirotka is one of the new Bush appointments for the troubled Sixth Circuit. George Jirotka, 48, has been with Fowler White Boggs Banker in Tampa since 1986. He is a graduate of Columbia University. He has a master's in business administration from the University of Chicago and a law degree from the University of Texas.

John Carassas is another Pinellas County Republican politician/attorney. He is a former Clearwater Commissioners who ran successfully for Belleair's delegate to Florida's House of Representatives. [he ran against Tony DiMatteo who became the new chairman of the Pinellas County Republican executive committee in 2004.] While a Representative Mr. Carassas was lobbied by Travis Moore of Largo, representing the Specialty Agents Association of Florida, who persuaded him to propose a bill to add $20 to every insurance policy in Florida. The fee would raise at least $134-million a year. But, get this, the state wouldn't get it--insurance agents would.

After serving three years in the House, Carassas resigned to head the Tampa office of Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist. You might recall earlier this year when one of Crist's Assistant AGs was ripped off while he was being entertained by two Tampa call girls. [See Oakton Institute to Florida's Office of the Attorney General: leave our whores in Pinellas County alone.)

By the time Carassas resigned from the House, Donald Sullivan had been termed out of the Senate. So he, Sullivan, ran for and won Carassas' seat. Bush selected John Carassas, 39, to fill a new county court judgeship created by the Legislature last spring. He is a graduate of the University of South Florida and the Stetson University College of Law.

Edwin Bryant Jagger is the third new judge in Pinellas. Edwin Jagger has been an attorney with Battaglia, Ross, Dicus and Wein since 1990. He is now a partner. According to Fintan Dunne and the Democratic Underground , "Edwin Jagger started in law as Tony Battlagia's personal law clerk." Edwin's father Robert Jagger was the Public Defender for the county for 25 years. Robert Jagger is also with Battaglia. Anthony Battaglia was chairman of the Judicial Nominating Commission in 1988 and 1989. The year before, in 1987, attorney Walter A. Fullerton, III, a partner in Battaglia's law firm, and a former assistant states attorney, was appointed as a Pinellas County judge. In September 1992 Michael L. Hastings, a shareholder with Battaglia's law firm, was named to the Judicial Nominating Commission. In 1993, Howard P. Ross of Battaglia, Ross, Dicus, and Wein was appointed chairman of the civil trial certification committee of the Florida Bar. From his web-page biography Mr. Ross states that he is "available to serve as a voluntary Trial Resolution Judge" in Florida. Mr. Ross had once proposed to the St. Petersburg City Council the construction of the "Ambassador Pavilion", a monument in stone to immortalize Melvin Sembler and Joseph Zappala!(7) In 1993 Battaglia became the Pinellas-Pasco representative on the Florida Bar Board of Governors.

Mr. Jagger will fill the vacancy created by the death County Judge William Blackwood. He is a graduate of Western Carolina University, Stetson University, College of Law, and the University of Miami, School of Law. Mr. Jagger is married to the former Melissa Bianca Passafiume, daughter of Kathryn Passafiume of St. Petersburg and the late Salvatore Passafiume. Mel Sembler has neighbor named Edwin Jagger who is captain of the Treasurer Island Tennis Team. It is not known whether the two are the same.
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In Jan. 2005 Gov. Jeb Bush appointed veteran prosecutor Joe Bulone as a Sixth Circuit judge to fill the vacancy left by retired Chief Judge Susan F. Schaeffer.

Related articles:

Notes:

[1] From 1976 to 1993 Straight, Inc. was the biggest juvenile drug rehabilitation chain in the world. It was also one of the most destructive. It was founded by Ambassador Melvin Sembler, a long-time Republican fund raiser, and his wife Betty.

Charles Cope

In late January 2004 Pasco-Pinellas Circuit judge Judge Charles W. Cope abruptly resigned during an investigation of him by the Judicial Qualifications Commission. House Speaker Johnnie Byrd had stated that Judge Cope was, "headed for impeachment by the Florida Legislature before his abrupt resignation . . ." Judge Cope has admitted that in 2001, while he was attending a judicial conference in Carmel, California, he tried to break into the hotel room of two women. He admits he was drunk. (In 2001 Broward Circuit Judge Joyce Julian was arrested after she was found by police drunk, lying in a public area of a hotel wearing only a shirt while attending a judicial conference at the Amelia Island Plantation resort in northeast Florida.)

Later as he was facing a reprimand from the Florida State Supreme Court, Judge Cope sued the women for malicious prosecution. A 2003 study by the the Saint Petersburg Times revealed that since returning to work last August after a one-year paid leave of absence, Cope's work calendar showed no work scheduled either in his office or the courtroom for 51 days. Notwithstanding, then Pinellas-Pasco Chief Judge Susan Schaeffer stated that "He has one of the best work ethics of all our circuit judges." In 2002 the former chief judge of the Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court and a retired appelate judge, David Patterson, was found in his Treasure Island home by his estranged wife, dead of a self inflicted gunshot wound. His wife had gotten a court order to keep him away after he had threatened her. He had been hospitalized under the Baker Act. He had been arrested for a DUI.

State Rep. Jeffrey Kottkamp, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, had instructed his staff to start putting together investigative material in preparation for presenting an impeachment hearing on Judge Cope. In 1996 Judge Cope was arrested for a DUI but that charge was dropped. The state had been forced to deal with Judge Cope after the November 2003 issue of the Reader's Digest, an internationally read magazine, gave one of three of its annual Broken Gavel awards for the worst judges in America to Judge Charles W. Cope. The headline for the Broken Gavel Award was "Sleazy, corrupt or abusive." In 2000 the Digest named Hernando County Judge Peyton Hyslop to the worst judge list.

Jeb Bush replaced Cope with county judge Amy Williams.



Chief Justice Schaeffer addresses the Tiger Bay Club

On September 8, 2000 Pinellas-Pasco Chief Judge Susan Schaeffer had been the guest speaker at the same Suncoast Tiger Bay Club when she acknowledged that there were problems with the 6th Circuit. She noted that out of 55 judges, only two were black. She also acknowledged that some judges had run openly on the Republican Party ticket, though no Democrats had. She wasn't necessarily referring to the likes of Pinellas County Judge Karl Grube who had been registered as ``non-partisan`` for for as long as anyone could remember until the day Governor Bob Martinez (R) considered him for a circuit court judgeship. Next day Grube switched to Republican but switched back to "non-partisan" after the local press got whiff of what he was doing.

She was though referring to the likes of Judge Irene Sullivan (R) whose husband Donald Sullivan, MD was former Secretary for Straight Foundation. Prior to publication of the Clary Report which insinuates that Mel Sembler and un-designated state senators quashed an effort by HRS (now Office of Children and Families) to close Straight in 1989, Don Sullivan resigned from Straight and ran successfully as a Republican for state senator jockeying himself onto the Senate's Children and Families Committee which oversees Office of Children and Families. In 2002 Don Sullivan was being considered as top GOP in Florida. Irene Sullivan openly ran as a Republican for a judgeship in 1998. According to the Florida Department of State, Division of Elections Irene Sullivan received $1,000 from Mel and Betty Sembler in four separate $250 donations between 1997 and 1998. Walter Loebenberg donated $500 to Ms. Sullivan's campaign in 1998 and $250 in 1997. Former Straight board members or advisory board members attorneys Guy Perenich and Myron Mensch, Dr. Bruce Epstein and wife Amy, and Mel Gross and Raymond Bourgholtzer threw in $650 combined. DFAF Advisory Board member Susan Latvala and her husband state senator Jack Latvala donated $550 between 1997 and 1998.

Judge Sullivan attended Betty Sembler's 70th birthday party where she was asked to contribute money to Straight (DFAF) in lieu of a gift. In 2003 she and Don, along with retired Pinellas- Pasco Circuit Judge David Seth and Joan Walker, and former Straight board member, now director of Florida's Holocaust Museum, Dr. Bruce Epstein, flew to Rome to attend Mel and Betty's 50th wedding anniversary.


Thursday, November 17, 2005

What's wrong with Florida's Sixth Circuit




"I said, 'let them eat cake . . .
. . . and ice cream. I know I included ice cream.' "
Mrs. Ambassadorable Betty Sembler, from her Magic Kingdom, Villa Taverna in Rome.

In 2002 the Columbia Law School released a study finding that the 6th Circuit leads the nation with an 89% error rate of death sentences. This means that Pinellas County Florida is more likely than any other county in the land to send an innocent man to death. Former 6th Circuit Chief Justice Susan Schaeffer was part of that court before she retired. She personally sentenced so many people to their death (8) that she is known as "Ms. Death." She even wrote a handbook on how to sentence people to death which is required reading for all circuit judges in the state. In 2003 The Reader's Digest named Judge Charles W. Cope as one of the worst judges in the land after he tried to break into the motel room of a woman. Yet Chief Judge Schaeffer stood by him during his tribulations publicly declaring, "He has one of the best work ethics of all our circuit judges." The 6th Circuit's current Chief Justice David A. Demers was another Cope enabler. In 2002 former Chief Judge David Patterson committed suicide. In 1980 former Sixth Circuit judge Richard Kelly turned US Congressman became the only Republican Congressman to be convicted in the FBI Abscam sting.

Two years ago attorney Leonard Englander convinced 6th Circuit Judge Walt Logan to issue a gag order to silence a man from sounding off about consumer issues with a major furniture company. USA Today did that story. Next year Englander got Judge Logan to sign a gag order to keep a man from sounding off about his client Ambassador Mel Sembler--parts of that story made it to the Washington Post. Later Logan, Englander, the CEO of the furniture company and the son of Mel Sembler served together on a social committee. There's the misrepresentation by Circuit Judge John Renke III; the endorsement of the controversial Narconon™ program by some justices; and the partnership of the 6th Circuit and Operation PAR, PAR's ties to Betty Sembler, and Betty Sembler's and the 6th Circuit's ties to Straight and The Seed--two defunct juvenile drug rehab programs that closed under charges of child abuse.

In 2000 Chief Judge Susan Schaeffer lamented that her 6th Circuit had only two black judges. Now Judge George Greer is running for chief justice. There were race riots in Pinellas County in 1996. Perhaps the riots could have been avoided had George Greer (back when he was chairman of the county's Charter Commission) taken actions to give blacks better representation on the county commission.

With its perennial mild climate Pinellas County Florida is one of the most beautiful places in the country. There are no real blue bloods in the land down under; almost anyone of importance has migrated in. Its climate and beaches have attracted its share of millionaires. It's natural beauty notwithstanding, Pinellas County Florida clearly demonstrates a dual municipal and judicial system of government where its rich Republican elite is judged and governed by different standards than the rest of its citizens.

Pathway has a judge

On June 18, 1993, three days before Straight official Kathleen M. Cone created a Straight-like program named Phoenix Adolescent Institute in Marietta, Ga. just 4 ½ miles from the Straight facility in Marietta, former Straight official Helen Gowanny, helped found Pathway Family Center only 15 miles from the old Straight facility near Detroit. As far as we know Pathway is the first second-generation Straight to expand into another state. There is now a PFC in Indianapolis.

In March 2001 Ms. Alicia Gooden was appointed Master Commissioner (judge) to handle paternity cases in Marion County, Indiana Circuit and Superior Courts. She is a founding board member of the Pathway - Indianapolis. Both Judge Gooden and Pathway president Terri C. Nissley attended Indiana University.