Recent Broward Law Blog Features

Monday, December 13, 2010

Joe Varon Gone

A JAABLOG poster said it best and succinctly:
'Joe Varon was the finest lawyer to ever walk the halls of the Broward County Courthouse. He was a gentleman whose word was his bond, well respected by everyone who knew him and admired by every trial lawyer in this county. There is no room for sniping about this fine man. He was a credit to the profession and would there be more like him.'
Joe Varon was a mentor, a master, a monster of a lawyer whose tenacity and grit, whose passion and determination has been unmatched in South Florida. I have missed him these past years and will miss him more still.
I know this blog has retired a bit with the responsibilities I took on as a weekly newspaper publisher, but Joe Varon's legacy is simply that he was the best, the classiest, the most distinguished criminal defense lawyer to ever grace the Broward County Courthouse.
And somewhere I have a better picture.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Prosecutor Honowitz Works at Making Children Safer

Stacey Honowitz, who has prosecuted sex offenders for 22 years, has written a book to empower kids to tell if someone touches them inappropriately. An article in this week's Miami Herald, by Julie Landry Laviolette shares the important story. It is worth picking up on the blog, seemingly abandoned for months by your author here, as he publishes a newspaper, at But with the paper setttling in, maybe I can get to more posts of legal import and meaning. This is a good one, and Stacey is a great prosecutor, a wonderful person, and individual whose career is worth noting both for her caring and concern, and constant committment to professionalism. Were all lawyers so devoted to their tasks...

Here is the Herald piece by Laviolette:

There was the tiny girl, not yet 4, whose babysitter sexually molested her while her mom was out working. There was the elderly man who fondled the special needs kids at the private school where he volunteered. There was the adult who, 20 years after he was molested as a child, could not hold down a job.

In her 22 years prosecuting sex offenders at the Broward County State Attorney's Office, Stacey Honowitz of Miami has heard many chilling tales.

But it still shocks her when she meets young victims who never knew there were body parts others shouldn't touch, until it was too late.

Honowitz's self-published book, My Privates are Private, aims to change that.

``So many kids come into my office and their parents have never talked to them about their private parts,'' she said.

In her book, Honowitz, a supervisor with Broward's Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Unit, created a character named Betty Boodle who tells why it's OK to maintain privacy. Told in limerick form, the 22-page book is aimed to educate kids ages 3 to 12.

``It's a bright, sunny book that teaches about a little girl who says, ``I'm big enough; I'm brave enough to tell if something happens,'' Honowitz said.

The book is not about a child who has been molested, Honowitz said, and it is not targeted to sexual abuse victims.

``It's to empower these kids to tell if someone touches them,'' she said. ``This book needs to be mandatory in every household.''

Honowitz said many parents don't talk to their kids about privacy because they think they are not at risk. And they are wrong, she says.

``Molesters are everywhere. They are in rich homes. They are in poor homes. They are in Jewish homes and Catholic homes. It could be the babysitter, the lawn guy or a neighbor,'' Honowitz said.

One in six boys and one in every four girls will be sexually abused by age 18, she said. Of the victims, half will be abused by someone they trust outside of their family. Thirty to 40 percent will be abused by a family member. Only 10 percent are abused by strangers, Honowitz said.

A frequent lecturer on the topic, Honowitz also has provided legal commentary for Larry King Live, CNN Headline News, Good Morning America and other news outlets. She says when she speaks to groups, parents often tell her they don't know how to broach the subject.

``Parents have difficulty breaking the ice and finding the words,'' Honowitz said. ``I think parents never think that their children will be in that position, so they don't think it's that important.''

Honowitz said her daughter, 2, knows about her private parts. By age 3, a child should know that some areas of their body are off-limits to others.

``People don't want to confront issues like this. It's taboo,'' she said. ``It's time for the secret to be let out.''

My Privates are Private is $12.95 and available at and . To contact Honowitz, e-mail

Read more:

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Wash this Weed

© The Cairns Post, discovered through Legal Juice and John Mesirow's blog-------for your reading pleasure:

A PROMISING environmental scientist who forgot that he had stashed a 650g bag of cannabis in a washing machine has been let off without a conviction for the offence.

Isha James Segboer, 34, was planning to bake a cake from the cannabis.

Instead he put it in a disused washing machine and forgot about it.

In Cairns Supreme Court yesterday, hewas ordered to serve 100 hours of community service.
But Supreme Chief Justice Paul de Jersey took the unusual step of not recording a conviction, despite two previous drug offences, because he did not want to ruin the high-achieving environmental scientist’s career potential to help others.

"What influences me in the end is the unusual feature of your presenting as a well-educated person with a capacity to contribute substantially to society in your potential area of qualification," Chief Justice de Jersey said.

Segboer’s lawyer Bebe Mellick said Segboer had been given the shopping bag of drugs by an associate and had intended to bake a cake out of it because of its poor quality, but had forgotten about it.

Look forward to blogging again, what with my newspaper now up and running regularly at This week we even have a feature on the Miami Beach decriminalization ordinance proposal recently launched:

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Gay Nurse Fired for 34 Year Old Lewd Act

You may know or remember Ray Fetcho as ‘Tiny Tina.’ He is a proud gay 61 year old man who has been a licensed practical nurse for the past forty years; four decades of service to people who are ill.

Unfortunately, in 1976, while hosting a ‘Wet Jockey Shorts Night’ at the Copa, he was busted for promoting a lewd act. Today, that incident has come back to haunt him. The state has told him he can no longer be a nurse because of the conviction.

For the past 15 years, Fetcho has been an acclaimed and honored employee at Victoria Villa, an assisted living facility in Davie, recognized for his “compassionate service to the elderly.”

On March 31, 1976, Fetcho, performing as ‘Tiny Tina’ at the Copa in Dania Beach, was charged and convicted of promoting ‘lewd and lascivious’ behavior by throwing small buckets of water on boys’ briefs while hosting the irreverent ‘Wet Jockey Shorts’ contest.

Last month, that dated conviction from his past became a nightmare. Last week, Ray Fetcho was summarily fired from the job he has loved and cherished. A state licensing agency, the Agency for Health Care Administration, doing a routine screening inspection of nursing home employees, told him he would be ineligible to remain on the job at his facility “because of the lewd act conviction” from thirty plus years ago.

During the 1970’s and 80’s, the Copa was the most renowned and preeminent gay bar in South Florida. It was an international destination for tourists and a ‘coming out’ venue for anyone local, gay, and seeking an all night dance club.

30 years ago, John Castelli, and his partner, the late Bill Bastiansen, were the owners of the Copa, which hosted renowned drag queens like Tiny Tina, Nikki Adams, and the late Dana Manchester.

Today, Castelli is a respected broker of Castelli and Associates in Wilton Manors. After being told of Fetcho’s plight Saturday morning, Castelli commented: “Oh my God! What century are we living in? It was such an innocent situation. The boys always wore briefs. No one was exposed. That was during the Anita Bryant era, a lifetime ago.” Castelli even remembered the incident, noting he and his partner had to bond Fetcho out of jail.

Unfortunately, those acts then have impacted Fetcho’s life today. Unless he petitions and receives an exemption for his past misconduct, the Department of Health can stop him from working anywhere in the state as an LPN, a job which has paid him close to $40,000 a year.

Lucie Eichler, his now former employer from the Villa thought the decision was equally incredible, “Fetcho has been a valuable addition to our company. He is so well-liked that he still maintains relationships with the families of residents who have since passed.”

Eichler attests to Fetcho’s, “reliability and strong ethical character,” and says that she is “sorry to see him leave.”

Ann Garfinkel, the daughter of a Victoria Villa resident, was in disbelief when informed of Fetcho’s firing. “His termination is a great loss to the residents of Victoria Villa and the nursing profession in general.” She continues, “I believe the State of Florida is making a big mistake.”

Added Linda Greenfield, “Ray took care of my mother while she was suffering from dementia at the Villa. He is the most caring and considerate nurse you can imagine; he brings patience and love and humor to his work.”

Ironically, Fetcho has a new job waiting for him in a new Coconut Creek assisted living facility. Kelley Madigan, the administrator at Dayscape, a senior activity center told SFGN, “I was Fetcho’s supervisor at the Villas for six years. He is dedicated and pleasant, dependable and compassionate. I am prepared to employ him the moment he clears this hurdle.”

Fetcho has retained long time Fort Lau­derdale constitutional rights attorney, Russell Cormican,, who is taking the case on a pro bono basis, “I promise you that this injustice will be cured and that Ray Fetcho will get an exemption- and be restored to his tenure as an LPN.”

Cormican has to petition the Department of Health and make a case to its administrators. He explained the legal process that Fetcho must initiate: “Employees seeking an exemption have the burden of setting forth sufficient evidence of rehabilitation, including the circumstances surrounding the criminal incident for which an exemption is sought, and the time period that has elapsed since the incident, and the history of the employee since the incident,” Cormican said.

For his part, Fetcho is upset and concerned about his future. “I love being a nurse and I love my job and I can’t believe this is coming back to haunt me 30 years later. It was stupid then. It is ridiculous now.”

Added Fetcho, “I should be working up to my retirement in five years, not looking back at something from the past. I never mixed my two careers together. One was show business, one was real. I had the best of both possible worlds but if I have to fight today to help some other nurse tomorrow, they are going to have to fight ‘The Queen’ in her court.”

Monday, February 15, 2010

'EX-Gay' Icon is Also Ex-Con



A joint investigation by the organization Truth Wins Out and the has revealed that the spokesperson for a New Jersey based national religious group seeking to ‘cure’ homosexuals is a convicted felon who has been hiding his past.

The leader of JONAH, Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality, Arthur Abba Goldberg, is now also serving as President of his Jersey City temple. He was sent to federal prison 20 years ago for a conspiracy to defraud the United States of America.

Additionally, Goldberg is presently the Executive Secretary of NARTH- the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. The group hopes to heal “unwanted homosexuality” through “therapeutic care.”

One more group he supervises is PATH- Positive Alternatives to Homosexuality- a coalition of religious, ministerial, and ex-gay groups promoting “non-gay alternatives to homosexual lifestyles.” He is their President.

Goldberg, who reinvented himself in 2000 as the founder of JONAH, was found guilty in 1989 of numerous felonies in multiple jurisdictions. The charges ranged from federal mail and wire fraud to conspiracy counts as a result of a bogus bond writing scheme.

Goldberg was sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment in the Central District of California, which he served concurrently with a an Illinois sentence imposed at the same time. It was followed by five years of supervised probation and a $100,000 fine, eventually paid on November 24, 1999.

K. William O’Connor, the U.S. attorney who put him away, said at his sentencing that Goldberg was “a man who habitually took advantage of people who were economically dependent upon him; that he did not hesitate to lie or cheat or cover up to achieve his criminal aim. His greed has cause incalculable harm...”

Goldberg’s arrest and conviction rocked Wall Street when it went down two decades ago. A purported whiz kid and investment guru, he had been often referred to on the Street as “Abba Dabba Do” and “Abba Cadabra.”

Those names and that past were all secreted when Goldberg founded JONAH after getting out of prison. Abandoning the conspicuously identifiable middle name of ‘Abba’, Goldberg authored a book for Red Heifer Press under the name of ‘Arthur Goldberg.’

Titled “Light in the Closet: Torah, Homosexuality, and the Power to Change,” Goldberg re-created himself as an author and spiritual leader, purporting to help individuals struggling with their sexual identity, telling gays “you can change.” He certainly did.

“We have long considered Arthur Goldberg a con-artist, but our investigation shows he is also an ex-con,” said Wayne Besen, Executive Director of Truth Wins Out.

“His diabolical past mirrors his dishonest present-day work with JONAH. Whether it was shady deals on Wall Street or shading the truth on gay issues, Goldberg is someone who lacks credibility and can’t be trusted,” said Besen.

“The Torah is the Book of Truth,” Besen concluded, “and Goldberg has now delivered us a book of lies.”

Born in 1940, Arthur Abba Goldberg identified himself his entire life by using all three of his names, at least until he got out of prison and started JONAH.

The TWO and SFGN investigation into his past revealed that when he authored articles for the American University Eagle in 1961 as an undergraduate, his byline was ‘Arthur Abba Goldberg.’

When he received his bachelor’s degree from American University in 1962 and his law degree in 1965 from Cornell University, the diplomas were given to ‘Arthur Abba Goldberg.’

When he authored land use articles for the Urban Law Journal in the early 1970’s as a young lawyer it was under the name of ‘Arthur Abba Goldberg.’

It was also under the name ‘Arthur Abba Goldberg’ that he was admitted to the New Jersey and Connecticut Bar Associations, and it was under that name he served as the executive vice president directing Matthews & Wright, Inc., a New York underwriting firm, in which he was a major stockholder.

It was in the capacity as shareholder and vice president that Goldberg orchestrated a scheme of selling $2 billion in fraudulent municipal bonds for communities ranging from the impoverished city of East St. Louis to Chester, Pennsylvania, to the West Pacific U.S. territory of Guam.

The stories of his criminal acts were methodically detailed in the Philadelphia Inquirer, a paper based near the Chester community scammed severely by the fraud.

It was under the name of ‘Arthur Abba Goldberg’ that a United States grand jury on Guam indicted him in late 1987 on 52 counts of bribery, fraud, and conspiracy.

On September 26, 1989, ‘Arthur Abba Goldberg’ pled guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to three counts of mail fraud. He was sentenced to 18 months as part of a plea bargain.

The trial had actually been moved to California because so many residents of Guam had been financially harmed by the bogus investment scheme it was thought a fair trial in that venue was impossible.

Goldberg and others also indicted at Matthews & Wright had knowingly conspired together to enter into a fraudulent scheme to sell fake bond issues but take commissions on them anyway. They arranged to bribe officials, deceive investors, and issue bogus checks to non existent parties.

In exchange for underwriting $300 million in bogus deals, Goldberg and his investment firm, Matthews & Wright, received a fee of $10.5 million. They created the impression these bonds would be used to help construct desperately needed single family housing in Guam and elsewhere.

Separately, Goldberg also pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States in another falsified bond-writing scheme. In that matter, Goldberg participated in a conspiracy to ensure that the bonds were deemed prematurely to take advantage of a favorable tax law relating to transactions.

The 900 page presentence report prepared by prosecutors prior to his sentencing was scathing. It indicated that Goldberg’s conduct was “knowingly and willfully dishonest and fraudulent.”

K. William O’Connor described Goldberg as having engineered “a conspiratorial fraud of spectacular scope,” which purposefully duped “unsophisticated Pacific Islanders.” One witness against Goldberg said he treated the citizens of Guam as if “they were cannibals.”

O’Connor said that Goldberg’s deceitfulness crippled Guam’s economy, crushed investors, undermined public confidence in the bond industry, and cost the U.S. Treasury millions in lost taxes.

U.S. District Judge Jesse W. Curtis, Jr. then sentenced ‘Arthur Abba Goldberg’ to 18 months in prison, allowing both the Illinois and California sentences to run together. He imposed fines and restitution totaling $400,000, an amount later reduced by an appellate court.

In a separate civil proceeding, the Disciplinary Review Board of the New Jersey State Bar Association recommended taking away his law license. They found “Goldberg’s criminal convictions clearly and convincingly demonstrated his participation in activities that reflected adversely on his honesty, trustworthiness, and fitness as a lawyer.”

The New Jersey Supreme Court then disbarred Goldberg on November 9, 1995, citing his criminal convictions and his “reckless indifference to a conspiracy of considerable magnitude.”

New Jersey’s highest court even noted that “We are aware of respondent’s active involvement in community service and his efforts to resettle numerous immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.” But, they concluded, “Goldberg’s conscious participation in the illegal activities leading to his criminal convictions outweighs these mitigating factors.”

In his capacity as the Director of JONAH, Goldberg formed and serves as a director of a tax exempt 501(c)(3) charitable corporation, whose website promises that it is “offering hope, compassion, direction and vitally needed information to gay strugglers, their families, friends, and surrounding community.” He formed the group using the name Arthur Goldberg, sans Abba, one month after getting his federal supervision of five years’ probation concluded.

In a 2001 interview not long after he began his religious crusade, Goldberg told the Herald News in Paterson, New Jersey, that homosexuality is the result of “psychological trauma.’ And that “six months to three years of weekly therapy and prayer can cure it.” He did not say anything about whether 18 months in a federal prison might also help.

Today, on the NARTH website, despite his conviction and disbarment, Goldberg proudly holds himself out as a ‘doctor of jurisprudence,’ displaying the title of ‘J.D.’ adjacent to his listing.

NARTH is one of the country’s most vocal critics of the American Psychological Association’s position paper concluding that homosexuality is normal, not aberrational. NARTH advocates the doctrine that homosexuality is a ‘developmental disorder’ and a ‘treatable condition.’

The ‘Jewish State’ is a central New Jersey newsweekly that Goldberg gave an interview to in 2007. He identified himself as a former deputy attorney general and Connecticut law professor, telling the reporter that “gays have been led astray in terms of your authenticity to yourself.” Meanwhile, he failed to disclose his criminal past.

“People are not born gay; there’s no such thing as a gay gene,” he added, complimenting that remark with the statement all gays “can readapt” from “their gender deficiency.” He then said homosexual children should be treated the same way as “if a child was addicted to drugs or alcohol.”

Goldberg is presently living conspicuously as the President of Congregation Mount Sinai in Jersey City. The temple offers itself out as a “welcoming environment for all people to express, deepen and rediscover their Jewish heritage.”

Last year, as a guest in the audience at the end of a Montel Williams show discussing ex-gays, he shouted from the audience at the host, interrupting the show, to say gays needed help. You can see it on You Tube.

“I’ve always been one to try to help the underdog,” he said.

But that is not what Judge Curtis concluded at Goldberg’s sentencing on September 26, 1989.

“I find,” the court stated, “that, Arthur Abba Goldberg, you have openly conspired against the United States by knowingly and recklessly engaging indifferently in a series of dishonest acts of considerable magnitude.”

JONAH’s website brags that it teaches that ‘homosexual strugglers can journey away from homosexuality with psychological and spiritual help, peer support, and personal empowerment.’

In 2007, JONAH established a separate division, The Jonah Institute for Gender Affirmation, to provide research and clinical strategies for “growth out of homosexuality.”

Maybe Arthur Abba Goldberg should have started a peer group for “growth out of felonies.” His days of failing to own up to his are over.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Season Cometh

Well I may be out of action with a different blog pretty soon, but I could not resist this one.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Federal Court Limits the Use of Tasers, NY Times Reports

Published: December 31, 2009
My only comment is About Time !!!!- Norm

In a case that could set the first broad judicial standards for the use of Tasers, a federal appeals court in California has ruled that the police can be held liable for using one of the devices against an unarmed person during a traffic stop.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, based in San Francisco, said the electrically disabling device constituted excessive force when used against an unarmed man who did not pose a threat, and it refused to allow a police officer immunity for its use.

In a vividly worded opinion issued by the court this week, Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw described a “bad morning” for Carl Bryan, a 21-year-old Californian who drove over large stretches of Southern California to retrieve car keys mistakenly taken by a friend and ended up being Tasered by a Coronado, Calif., policeman and breaking four teeth when he fell to the ground.

Mr. Bryan was stopped twice on his driving odyssey, once for speeding and once for not wearing his seat belt. After the second stop, he was “agitated, standing outside his car, yelling gibberish and hitting his thighs, clad only in his boxer shorts and tennis shoes,” the court said.

The judge noted, however, that Mr. Bryan did not threaten the officer, Brian McPherson, and was not trying to flee — all elements of a three-part test that the United States Supreme Court has used to determine when significant force is justified. As for the third factor in the court’s test, the severity of the offense at issue, the Ninth Circuit judges observed that “traffic violations generally will not support the use of a significant level of force.”

The court found that the policeman’s use of force so exceeded the threat posed by Mr. Bryan that it denied his request for immunity for his actions and for a quick dismissal of the case against him. Instead, the judges will allow the case to go forward.

Eugene G. Iredale, a lawyer for Mr. Bryan, hailed what he called a “landmark decision.”

Orin S. Kerr, a former federal prosecutor and a professor at George Washington University Law School, called it “an important case” that was unusual in the way it set a broad rule without giving deference to the use of force by the police.

Geoffrey P. Alpert, a professor of criminal justice at the University of South Carolina who recently completed a four-year study of Tasers for the Department of Justice, said that Tasers and other “conducted electrical devices” were used by more than 17,000 law enforcement agencies and that some departments had already upgraded their rules to allow their use only in the case of an “active or immediate threat.”

If the Ninth Circuit ruling is not overturned, Professor Alpert said, the Bryan case “is going to impact a lot of departments that have not changed their standards.”