SANFORD - A legal panel is recommending the Florida Supreme Court make a rare move - summon Seminole Circuit Judge Leonard V Wood to Tallahassee to reprimand him publicly The panel Wednesday accused Wood of repeatedly making "rude, intemperate and inappropriate comments to the people who appear before him. The Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission cited six examples. At least five of them in l997. When Wood browbeat, belittled and was rude to attorneys and members of, the public.
'I THINK I'M A VERY FAIR JUDGE' SAID WOOD.
One was the case of Gary Lieberman and Julie Smith-Lieberman. An Altamonte Springs couple who had amicably worked out the details of their divorce.
All they needed was a judge to finalize it.
They appeared before Wood on Aug.13 at the Seminole County Courthouse in Sanford, expecting a five-minute hearing. Instead, Wood forced the couple to disclose details about their sex life, according to paperwork filed with the Supreme Court. He also urged them to stay married and have a baby. He said if we would have a little bambino, all our problems would be over," Smith- Lieberman said Wednesday. Wood then said he would love to help her with that project if he weren't married, according to Smith-Lieberman and paperwork filed with the state Supreme Court on Wednesday.
"He was trying to humiliate both of us," Gary Lieberman said.
Wood, 61, a judge in the 18th Judicial Circuit for 10 years and a state legislator for two, said Wednesday that some of the Liebermans' complaints were unfounded.
However, he has agreed to the reprimand. In paperwork filed with the court, he admitted each allegation cited by the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission, which investigates complaints against judges. "I have been at fault in my choice of words and unnecessary expression of thought," Wood wrote.
He blamed health problems, in part, and said he is under the long-term care of a psychologist for help in stress and anger management. He takes medication for heart and blood pressure problems and has diabetes, he said.
Last month, Wood was transferred from civil court to juvenile court. It is a I stressful assignment, he said, and attorneys are less confrontational there.
"I think I'm a very fair judge," he said Wood was admonished by the commission chairman in 1994 for similar behavior was warned then that if he didn't change, would be dealt with more harshly.
That's what the panel is recommending now. A public reprimand by the Florida Supreme Court is rare. If the court agrees Wood would be only the third judge in eight years to face that punishment. The last one was Seminole Circuit Judge Nancy Alley. In November, the court sternly reprimanded her in public for conducting dirty and misleading election campaign 1996.
July 21, 1998
Leonard V. Wood
Seminole County Courthouse
North Park Avenue
Well, it seems that I am already at a loss. No disrespect intended, however, I don't feel comfortable calling you "your Honor" since, according to your own words, you are less than honorable. I simply cannot refer to you as â judge, as my experience before you disputes that as well. Moreover, there really is only ONE judge, the rest of you fail miserably pretending to be fair. Unfortunately, when you make an error, the price that one pays is astronomical. I consider myself fortunate in that, even though you put my only child in prison without granting him due process, I was not completely destroyed by your fallibility. On the contrary, I was strengthened.
This is not the first letter that I have written to you. I wrote to you once before, and you answered me by announcing in your courtroom that you would not take the time to read letters from layman lawyers who were disputing the fine job done by the Public Pretender's Office. Well, I am not a layman lawyer, layman doctor or even a layman Indian Chief nor am I blind and/or ignorant and can spot injustice when it is before me. It is sad that you would come to the conclusion that words from loved ones and friends of the accused are attempts at practicing law. I am continually amused at the arrogance of those who make up our legal system. Simply look at Florida's most recent examples of justice, I am sure Mr. Pitts and Mr. Lee would be happy to explain to you how this system works. I am sure they would leave no stone unturned as they enlighten you on how innocent men can be manipulated into signing false confessions or accepting coerced pleas.
My son's case will come to an end. When it does, his tribulation will be over since guilt does not plague an innocent man. Considering all the lives you have touched, justly or unjustly, I pray, given your age, you are someday able to forgive yourself for the part you play in this system. I suggest that when/if ever you do, anger management class will no longer be necessary. And more so, I pray that those who are judging you, have clearer sight, better hearing and a more impartial and fair mind than you did when you sentenced my son to 15 years without a trial.
It took a very long time for me to learn to forgive you, Leonard Wood, but I have. By doing so, I discovered that my energy would be better spent (using my experience in your courtroom as the incentive) exposing the INjustice of this system. As you can see from this letterhead, I found the vehicle. The antics in your courtroom gave me a much better understanding of the fallacious and deceptive process of this Machiavellian system. I once told you that you would continue to see my face and hear my voice until my son's freedom or my funeral, I now contend that my funeral will be the termination of my determination.
I am not writing this letter to add salt to your open wound. In fact, I write this letter to offer my sympathy to you during your tribulation. You see sir, I all but died the day you sentenced my son without due process. I thought my world had ended due to your error in judgement and lack of courage in opposing a room full of state attorneys. I thought you were a fair man, I was mistaken, yet would never wish, what my son is enduring, on another human being including you. Despite you, the INjustice of my son's case propelled me to take the stand that I have. You taught me, in fact are still teaching me, how to survive injustice and find the strength to oppose it.
On November 29, 1995, I began praying for your soul. On December 4, I increased the level of that prayer. I prayed for you to find a sense of justice, morality, and truth. Now, I simply pray that you are given sight, wisdom and peace, hoping that before you destroy another life, you are confident of your decision rather than manipulated into a decision by confrontational attorneys.
Godspeed to you sir,
Executive Director The Illumination Project (TIP)
Defendant vanishes in Miami lawyers' drug trial
(Defendant disappears; partial verdict.) By Patricia Zengerle MIAMI (Reuters) - A former U.S. prosecutor facing charges he was involved in the Colombian drug trade vanished on Friday from the federal court house where a jury has been deliberating in his re-trial. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office said William Moran, a defense attorney and former federal prosecutor, learned that the jury had reached a partial verdict in the case, walked into an elevator, left the building and did not return. U.S. District Judge William Hoeveler issued a warrant for Moran's arrest, and sent federal marshals to look for him. Hoeveler also ordered the partial verdict against Moran and Michael Abbell, former director of the U.S. Justice Department's Office of International Affairs, be sealed. He told the jury to continue deliberating on the remaining charges. No information was released about the partial verdict, which came a day after Hoeveler excused one juror from the 12-member panel because the juror refused to deliberate. Federal law allows 11 jurors to decide a case. In the case, prosecutors charge that Moran and Abbell crossed the line from defending Colombian drug clients to participating in the narcotics trade. The two men are charged with racketeering conspiracy, money-laundering conspiracy, drug trafficking conspiracy and obstruction of justice in connection with their work for cartel kingpins Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela and his brother Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela. Abbell and Moran acknowledge having provided legal services to the brothers but deny they broke the law. Their first trial ended in October 1997 after five months when the jury failed to reach verdicts on most of the charges. The jury in the retrial began deliberating July 6. The case is the first time the U.S. government has charged American lawyers who represented South American drug clients with trafficking and conspiracy counts normally reserved for those more directly involved in the cocaine trade. ^REUTERS@ 05:33 PM ET 07/17/98
MIAMI (Reuters) - A Florida state senator pleaded not guilty Friday to charges of money laundering, paying kickbacks to doctors, and witness tampering in one of the nation's largest Medicare fraud investigations. Republican state Sen. Alberto Gutman of Miami, had been indicted on 32 counts on June 12. The indictment said Gutman and his wife, Marcie, were part of a group that faked claims for home medical treatment that was never provided, or was provided to people who were not eligible for Medicare, U.S. officials said. Gutman, 39, the chairman of Florida's Miami-Dade County legislative delegation. He has already qualified to run for re-election this fall. As of June 30, he had raised $199,000 for his re-election bid. Marcie Gutman's arraignment is set for next week. Gutman was the latest in a string of public officials to be indicted in an ongoing probe of government corruption in the Miami area. When his indictment was announced, U.S. Attorney Tom Scott joked that the unsealing of such indictments ``is becoming a weekly ritual in south Florida.'' ^REUTERS@ 07:59 PM ET 07/20/98
MIAMI (Reuters) - Two U.S. lawyers, one of them a former senior government justice official, were convicted on Monday of conspiring with Colombian drug barons, relaying death threats and making payments of hush money. A jury found Michael Abbell and William Moran guilty of racketeering and money laundering conspiracy. District Judge William Hoovelar declared a mistrial on two counts of drug-trafficking conspiracy after the jury failed to reach a verdict. No date was set for sentencing. Prosecutors charged that Moran and Abbell crossed the line from defending Colombian drug clients to participating in the narcotics trade in league with the Cali cartel. They were accused of making payments to silence informers, delivering threats and preparing false affidavits for cartel kingpins Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela and his brother Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela. Abbell, of Bethesda, Maryland, is a former director of the Justice Department's Office of International Affairs. Moran, 59, of Miami, is a criminal defense attorney and former U.S. prosecutor. A warrant was out for Moran's arrest after he vanished Friday from the federal court house when it was learned that the jury had reached a partial verdict. The two men acknowledge having provided legal services to the Cali cartel but denied they broke the law. The cartel was preeminent in the cocaine smuggling boom of the 1980s, shipping millions of dollars worth of drugs from Colombia into the United States. The Harvard-trained Abbell, 57, served in the Justice Department for 17 years, rising to head its office of international affairs in the Carter administration before leaving to start a private practice in 1984. As a recognized expert in extradition, he was retained by the Rodriguez brothers to keep them out of U.S. jails. They are now serving time in a Colombian prison. The two defendants' first trial ended in October 1997 after five months when the jury failed to reach verdicts on most of the charges. The case is the first time the U.S. government has charged American lawyers who represented South American drug clients with trafficking and conspiracy counts normally reserved for those more directly involved in the cocaine trade.
The Bakersfield Californian
A fired Lerdo Jail detention officer was convicted Wednesday of three misdemeanor charges that he allowed three inmates to beat up a fourth.
A Bakersfield Municipal Court jury of 11 women and one man deliberated Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning before finding Jason Tyler Johnson, 24, guilty of assault under color of authority, assault and corporal punishment of an inmate.
Johnson showed no reaction to the verdict, and his attorney, Robert F. Carbone of Bakersfield, who is fighting in a Superior Court lawsuit to get Johnson's job reinstated, declined comment.
Deputy District Attorney Chris W. Staiger said the verdict was appropriate and that Johnson could face up to a year in jail. Sentencing is set for Sept. 1. Staiger said considering Johnson has no criminal record, he would expect a sentence of less than a year.
The critical evidence in the case was a tape-recorded telephone call between Johnson and another detention officer, James Allen, in which Johnson suggested a cover-up plan. Allen, who was being trained by Johnson, saw the April 10 fight from a control room.
Johnson's arrest was announced May 4 by Sheriff Carl Sparks at a news conference. Carbone complained in Superior Court that Sparks could not conduct a fair hearing on Johnson's job in a situation where Sparks conducted a news conference. A Superior Court judge will hear arguments on that issue Aug. 27.
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 24, 1999
ST. PETERSBURG -- Gina Felosi met St. Petersburg police Officer Stephen Ober when he wrote her a ticket for driving with a suspended license. The next time she saw him, Felosi told investigators, Ober paid her $40 for sex in the back seat of a running cruiser. "It was about five minutes, if that," Felosi told St. Petersburg Detective Lori Scott in September, when an internal affairs investigation began. Following the three-month inquiry, police Chief Goliath Davis III on Wednesday suspended Ober for 45 days. While detectives concluded Ober, 32, had sex with the prostitute, they said there was "insufficient evidence" to prove he paid Felosi. Investigators said Ober gave conflicting statements to internal affairs detectives and that eventually, he told them he wanted "to clear the whole thing up." A letter from a female jail inmate prompted the investigation into accusations that Ober and two other St. Petersburg patrol officers had sex with Felosi. Officer David Crawford, 34, was suspended for 15 days for "inappropriate conduct" with Felosi. Investigators could not prove or disprove allegations Officer Owen Dietz, 37, had sex with Felosi. He was not disciplined. Over the summer, a vice and narcotics detective received a letter from an inmate who shared a cell with Felosi. She wrote that Felosi told her she was having sex with officers. Detectives Paul Cooke and Mike Celona interviewed Felosi, who told police she was a prostitute and had had sex with officers on and off duty. Two weeks after Ober wrote her a Jan. 31, 1997, traffic ticket, he picked her up along 34th Street and paid her two $20 bills after they had sex in his cruiser, Felosi told investigators. "He took off his gunbelt and pulled down his pants," she said, according to police records. Beginning in January 1997, Felosi said, Ober visited her at the El Patio motel in St. Petersburg three times a week for 10 months, a claim Ober denies. Felosi also told investigators that on one occasion, he paid her $130 for sex, another accusation Ober denies. Ober, who patrols District I and has been with the department five years, told investigators he was intimate only once with Felosi. "I only had sex with her one time at my house, never gave her money and I never had sex on duty," Ober told investigators. "Never had sex with her after that. That is the God honest truth." Police administrators also determined Crawford, a 14-year veteran, had an intimate relationship with Felosi. According to investigators, Felosi and Crawford hugged, kissed and fondled each other more than once while Crawford was on duty.