Judge William Dimitrouleas (J. Albert Diaz)
Former Broward sheriff’s Deputy of the Year Jeff Poole sacrificed his 26-year law enforcement career and all his accolades to do con man’s Scott Rothstein’s dirty work.
Poole arrested the ex-wife of a Rothstein crony as a favor to his crooked supervisor and was sentenced to a year and a day in prison Thursday for conspiracy to violate civil rights.
“If we let law enforcement willy-nilly follow a supervisor’s instructions that are illegal, there has to be some consequences for that,” said U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas in Fort Lauderdale.
Poole’s family, friends and members of his church filled the courtroom. They told the judge Poole was a god-fearing man who saved the lives of a drowning boy and woman hit by a train. His disconsolate daughter said if her father went to prison, she would have to drop out of college and her family would lose their house.
But Marcy Romeo, the woman Poole arrested on a trumped-up drug charge June 29, 2009, said she had already lost all of that due to post-traumatic stress disorder that at one point left her living in her car.
“I see you in my dreams, my nightmares,” she told Poole.
Rothstein, a onetime political kingpin, is serving a 50-year prison sentence for running a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme from his Fort Lauderdale law office Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler.
The former law firm chairman corrupted his partners, outside attorneys, financiers and law enforcement. He paid $183,000 in cash and gifts to David Benjamin, who was the head of internal affairs at the Broward sheriff’s office and a top aide to then-Sheriff Al Lamberti.
Rothstein was best friends with Plantation attorney Douglas Bates, who had a vendetta against his ex-wife, Romeo. Bates asked Rothstein to use his influence to have his wife falsely arrested for drug possession. Bates made sure Romeo carried their son’s medicine for autism in an unmarked container to set her up.
Rothstein reached out to Benjamin, who was on the take and ordered Poole to stake out Romeo to make the arrest. Poole, a detective, said he owed Benjamin a favor for pulling strings to stop an unwanted transfer.
Unlike Benjamin, Poole didn’t get any money from Rothstein.
Romeo told Dimitrouleas that her daughter won’t talk to her for cooperating in the prosecution of Bates, who is serving a five-year prison sentence. And her autistic son is wracked with guilt.
“He says: ‘Mom, I’m so sorry I have autism. Maybe if I wasn’t autistic they wouldn’t have been able to use my meds’ ” against her, Romeo said.
Dimitrouleas said he was disturbed by one section of the presentence report but didn’t elaborate and agreed to a downward depart from the recommended sentence of 18 to 24 months. Prosecutors said Poole cooperated in the prosecution of Benjamin, a former sheriff’s lieutenant who was sentenced to five years in prison Monday.
The judge received a detailed letter from Romeo’s partner, retired West Palm Beach attorney Lawrence Flaster that may have spoken to what disturbed Dimitrouleas.
Flaster’s letter detailed how Romeo, while in custody, was forced to face the jail wall and take off her clothes while deputies screamed at her, “We have the guns, we have the power” and “Don’t tell anyone what happened because we know who your children are and where they can be found.”
Flaster told the Daily Business Review that Romeo was certain she was going to be raped and killed by the deputies. He said the false arrest was the culmination of years of abuse by Bates.
“Marcy is a strong person but, because of Mr. Poole’s actions, Mr. Bates’ wish to destroy her has been substantially accomplished. She is a totally different person now,” Flaster wrote.
He said after the hearing she was taunted by Poole’s church supporters, who said God would punish her.
“Marcy is fearful they are going to come after her. I can’t wait to get her out of South Florida,” he said.
Poole apologized tearfully to Romeo but spent most of his time speaking about how his arrest had devastated his life and the lives of his family.
Testifying on Poole’s behalf was his pastor, the Rev. Thomas Hunter of Plantation Baptist Church, who said it wasn’t a case of an evil man finally being exposed.
“He is a good man who was used by evil,” Hunter said.