Credit: ABC News

Credit: ABC News

“…Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”

Romans 12:19

Many readers of this scruffy little blog have expressed a desire to see Prosecutor Angela Corey pay for her hubris, arrogance, and persecution of the innocent, particular George Zimmerman.  Many others commenting on Corey have expressed the same sentiments rather more forcefully.

I would like to see her removed from office, and whatever other punishment might be meted out would be icing on the cake.  I hope this not because I thirst for vengeance, but for the same reasons we have a criminal justice system: to punish the guilty and to deter those who would harm the innocent.  If Angela Corey and her toadies are removed from the system and/or otherwise sanctioned, other prosecutors might be encouraged to remain within ethical boundaries and might even avoid race-baiting.

Finally, that process appears to have begun.

The indispensable Legal Insurrection reports:

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.

Because of her perversion of justice in the Zimmerman case?  Not yet.  Regular readers will remember the trials of Ben Kruidbos, the former IT director in Corey’s office.  As I noted in Update 29.2 and Update 31, Kruidbos came to believe–and this will amaze and shock you–that Bernard de la Rionda was withholding discovery, namely an enormous amount of data from Trayvon Martin’s cell phone–very damaging discovery indeed.  Being, apparently, one of the very few honest people working in that establishment, and knowing the nature of the snakes inhabiting that particular pit, he feared that he might be hung out to dry–legally and otherwise–and sought counsel.

In one of life’s delicious little bits of irony, he hired Wesley White, another apparently honest man who not long before fled Corey’s office with his hide and integrity intact.  White notified Mark O’Mara of Kruidbos’ concerns, and things went downhill from there.  Kruidbos and White testified prior to the Zimmerman trial, and Corey waited until the not guilty verdict and vindictively–and obviously–fired Kruidbos, even posting, on her office website, a personal, nasty and unprofessional termination letter written by a minion.

Kruidbos filed a lawsuit alleging wrongful termination, and considering the termination letter specifically castigated Kruidbos for his testimony in the Zimmerman case, and there is a state law prohibiting retribution for employees subpoenaed to testify, the outcome seems preordained.  Additional information about this unseemly situation can be found in Update 35, which has a link to the termination letter, and in Update 36.5.

Consider too this brief history of Angela Corey perfidy from Legal Insurrection:

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.

The Washington Times adds detail:  

Kruidbos received a letter from the Florida Commission on Ethics earlier this week saying the investigation [on Corey] was occurring,’ the T-U’s Larry Hannan wrote last week. ‘Investigator Specialist Kathleen Mann, who sent the letter, declined to comment on the investigation when contacted by the Times-Union on Friday.’

‘Mr. Kruidbos was the victim of retaliatory action by the SAO … when he was terminated from employment,’ his attorney, Wesley White, claimed in a formal complaint with the Florida Human Relations Commission.

‘Mr. Kruidbos was terminated for having testified (pursuant to a subpoena) before the circuit court in and for Seminole County … on June 6, 2013,’ he continued. ‘The nature of his testimony related to the possible knowing violation, by the State of Florida (the SAO), of its reciprocal discovery obligations … in a criminal prosecution. Such a violation falls within the inherent authority of the circuit court to sanction the conduct and actions of parties and attorneys before the court.

‘The letter terminating Mr. Kruidbos makes explicit reference to his testimony of June 6th … Prior to his testimony, he was a well-regarded employee, recently received a raise, and was considered a ‘friend’ by the State Attorney. But for his testimony he would still be employed.

The Washington Times also reports on an interesting development: The Conservative Tree House, a blog to which I’ve often linked during our coincidental coverage of the Zimmerman case, has filed a Freedom Of Information Act Request of Corey’s Office.

The Conservative Tree House, a political blog which detailedly reported on the Trayvon Martin shooting’s aftermath, is now due to receive documents specified in a Freedom of Information Act Request.

These documents pertain to how the office of Florida State Attorney Angela Corey and her team handled the prosecution of George Zimmerman. Last week, The Jacksonville Times-Union revealed that Corey is under state investigation for allegedly illegal actions in firing her office’s information technology director, Ben Kruidbos.’

‘Yesterday, Sundance, a writer for TCTH, shared part of a letter he received from Assistant State Attorney Lisa DiFranza. She said that Corey’s ‘office diligently works to respond to each request in the order it was received as quickly as possible.  We anticipate having the requested documents to you by tomorrow.

‘If there are additional costs above the deposit amount, we will let you know.’

In a post accompanying this letter, Sundance mentioned that ‘(o)ne of the things we have learned (over time) is that when you are requesting these ‘risk records’, the public officials ‘at risk’ will easily lie.   So, unfortunately, the strategy to actually get the records means you have to anticipate being lied to.   You must know the truth of the existence of what you are seeking, before you actually request it.’

He later added the following: ‘Make no mistake, by all appearances and given research into the Jacksonville history with Angela Corey at the helm, this is a very truth adverse State Attorney’s Office.

The Washington Times also notes:

Until recently, Kruidbos’s personal counsel, Wesley White, served under Corey as prosecutor for Nassau County, home to Jacksonville’s wealthier northern suburbs. He resigned in protest of her policies last December.

In spite of this, White told TWTC that his ‘focus is on Ben…My present concern is her posting of Ben’s termination letter on the SAO’s website which is a fairly definitive display of unbridled rage.

‘Sadly and unfortunately her spite is merely racking up more damages. Not surprisingly, Corey’s family and friends have been blogging anonymously, attacking Ben, and trying to push her narrative without risking the probing questions of (journalists).

ANALYSIS:

Remember that the investigation against Corey is being conducted by the Florida Commission on Ethics not the state bar or any law enforcement agency (its website is here and contains links to all applicable laws) This does not mean that there is no bar investigation underway, nor does it prevent such investigation, but there is, apparently, no such investigation at the moment.  Under ethics laws, Corey could be removed from office, have 1/3 of a year’s pay withheld, suffer a civil penalty of up to $10,000, and some similar sanctions.

A larger question is how much political support Corey still enjoys from Attorney General Pam Bondi and Governor Rick Scott.  Has her political juice, following her catastrophic failure in the Zimmerman case, evaporated or is she still a political darling and a potentially useful political asset in manipulating racial tensions?  If that’s the case, expect little or nothing to come of this.

However, if Corey is finally left to her own devices, if she stands or falls on her own record and treatment of others, she’s in real trouble.  I’ve seen precisely this sort of thing often before.  A demagogic public official with delusions of grandeur is often able to abuse others, to ruin lives and careers for many years, but in the process, makes a great many enemies, many of which are not easily identified.  When the opportunity finally comes to repay them for their cruelty and arrogance, they are often swallowed in an unexpected and inexorable tide of wrath.

As Wesley White noted, what kind of experienced attorney–an elected public prosecutor–would think it wise to post an emotional, hateful and unprofessional termination letter on her office home page?  Such matters are private under privacy laws, and even if they weren’t, that kind of blind rage and vindictiveness does not speak well of Corey, the law, or government.  Who would want to work for someone that would do such a thing?  Obviously the same kind of cruel, self-righteous people, people who believe they will always be harming others and never on the receiving end of unwarranted abuse.

If the tide does indeed turn against Corey, it is highly likely that her illegal and unethical perversions of the justice system will be so publically visible that the state bar cannot ignore them.  I presume that the bar wishes to ignore such things.  Perhaps I’m wrong.  I would be delighted to be so proved.  Mark O’Mara has broadly suggested that he will filed charges against her, and any citizen can also file complaints.  It would be hard to believe that no one has contacted the bar.

Perhaps O’Mara is waiting until the sanctions hearing promised for after the Zimmerman trial by Judge Nelson has been held.  As of this writing–to my knowledge–no date for that hearing has been set.  And when it is, I expect Judge Nelson to preside over it with all of the judicial dignity and integrity she brought to bear during the trial itself.

There seems little doubt that the law is on Kruidbos’ side in his lawsuit against Corey for wrongful termination.  Her vindictive and clearly illegal actions in that case should seal the eventual judgment against her.  She’s the kind of person, who, on the witness stand, would almost certainly give a performance that would make Humphrey Bogart’s portrayal of Captain Queeq (in The Caine Mutiny) seem like a model of decorum, dignity and sanity.  But sadly, even if the citizens of Florida end up paying a multi-million dollar judgment, it would not automatically remove Corey from office.

In any case, Angela Corey is facing a long road of damaging actions against her.  It is surely too much to hope that she and her minions might understand their culpability and try to make amends.  Such people are commonly incapable of contrition, for that would require a conscience.  However, it does seem that vengeance of a kind may well be on the way, and it could not happen to a nicer woman.