GUEST EDITORIAL: Justice delayed is justice denied

Posted on 26 June 2014 by LeslieM

By William E. Bucknam

1,988 days. That’s the number of days it took former Deerfield Beach Mayor Al Capellini to receive justice, from the day of his arrest on Dec.12, 2008 until the afternoon of May 23, 2014.

I was the only member of the public sitting in Courtroom 6900 in the Broward County Courthouse when Circuit Judge Marc Gold finally had his fill after listening to the evidence in Capellini’s trial for nearly two weeks. After hearing arguments on Capellini’s motion for a directed verdict from the prosecutor and the defense late that afternoon, Judge Gold asked rhetorically, “Where is the evidence of corrupt intent, where is the evidence of corrupt intent?” Finally, at 5:37 p.m. on the 1,988th day, Judge Gold put an end to this madness and granted the defense motion for a directed verdict of not guilty and that brought an end to Capellini’s nightmare.

Over the more than five years that this case was pending, I was constantly disappointed and somewhat appalled by the failure of the several judges to which it was assigned to act favorably on the numerous motions to dismiss that were filed by Capellini’s counsel, David Bogenschutz. Obviously fearing the electoral consequences of granting such a motion to a Republican mayor and then having to face the wrath of predominantly Democrat voters in Broward County resulted in complete judicial inaction and continuance after continuance. Kudos to Judge Gold for finally having the courage to do the right thing and grant the directed verdict of not guilty after listening to all of the evidence and preventing the government from being able to challenge his decision on appeal.

I was the last person to be surprised by Judge Gold’s bold move on May 23 since I had written two highly critical editorials for this newspaper about this case shortly after Capellini’s arrest: “Equal Justice Under law” on Jan. 15, 2009 and “Charge Against Capellini-The Ultimate Cheap Shot” on Feb. 12, 2009. In the first editorial, I pointed out that Broward State Attorney Michael Satz brought the overblown charge of unlawful compensation against Capellini while he sat silent and failed to take any action to investigate or prosecute two sitting Democrat County Commissioners who stood accused of far worse crimes than Capellini.

Years later, Satz was apparently shamed by my editorial into taking action against County Commissioner Diana Wasserman-Rubin, who finally pleaded guilty in April 2013 to misdemeanor charges and was sentenced to three years’ probation and a $3,000 fine. The more serious felony charges were dropped in consideration of the effects that Parkinson’s disease had on her health.

The United States Attorney’s Office finally pursued federal charges against County Commissioner Josephus Eggeletion after Satz continued to fail to act. In December 2009, Commissioner Eggeletion pleaded guilty to federal charges of moneylaundering conspiracy and failing to report income on his tax return. He was sentenced to two concurrent terms of 30 months in federal prison. Satz later decided to pile on some state charges and Eggeletion pleaded guilty to charges of accepting cash payments and a golf club membership from infamous Tamarac developers, Bruce and Shawn Chait.

In “The Ultimate Cheap Shot,” I decried the fact that the prosecution of Capellini was purely political since State Attorney Satz filed the charge and had Capellini arrested a mere 29 days prior to the end of candidate qualifying and the very day after Capellini filed his papers to run for reelection. The net effect of Satz’s action was to have Capellini immediately removed from office by the Governor and to saddle him with a criminal charge that would ultimately cripple his reelection campaign and end his political career, which is precisely what happened. It is interesting and no real surprise that this charge was filed shortly after one Democrat power broker was unsuccessful in convincing Capellini to bolt from the Republican Party and to become a Democrat.

Al Capellini not only had his name dragged through the mud for over five years, he was also seriously harmed financially. He has written proof that loans for his engineering firm were turned down by banks solely because of this pending case. He also has letters from prospective clients rejecting his services solely because of this case. How will he be made whole for this collateral economic damage and exactly where does Al Capellini go now to have his good name restored?

Fortunately for him, Capellini will have all of the money he has paid in legal fees fully reimbursed. Defense Counsel, David Bogenschutz, recently rendered an invoice totaling $1,035,015.45 for his representation of Capellini over the past five plus years and, unfortunately, this will be paid in full by the taxpayers of Deerfield Beach.

In my humble opinion, this money should come out of the retirement account of Michael Satz and if he should ever deign to run for reelection again, I hope the voters and taxpayers of Deerfield Beach will remember this case and force him into a long overdue retirement.

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