Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Keith Wasserstrom: Convicted Felon!
Suspended Hollywood Commissioner Keith Wasserstrom was convicted Wednesday, September 12, 2007, on two felony charges of official misconduct for violating the state's conflict of interest laws.
What happened? Let's review.
Let's go back to the October 12, 2006 Press Release issued on Keith's behalf by Keith's former attorney Larry Davis:
"Before the vote on whether Hollywood should enter into the contract, Keith obtained clear advice from Hollywood City Attorney, Dan Abbott, regarding the potential for ethical conflict and the state of the law as to his involvement with Normandy Group. Attorney Abbott specifically advised Keith that, if he recused himself from voting on the contract, and if he disclosed to the board his relationship with Normandy, he would not breach his ethical duty or violate the law. Keith followed Attorney Abbott’s advice, recused himself from the vote regarding the contract with Schwing-Bioset, and with Attorney Abbott’s assistance, Keith prepared and filed conflict disclosure forms."
Apparently, Keith was pinning his political and professional future on the advice of then-Hollywood City Attorney Dan Abbott. Apparently, following Abbott's advice did not turn out so good for Keith. The problem is Keith forgot the City Attorney's ethical blessing is a GIGO (garbage-in, garbage-out) issue: it only works if you fully disclose all pertinent facts to the City Attorney. I am willing to bet Dan Abbott would say Keith did not fully disclose all of the pertinent facts to him in seeking his advice.
Back to the Press Release:
"Keith is confident that the charges levied against him have no support in law or fact, and he will be cleared of these charges. He has not broken any law nor has he violated any ethical obligations to his constituency and his community."
So Keith, how confident that you will be cleared of these charges are you now? I think the problem is that Keith was overconfident.
Keith appears to suffer from excessive pride. The Greeks called this sin hubris. Hubris is a Greek word that is sometimes translated into English as "pride" or "arrogance." Hubris involves a combination of excessive pride, ambition, and self-confidence. It means thinking you are better than you really are, as in the expression: "Pride goes before a fall." In a sense, a person who commits the sin of hubris creates his own sense of morality that may run counter to the basic moral rules of the society. In tragic literature, the punishment for hubris is often a slow and painful death, in which the hero must first be stripped of personal possessions and public favor.
Keith appears to be well on his way: as a convicted felon, he is stripped of public favor. After he is disbarred, he will lose his profession and his ability to financially support himself and his family in the luxury to which they are accustomed.
Of course, people like Keith always blame someone or something else for the consequences of their actions instead of putting the blame where it belongs: on themselves. Rarely will you hear someone like Keith admit that he has only himself to blame for the wreckage of his life. Rarely will you hear someone like Keith admit that he did anything wrong or apologize for his transgressions. For Keith's felony convictions, you can bet Keith will blame everyone and everything other than his own decisions and actions. Perhaps Keith will blame Dan Abbott, his uncle Arnold, the newspaper reporters, the media, the prosecutors, the judge, the jury, his former law partner(s), the relatively low salaries paid to city commissioners, or even anti-semitism, but never will he blame himself.
True to form, Keith hired a criminal defense attorney who appears to have been well-suited to represent Keith's holier-than-thou response to the felony charges lodged against him. Keith's trial defense was suffused with hubris. Keith wore a yarmulke on his head during the entire trial (presumably to emphasize his pious religiousness). In addition, for the first day of his trial, Keith selfishly pulled his kids out of school and made them attend the trial in order to, in essence, use them as props, so the jury could see what a "wonderful family man" Keith is. (Keith's son was heard to remark that he was bored and would rather have gone to school).
I am grateful the jury was apparently not taken in by the smarmy, unctuous, patronizing arrogance, and supercilious condescension inherent in Keith's attorney Milton Hirsch's arguments that Keith had only "pure motives," was not motivated by money, and "in many ways, he was indeed doing God's work." What, God falsifies ethics forms so he can shill for a sludge company?
Did Keith and his attorney really think people are so naive and credulous as to buy into a story that was so obviously not true? During opening statements, Hirsch held up a penny and said of his client, "He made not a single, shiny penny." Apparently, Keith's defense was not worth a single, shiny penny either.
Keith's friends, god bless 'em, are still loyal. "This verdict won't have any impact on how people who really know Keith feel about him,'' said Avi Frier, a longtime friend and publisher of the Florida Jewish News. "Keith is honest to his own detriment sometimes. If the jurors knew the real Keith, how he has such great integrity, they wouldn't have convicted him.''
However, it appears Keith was convicted precisely because the jury saw the "real Keith." The jury was shown in great detail that Keith's conduct did not measure up to his much-vaunted integrity. Thousands of pages of court records shed light on how Wasserstrom operated as a commissioner. The records and e-mails showed Wasserstrom spoke disparagingly of some commission colleagues, helped spread false information about companies bidding for the city sludge contract and asked another lawyer to investigate a resident who opposed Wasserstrom's choice for the contract. This is someone who has "such great integrity?"
Unfortunately, it appears Keith may still have farther to fall. In February, a South Florida Sun-Sentinel investigation found Wasserstrom voted on projects involving companies that had paid him more than $400,000 for lobbying activities, legal services or to handle transactions through Wasserstrom's title company.
According to the Sun-Sentinel, through his law firm or title company, Celebrity Title, Wasserstrom received more than $250,000 from MCZ/Centrum Development, which has done four large condominium projects in Hollywood. The records also show his companies received more than $160,000 for lobbying efforts and title work on behalf of Triad Housing Partners, which unsuccessfully sought to build on Hollywood Beach.
On Feb. 8, Assistant State Attorney Catherine Maus announced two new criminal investigations based on the Sun-Sentinel findings, and two weeks ago she confirmed they remain open but wouldn't comment further.
The fact is Keith wears a kipa all the time. He didn't discover it at the time of trial.
Keith was convicted of being a Jew. This was a show trial.