Did Prosecutors Pick Wrong Corruption Targets?





Mitch Kraft, the husband of a former School Board member, walked this week after beating charges that he used her influence to help corrupt developers.

The jury deliberated for a very short time– proof that they believed there was little or no evidence against him.   He was charged with bribery, unlawful compensation and conspiracy.

Mitch’s wife Stephanie Kraft beat the same charges in December.

(She was found guilty of the lesser of the many charges thrown at her, official misconduct. She is appealing.)

The twin defeats are a sign that prosecutions based on the testimony of two unwholesome characters like corrupt developers Bruce and Shawn Chait are uphill battles. The two have admitted bribing most of the Tamarac commission, a county commissioner and the Krafts to get a controversial Tamarac project approved.


The chaits

Bruce and Shaw Chait: They walked free. 


For some reason, State Attorney Mike Satz allowed the Chaits to plea to a relatively minor charge and get no prison time if they would testify against elected officials. In the federal system, cooperating witnesses often serve at least some time.

That plea deal colored their testimony for jurors.

There are other reasons for the Krafts’ victory.

Both had outstanding defense attorneys. She had Ken Padowitz and he had Kevin Kulik.

Perhaps the most obvious reason that Mitch Kraft was found not guilty and his wife Stephanie beat most of the charges: The cases were shaky, pumped up by a media frenzy and accusations with little foundation.

Let me make this clear: I don’t believe Mitch Kraft should have represented the Chaits, who had business before the School Board. That was stupid.

The perception of wrongdoing ended up costing the couple four years of their lives and thousands of dollars.

But the perception of wrongdoing isn’t a criminal violation.


It’s Not Over


Prosecutions prompted by the Chaits continue.

Next up in court is former Tamarac Mayor Beth Talabisco.

Talabisco is accused of trading her vote to approve the Chaits’ controversial housing development in exchange for thousands in political committee contributions from the developers. She is charged with bribery, unlawful compensation, and official misconduct.

Once again, the Chaits will be testifying.

Another public official is tied into the Talabisco case  – former County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman. 

Lieberman helped on the political action committee that allegedly facilitated the Talabisco bribe, according to a deposition from lawyer-lobbyist Alex Heckler in the case. The Chaits testified that she was a key to approval of their project. She supported the Chaits’ development at the county commission.

The Chaits also donated $25,000 to the Transplant Foundation, where Lieberman served on the board.

Yet Lieberman went Scott free from prosecution.

Why Satz went after the relatively small fry Talabisco and didn’t go after political heavyweight Lieberman is beyond me?

Maybe Liberman did nothing criminally wrong. Or maybe Lieberman was too plugged in to prosecute.

Your guess is as good as mine.

Will Lieberman be testifying the Talabisco trial? Stay tuned.  The latest Chait courtroom circus….coming soon.



Two excerpts from lobbyist/Lawyer Alex Heckler’s June, 2011 deposition in the Talabisco case stating the Ilene Lieberman had a role working with the PAC that got the Tamarac mayor in trouble and was involved with at least one of the Chait’s. The “she” Heckler refers to in the excerpts is Lieberman:

Alex Heckler depo excerpt No. 1

Alex Heckler's deposition, excerpt No. 2

35 Responses to “Did Prosecutors Pick Wrong Corruption Targets?”

  1. Just Beachy says:

    Love that twist, Buddy: “Scott Free”….

  2. Broward Voter says:

    No prosecutor should ever bring a case to trial when their chances of success are anything less than nearly certain. Otherwise society risks abuse of authority. Few things are as serious as charging someone with a crime. Without clear evidence to convict, no such charge should ever be made.

  3. Cmon Buddy says:

    This is the smoking gun, Ilene called an elections lawyer to help set up an ECO? Lots of elected around here would be sent away for their involvement in creating a legal elections entity.

    They didn’t charge Heckler, again, he opened a legal ECO.

    You may say Ilene and Heckler son of Franklin Sands were powerful people that avoided prosecution about an ECO but why would Satz protect Barry Harris? He ran the ECO. he wasn’t charged and certainly doesn’t have enough juice to avoid anything.

    The focus should be on Satz, he is still in office, someone should run against him so he can answer for this. Maybe questions should be asked about the decades old cushy relationship between Bogenschuts and SAO. I think Kulik was right, Bogenschutz used info gained from the Krafts in a client meeting to benefit the Chaits.

    Being a County Commissioner didn’t stop Satz from prosecuting Eggletion or Wassermen-Rubin. Satz was going into an election cycle and needed to show he wasn’t weak on elected, if he had his chance at Lieberman he would have taken it.

    Lieberman paid the price for her association with the Chaits she lost the Judicial election. She isn’t even a public figure anymore, so why can you let her be in peace?

    What about Ritter? She took a golf cart from them, why wasn’t she prosecuted?

    Who knows maybe there is a good female candidate out there who worked in his office and knows the bs that really goes on there. Someone who could run against him next year and force him to answers some tough questions if he wants to get reelected.


    Ritter took a golf cart from the Chaits before she was even running for the county commission. She was between her term in the Florida House and her eventual win of a county commission seat. There is no crime in taking anything when you aren’t in public office.

  4. Ha Ha Ha says:

    Buddy, all becomes clear once you understand what Satz is really trying to accomplish.

    The Public Corruption / Special Investigations Unit serves the very same purpose as a Potemkin village. Its modus operandi is to go through all the motions of pretending to prosecute corrupt officials, while doing so in such as way as to ensure that nobody will ever be convicted, either by giving them immunity from prosecution from the beginning or by strategically fumbling each of their ersatz prosecutions.

    The recent Stephanie Kraft case was almost a total success, they just didn’t find a way to get the jury to let her escape even the smallest charge, so Kraft got a slap on the wrist. Satz probably reprimanded that prosecutor for five hours straight for not letting Kraft walk away totally unconvicted!

    Look at what happens to people like Beverly Gallagher who get caught by the feds – they go directly to prison. But let Satz take the case and it’s champagne corks a-poppin’ inside the homes of corrupt officials while they practice the long gloomy faces they’ll need to pull before the cameras in the courtroom, before returning home to once again make their fizzy toasts to Mike Satz each and every evening!

    Now poor people found to be committing victimless “crimes” – marijuana possession, hiring sex workers, etc. – they get the book thrown at them! In the perverted world of Mike Satz, people who do no harm are treated as if they were violent criminals, while politicians who rip off the taxpayers get the white-glove country club experience.

    And Broward County voters just keep on re-electing Satz, just as they re-elected Lynn Rosenthal and many other incompetent, self-serving clowns. Why?!?


    Just a reminder: They had Bev Gallagher accepting cash in an envelope. That’s a much easier case to prove.

    Also, the FBI put undercover agents into Broward to catch various corrupt officials. They got Gallagher. Satz and the local cops don’t use undercover investigators, which means they have to reconstruct any criminal activity.

  5. Chaz Stevens, I am Festivus says:


    Let us not forget (and I’m here to remind everyone) Satz’s OCU nailed Sylvia Poitier and Steve Gonot. And would have nailed Al Capellini if Catherine Maus did her job (what a hack that one).

  6. Ha Ha Ha says:

    @3 – Eggelletion was caught by the feds and served his time in FEDERAL prison (just like Beverly Gallagher).


    As for Wasserman-Rubin, she got a slap on the wrist (probation plus a trivial $3,000 fine) for copping a quick plea to a misdemeanor, and then Satz just dropped all of the felony charges against her.


    Both of your examples only prove my point – corrupt politicians whose cases go to Satz will in the end either go unconvicted or get nohing more than a very gentle slap on the wrist, while those whose cases go to federal court are very promptly fitted with striped clothing and incarcerated.

    There’s one big reason why Broward County has such an extensive history of rampant political corruption, and its name is well known by every corrupt official: Michael J. Satz – protector of the rich and powerful, oppressor of the poor and harmless, and far and away the very worst state attorney in Florida.

  7. Emily Rubin says:

    We all know you hate Lieberman, but it’s time for you to let it go. You hurt your credibility when you write that Satz would have passed on Lieberman to get Talabisco. Ridiculous to write that he didn’t go after a political heavyweight to get a political smallfry. NFW, get over it Buddy.

  8. Ha Ha Ha says:

    @3 Buddy – Ritter took a golf cart from the Chaits before she was even running for the county commission. She was between her term in the Florida House and her eventual win of a county commission seat. There is no crime in taking anything when you aren’t in public office. – but there certainly should be!!

    Under current law, a career politician who leaves office at far too young an age to be plausibly retired gets to kick back on vacation while legally being showered with pricey gifts from corrupt scumbags who could certainly use a political favor in the totally, totally unexpected event that said career politician soon winds up comfortably back in public office?!? With a vastly increased net worth acquired by lying back and sipping frozen daquiris at the pool while pointing to a waiting Brinks truck with a large sign in the back saying “Deposit Lobbyists’ Gifts Right Here”?!?

    We seriously need a new law here – let’s call it the “Stacy Ritter Conflict Of Interest Act” – requiring the imprisonment of any public official who participates in any action that substantially benefits any organization, group or individual who previously or subsequently provided that public official with any gift of nontrivial value within plus or minus 10 years of the date of that action.

    “Action” includes not only voting on a topic, but also lobbying other public officials or public employees in a way that would benefit the gift-giver.

  9. 17,620 hits says:


    Mr Satz is impotent when political or law enforcement entity is the subject of prosecution, his office will placate the aggrieved, there needs to be a certainty of punishment when one violates the oath of office. The time for Mr Satz et al reign should end.

  10. concerned citizen says:

    The crime here is what the state has done to the Talabisco’s the last 4 years. It’s time Mr. Satz is accountable for his actions.

  11. concerned citizen says:

    To Ha Ha Ha – You are “spot on”
    It’s about time the pubic hears the truth about this entire situation – it’s criminal the way an office/officer of the state uses its powers for their own agenda. Maybe someone should send Mr. Satz a copy of the oath he took when he passed the bar.

  12. Charles M. Bryant says:

    This absurd gambit of the prosecutor deserves nothing but condemnation. What kind of logic allows someone to be accused of wrong doing when so many of those giving testimony and evidence are given immunity against prosecution for their own actions.

    There is a real disconnect in this process that should infuriate all of us.

  13. Ha Ha Ha says:

    @5 – Chaz, let’s take a look at your two examples plus one more…

    Sylvia Poitier got – “a year of probation, a $1,000 fine, 200 hours of community service … Adjudication will also be withheld if she behaves while she’s on probation.


    Steve Gonot got a year in jail (and apparently got released after only eight months – June 28, 2013 to Feb 26, 2014), for grand theft (of $5,135.00), official misconduct and falsifying records…



    Let’s also take a look at Cindi Hutchinson… “Hutchinson, who pleaded guilty to unlawful compensation and official misconduct, was sentenced to four months in jail as a part of plea deal with prosecutors. After serving two months and 20 days she was released. … Hutchinson will now serve five years of probation. Hutchinson reportedly accepted gifts from contractors which totaled $14,000 in value.

    Poitier is unarguably a “slap on the wrist” – Strike 1.

    Hutchinson made off with $14,000 and only served 80 days in jail with a $1,500 fine, which I calculate to be net earnings of $156 per day (about $57,000 per year). Many people would jump at the chance to make $156 per day for sitting around doing nothing, so Hutchinson is also a “slap on the wrist”. Strike 2.

    Gonot apparently did 8 months for making off with $5,135.00 and lying about it, which I calculate to be earnings of $21.40 per day for sitting around doing nothing – well below the minimum wage, but not so far from where the minimum wage used to be. I can’t really call this one a gentle slap on the wrist – it’s more like a kick in the balls. Base hit.

    So two of these three further prove my point (Poitier and Hutchinson only got slaps on the wrist), and Gonot got kicked in the balls. There’s always an “exception that proves the rule”, and for the SAO’s Public Corruption / Special Investigations Unit this Steve Gonot case is their only modest claim to not being a total waste of taxpayer’s dollars.

    Still, if we calculate the cost of running the SAO’s Public Corruption / Special Investigations Unit relative to the truly pathetic nature of its sole semi-significant Steve Gonot “accomplishment”, taxpayers would still be much better off just locking the doors and closing down the office.

  14. concerned citizen says:

    CORRECTION: TO HA HA HA my “spot on” comment was directed at “very worst states attorney in Florida” I want to be perfectly clear – be careful when you lump all politicians together – that’s like lumping all attorneys in one group – let’s face it not all have the peoples interest at heart. Mr. Satz seems to be more concerned about his own interests, like being re-elected.

  15. Chaz Stevens, I am Festivus says:

    >> while legally being showered with pricey gifts

    1. Keyword legally.
    2. As I understand it, it was an old, run down golf cart.

    Better luck next time.

  16. you're right Chaz says:

    Yes sireee! Sylvia got nailed! Read from the Sun Sentinel Jan 11 2012:

    “One of Broward County’s longest-serving politicians, suspended Deerfield Beach City Commissioner Sylvia Poitier, was sentenced to one year of probation, 200 hours of community service and a $1,000 fine Wednesday for falsifying city records.

    A jury found Poitier guilty of failing to disclose a potential conflict of interest she had in supporting a grant for a city business association that owed money to her brother.

    Poitier, a former county commissioner and well-known face in public service for nearly 40 years, is the latest in a long line of local politicians to face criminal charges. She is the third elected Deerfield Beach representative accused of wrongdoing and the second city politician who was found guilty in recent months.

    Broward County Judge Melinda Brown agreed to withhold adjudication for Poitier.

    That means that Poitier technically does not have a criminal conviction, even though a jury found her guilty of four misdemeanor counts of falsifying records. It also means that she can eventually apply to have the case sealed.”

    That, for what, 3 years of you dogging the case, Chaz?

    Nailed with a wet Kleenex, I’d say.

  17. Ha Ha Ha says:

    @15 – That was a hypothetical scenario – it was inspired by, but not the same as, the Ritter situation.

    If we don’t have a law against this, then other politicians will simply follow in Ritter’s footsteps, and eventually we will wind up with career politicians routinely taking these outrageous “lobbyist gift” vacations between gigs.

    Let’s kill off this huge loophole now, before anyone else goes through it!

  18. Sweet Sweet JL says:

    I would like to know when it became standard practice in the world of politics and law to shake the tree, ruin lives, just looking for someone to blame? The way that the state and the DAs office have handled this mess from day one should be the subject of a real investigation! As a tax payer and a voter and a very hard worker I am amazed at the though of how many dollars and hours have gone into this, I am disgusted! In my opinion the investigation is just now going where it should have gone from day one right to the top!

  19. Lamberti is a Criminal says:

    Ha Ha Ha is right….the Feds have to clean up the Broward mess because Satz is useless. Lamberti, Lieberman, Talabisco, Ritter (and hubby), Sharief, and MANY more are as guilty as Rothstein. They all belong in jail. But not with Satz looking out for their best interest.

  20. The question is why not how mich says:

    Did the chaits offer golf carts to the Butcher, Baker and the candlestick maker? No. They gave one to an elected official between gigs. Everyone heard the rumors back then that Ritter was going to put her tail betweenher legs, run from ring and take the commission seat.

    The question as always with the Ritter klenet clan is why take it? They are well off, why take ssomething from someone where it is obvious they are looking to curry favor with you in your next office.

  21. City Activist Robert Walsh says:

    Oh this Ast.State Att.catherine Maus. Here we go again. Heard this lady’ name all over town for the last year. She didn’t nail Mrs.Krafts hubbie. Why ,you ask maybe, just maybe if she concentrated on her job, instead of doing whatever mega-money Att(Grand Wizard) Bill Scherer instucts her to do ,then maybe she would have a better track record on winning convictions. Ms.Maus is to involved w/ Ft.lau’s City Comm and its residents(Scherer). She really should not be on any advisory bds..She should not be engaging w/ certain residents(oh yeah we’ll nail Comm.Trantalis). To her basicly being the judge, jury, and exuctioner when some of you out there are basicly sore losers. Ms.Maus -pick one, either you go work for the Grand wizard, or you run for elected off. yourself, or you do your job as ast.state att. Then maybe she will start prevailing when going after some of the corrupt….

  22. count l f chodkiewicz chudzikiewicz says:

    As anyone who is educated or has even the basic knowledge of government knowns assistant state attorneys or assistant district attorneys in other states have their cases, budgets, n even time controlled by the elected state attorney or district attorney to ever complain about an assistant state attorney in Florida is to be totally ignorant of our state’s judicial system.

  23. Emily Rubin says:

    @19 Lamberti is a criminal, the Feds have been very busy in Broward over the past few years. If they found anything illegal done by any elected official,they would have charged them. There has been no lack of prosecution by the Feds or Satz.

  24. concerned citizen says:

    After years of following this blog and the Talabisco case, among other things, I have more to say…..
    1. Ilene Lieberman cuts a deal to save her rear end
    2. Ilene’s hubby. Stuart Michaelson defends the Chaits……..connect the dots
    3. Judge Imperato, a hard hitting conservative, had the intelligence to dismiss the case.
    4. The dismissal wasn’t good enough for Mr Satz, after all he was up for re-election. He appealed and now almost 5 years later there is a set trial date.
    5. Mr. Satz, wake up, cut your losses and end this before you are embarrassed. No apology required.

  25. Ha Ha Ha says:

    @23 – The Feds can only bring federal charges. For violations of state law Satz is the only option (with rare exceptions in which the Miami-Dade or Palm Beach SAOs take over).

    There has been a very abundant lack of successful prosecution by Satz, due not to insufficient corruption but rather to insufficient prosecutorial motivation &/or insufficient prosecutorial competence.

  26. Lamberti is a Criminal says:

    #23 – I hope you are kidding. Nobody I know thinks they have done enough. These “elected” thieves keep stealing with impunity.

  27. intheknow says:

    @24 concerned citizen. I have no idea where you get your misinformation from. But, Lieberman has not been charged with any crime. So there is no reason for her to cut a deal. And her husband never represented the Chaits according to the news stories on this issue. So, you are 0 for 2.

  28. really in the know says:

    @27–The Chaits claim that Lieberman’s husband DID represent them. Just because it wasn’t reported doesn’t mean it ain’t so. The reporters get the story wrong 90% of the time anyway.


    According to the Sun-Sentinel, Stuart Michelson made calls inquiry about the Chaits’ code violation and was copied on correspondence about the violation. Obviously, there was some relationship.

  29. Easy to answer says:

    If she was given immunity do a PRR and get it. My understanding is that Ms. Camacho who was the ASA involved with the case has maintained there was no deal as there was no wrongdoing.

  30. Douglas K. Haas says:

    If Ilene Lieberman’s mouth is moving she is lying. Any prosecution relying on her testimony is doomed to fail.

    If she is required to testify, which I very much doubt, a good cross examination will expose her as the self serving politician she has always been.

    Beth Talabisco is a selfless public servant, unlike her accuser who would lie at the drop of a hat to save her own skin. What a cast of characters. On one side you have Talabisco an honest servant and on the other you have the Chaits and Lieberman. I hope a bright Jury will see the difference.

  31. intheknow says:

    @30 Douglas K. Haas. Wow. You really don’t know Talabisco. Have you ever seen her at a Commission meeting? She is nasty, rude and arrogant. She raised taxes and squandered the City’s money on silly things. And she lied to the residents many times. The Chaits said they gave Talabisco money and have checks to prove it. They never said that about Lieberman.

  32. Alvin Entin says:

    During the ReCall of Patty Atkins-Grad, guess who represented Atkins-Grad? Yup The Michaelson Law Firm. What did the late Martin Luther KIng say? Oh yes, ” the blood of interposition is dripping from their lips”

  33. Hey Alvin says:

    Alvin let me get this straight, so Stuart and Ilene Michaelson should be chastised for doing their job as attorneys for representing a client?

    Using this standard, can I call you a advocate of sexual predators for representing Depute Jonathan Bleiweiss who forced undocumented immigrants into sex acts while working as a BSO Deputy who then plead guilty 33 times?

    I wont even venture into what may be dripping from your lips.

  34. Concerned City Employee says:

    I have been a city employee for almost 2 decades. I take my job very seriously and love what I do. I love my city and respect the people work with me, for me and above me! I also believe in the process that puts people in office. I exercised my right to vote and like anything there are always going to be Monday morning quarterbacks, having said that I am beyond disappointed at the error in judgement by putting people like the States attorneys office in their positions. It’s time to get people like Mike Satz out of their roles. Someone winning reelection 8 times is 8 times too many and the way this case has been handled is a waist of time, money and quite frankly seems more of a witch hunt and political grandstanding then it is about finding he truth and protecting the people a a lovely small city. Start looking at prosecuting the right people the big fish and those with all the power and leave the people who are really trying to make a difference alone to do the job we as voters and taxpayers have asked them to do! My only hope is those same voters can sit on a jury and look at the facts and realize that Mayor Talabisco is one of the good ones that deserves my vote and far from the mess that is the lies of Liberman!

  35. Arenomag says:

    When this is all over I hope Mr. Mike Satz will pubically apologize to the former Mayor Talabisco and her family along with the people of Tamarac for this injustice. He has robbed the people of a great selfless public servant and robbed the former Mayor of doing what she did so successfully, which was representing her people, her city, her fellow officials, city manager and all Rhodes employees with dignity and pride! Mayor Talabisco you should hold your head up high and or proud of the job you did and never feel differently! Thank you for being part of the Tamarc family for so many years at several different levels