Sometimes what comes around, goes around.
The Washington Times is reporting that the Florida Commission on Ethics has launched an investigation of controversial State prosecutor Angela Corey over her firing of IT director Ben Kruidbos in the aftermath of the prosecutorial debacle that was the George Zimmerman trial: Zimmerman prosecutor Angela Corey now under state investigation
Ben Kruidbos, you might recall, was working for Corey’s office during the discovery period of the Zimmerman trial. At one point he discovered what appeared to be violations by State prosecutors of their discovery obligations. Such violations, if true, could result in serious penalties, including criminal charges. Fearing that he himself could be criminally liable if he remained silent, Mr. Kruidbos sought legal counsel.
That counsel was no other than Wesley White, who himself used to run the State prosecutor’s office that oversaw Sanford, FL and surrounding towns. Attorney White had been among the police/prosecutorial task force that agreed that it would be inappropriate to bring criminal charges against George Zimmerman based on the facts in evidence–facts which strongly supported Zimmerman’s claim of having killed Trayvon Martin in self-defense. Eventually the political pressure to nevertheless bring such charges rose to such a crescendo that Attorney White elected to resign from his position.
(Incidentally, Attorney White was not the only innocent victim of the State’s bloodlust to charge and try George Zimmerman, even if we set aside George himself. The then Chief of the Sanford Police Department was fired from his job over the case, and the department’s chief investigator was demoted to patrolman. In the end, of course, the jury’s verdict of not guilty affirmed that their actions in the case were appropriate.)
Being an officer of the court, Attorney White felt obliged to bring these concerns of discovery violations to the attention of the defense counsel, Mark O’Mara and Don West, who in turn filed a motion for sanctions against the prosecution team with the Judge Nelson, shortly before the trial proper was due to begin (but immediately after the possible violations were brought to their attention).
Both Ben Kruidbos and Attorney White appeared as witnesses at the sanctions hearings, as did defense attorney Don West. Ultimately Judge Nelson elected to defer the sanctions hearing until after the trial had been completed–a decision consistent with her apparent general tendency to aggressive advance the prosecution even at the cost of due process to George Zimmerman.
After the State prosecutor’s office learned of Ben Kruidbos’ communication of his concerns, Mr. Kruidbos found his work environment substantially constrained in terms of staff and autonomy. Very shortly after the jury returned their acquittal of George Zimmerman, Mr. Kruidbos was terminated from his position by Angela Corey. In her letter of termination she explicitly references Mr. Kruidbos’ exposure of the alleged discovery misconduct.
Separately from the State investigation of Corey, Mr. Kruidbos has filed a wrongful termination suite against her in which he is seeking $5 million in compensation.
Corey was no stranger to controversy prior to the Zimmerman trial and her firing of Mr. Kruidbos.
She had already earned headlines for an odd manipulation of State retirement funds that added several hundred thousand dollars to her own retirement account (and smaller sums to the retirement accounts of several of her staff). She denies there was any wrongdoing in these matters. It was also widely reported, however, that in retaliation for the coverage of the matter by the Jacksonville Times-Union newspaper Prosecutor Corey’s office refused henceforth to communicate with the paper as they had in the past and as they continued to do so with other news outlets. This had all been widely reported before and during the Zimmerman trial.
Perhaps more well known was her interaction with famed Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz. Professor Dershowitz had been extremely critical of Corey’s professional conduct in the months leading up to the Zimmerman trial. On June 5, 2012 Professor Dershowitz wrote a newspaper column in which he said that Corey, in response to his criticism had called the Dean of Harvard Law School to complain. When transferred to the Office of Communications, “she proceeded to engage in a 40-minute rant, during which she threatened to sue Harvard Law School, to try to get me disciplined by the Bar Association and to file charges against me for libel and slander.” One would expect that Corey’s intent in making such a call was to reduce any negative impact of Dershowitz’s comments–obviously, the effect was quite the opposite. Indeed, this controversy certainly gained Corey (presumably unfavorable) attention at the national level.
Even as close a follower of the Zimmerman trial as me, however, was not aware that before Corey was elected to be the top prosecutor of Metro Jacksonville she had been fired from that State Attorney’s office by her predecessor, Harry Shorstein. Shorstein explains that a law student intern working for Corey and reported to her professor, as part of a standard debriefing at the conclusion of the internship, that Corey was abusive, profane, and unprofessional. Concerned, the law school contacted Attorney Shorstein, who oversaw Corey. Shorstein reprimanded Corey. Corey, in response, called the school and told the Dean that the professor involved should be disciplined for his role in reporting her misconduct. Again the school called Shorstein and reported the matter. Shorstein ordered Corey to apologize to the Dean of the law school as well as to the professor. She failed to do so, was ordered again, again failed to apologize, and was then terminated.
Florida often presents from its citizenry remarkably interesting specimens of humanity to the greater world, and no less so with its elected State Prosecutors.
Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer in his third decade of practice, an attorney member of the Armed Citizen Legal Defense Network, and a Guest Instructor on the Law of Self Defense at the Sig Sauer Academy. He is the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition”.
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