THE CAPTAIN REPORTS:
UPDATED: JUDICIAL REASSIGNMENTS ANNOUNCED TODAY. We hear that the GJB will be getting William Thomas, John Schlesinger, Victoria Sigler, Valerie Manno -Schurr and Samatha Ruiz Cohen; and we will be losing Trawick, Hogan-Scola, Cueto, Ward & Zabel in January of 2012.
ELECTION 2012 - CANDIDATE WILLIAM PENA WELLS .....
On October 12, 2011, on the Justice Building BLOG, I reported the following:
And the newest filing has someone challenging newly appointed County Court Judge Fleur Lobree:
Fleur Lobree vs. William Pena Wells. Mr. Wells has been practicing in Florida since 1988. In 2002, he was suspended from the practice of law for three years nunc pro tunc to October of 1998. He petitioned for Reinstatement and was reinstated in 2004. He has a solo practice in NMB.
In the past week, bloggers have posted on Mr. Wells past. Here is what we found:
In October of 1996, Mr. Wells was arrested and charged with two felonies: Two counts of Worthless Check of $150 or more in violation of FS 832.05 (2) under case number F96-33449. Mr. Wells was appointed a PD. The PD filed a conflict an PCAC Philip Horowitz was assigned the case. In March of 1998, the State Nolle Prossed the two charges. They immediately refiled the two charges during that same month. A trial on the two charges took place before Judge Carney in June of 1998. Mr. Wells was found Guilty of both charges by a jury. On August 12, 1998, Mr. Wells was placed on Probation for one year; restitution was reserved. Wells filed an appeal with the 3rd DCA in September of 1998. In January of 2002, the 3rd DCA issued their opinion Affirming the Convictions. The opinion is found at Wells v. State, 807 So.2d 132. 3D98-2706. (I will not explain the basis for the two felony charges as the 3rd DCA lays out the facts of the case in their appellate opinion).
In January of 1992, it also appears that Mr. Wells was arrested in Miami Shores and charged with DUI. Mr. Wells was found Guilty of the DUI on February 26, 1997. See Case number 21404-WD.
I emailed Mr. Wells and asked him if he had anything he would like to say or share with the readers of this BLOG. He wrote back and said (UNEDITED):
Dear Captain Justice:
Thank you for the opportunity to discuss these issues early in the campaign to flesh out the facts and correct the inaccuracies.
I would like to say that it is unfortunate that the campaign is "William Pena Wells" vs. "Fleur Lobree." I hope to reject that notion. Judges run as nonpartisan candidates, held to a higher standard of ethics and campaign practices, and limitations of active campaigning, than most other elected officers in our County. It demeans and cheapens the judicial office to put candidates for judicial service in a head to head horse race. I am running because I am qualified, not because a sitting judge is somehow not qualified.
Judge Lobree was only recently appointed to her seat by Gov. Rick Scott in April of 2011 by the elevation of Judge Bloom to the Circuit Court bench. This election will be the voters first opportunity to have a voice in who sits on the bench to judge them.
I would much rather have a system of election where each candidate runs on merit. So that if there are 10 seats to be elected, the candidates, sitting and aspiring, were listed in alphabetical order and the voters were told to "pick any ten"... This would preserve the dignity of the judicial office and make certain that the best candidates were elected.
But that is not the system we have...
County Court is truly, to borrow the television term, "the people's court" and it is a cornerstone of American democracy that the people have the last word in who sits on the bench. Without an announced candidate, as I am, that right disappears.
As to the DUI, that happened on Super Bowl weekend of 1992. I had consumed a glass or two of wine and by the time the chemical tests were done, the alcohol had metabolized so that I had reached an unacceptable limit. As a result, I accepted a first offender penalty and have learned a valuable lesson -- that I carry with me. I think this makes me a more valuable judge on the bench... Having made a mistake nearly twenty years in the past, and learned from that isolated incident, I can be a more empathetic role model for others.
As to the felony charges, those occurred in 1996, but the judicial process took quite some time to finally conclude and the Florida Bar investigation was held in abeyance while the criminal case was completed. So the dates are misleading and out of context.
Basically, this was a business dispute. I was an attorney for a concert promotion entity, and as part of my compensation, was an officer of the corporation with check signing authority along with several others. The business was to put on a mega concert on the beach at Ocean Drive with musical legend Little Richard among others. Trying to stimulate the local economy, a Miami Beach travel agency was used to coordinate the travel arrangements for the band and performers (nearly 100 tickets in total).
Sadly, the William Morris Agency reported that the inexperienced agent had booked the tickets wrongly. In order to secure the travel on the short notice available, the corporation had to wire William Morris the funds directly and allow them to book the talent's flights. The money (and more since they were last minute changes) was withdrawn from the business account and sent to the Agency. The tickets they had purchased were never used and were returned to them.
Unfortunately, the travel agency decided to deposit the checks anyway, hoping I presume for a windfall. But they were returned by the bank as insufficient funds. The agency filed a complaint with the State Attorney and the fact that the checks were in the several thousand dollar range made it a category of felony. It is not surprising that the State issued a nolle prosse on these charges, realizing the futile nature of them.
The concert did take place and the artists, musicians, and staff did arrive. The Mayor of Miami Beach proclaimed it Little Richard Day. The concert was featured in the Miami Herald.
The State refiled the charges and despite being offered a pretrial plea deal, I refused and sought a trial. I did nothing wrong.
There is no element of fraudulent intent in an insufficient check charge. It is a crime against the banking system and the stream of commerce, paraphrasing the statute, to issue a check which is presented to a bank and returned for insufficient funds.
The jury found me guilty of the charges and the judge reluctantly imposed probation.
Thereafter, I appealed the decision and the Third District affirmed, glossing over the fact that the concert did take place and the funds used to cover the NSF checks were routed to another entity which did the job.
The Florida Bar offered to close the investigation of my conduct with credit for the period of time that I had been suspended while on appeal, I agreed, and I resumed my practice.
The travel agency never requested reimbursement of the funds it was supposedly missing by virtue of these tickets. In fact, in the later civil case I filed against them, they specifically disclaimed any and the case was dismissed as a result. I never paid them a dollar of reimbursement. The travel agency is no longer in business.
I hope this fleshes out the bare facts available in the public record.
If you have any more questions, I will be glad to answer them. My mother, and my Cuban born grandmother, raised me right. They taught me never to do anything I was ashamed of later. I am glad to have the opportunity to talk about this.
William Pena Wells
CAPTAIN OUT ...........
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