Kendall Coffey on the Pat Santeramo trial

It’s not just the big businessmen who still from their companies.  No, occasionally public servants get into the game as well.

We’re talking specifically about Pat Santeramo who used his position as the former president of the Fort Lauderdale based Broward Teachers Union to skim more money than we actually thought a teachers union had access to.  Over the course of several years Santeramo apparently stole nearly $300,000 of union funds, at least according to the nine month police investigation into him.

“We… have the benefit of a very extensive police investigation, which we suspect may well serve as a road map for our recovery efforts,” Kendall Coffey, the lawyer representing BTU explained. 

How did Santeramo possibly do all of this?  Some of the embezzlement was simple, using company credit cards for personal use, for example, or reimbursing union members or associates (including himself) for contributing to political campaigns- never minding that is incredibly illegal.  But the majority of his scheme required at least one other person, David Esposito, the owner of Marstan Construction of Coral Springs.


Santeramo allegedly booked Esposito for more projects than were really needed, everything from dealing with ants to dying the carpet in his office.  Esposito charged him more than was necessary for the job and, when the union paid the bills, kicked money back to Santeramo to the tune of anywhere between $1,000 and $20,000.

That’s where the board became suspicious, seeing the same company over and over again.  Eventually the police department stepped in and led a nine month investigation into Santeramo’s dealings.

However, Santeramo wasn’t done.  He resigned in December, but submitted falsified documents to collect approximately $122,000 of unused sick and vacation days that he wasn’t entitled to.  Luckily, according to Kendall Coffey, his termination agreement contained a specific carve-out that the union can seek the money if there was any kind of fraud committed that will help the union recover that money.

He, and the union plan to “take whatever action may be appropriate to try to recover the funds.”

Santeramo surrendered to the main jail in downtown Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday to face 20 criminal charges that include racketeering and money laundering.



Trayvon Martin in the Court of Public Opinion

The Trayvon Martin case continues, although the court of public opinion seems undecided on whether or not George Zimmerman is guilty.  While the initial decision by the media seemed to be that Zimmerman was an aggressive vigilante who had of course shot Martin unprovoked, the public seems to have changed its tune in the last couple days.


Kendall Coffey on the George Zimmerman trial

Kendall Coffey on the George Zimmerman trial

According to Joy-Ann Reid over at, the change is partially based on the photos that were taken of the wounds on the back of Zimmerman’s head.   News groups like ABC have suggested that these wounds may give enough credence to his claims of self-defense that perhaps the second degree murder charges should be dropped.


But, that’s really just speculation.  Legal experts like Kendall Coffey say that the pictures don’t prove that  Zimmerman is innocent by a long shot.


Kendall Coffey says pictures might not prove anything

Kendall Coffey says pictures might not prove anything


“What it proves is that [he’s] got credible evidence on one of the elements of Stand Your Ground,’ which is the claim that he was in reasonable fear of serious bodily injury. But that doesn’t answer the question of who stated the fight, or the other critical question: did Zimmerman have to finish the fight by killing Trayvon Martin?”

Just because someone strikes you does not mean that you are justified in shooting to kill, even under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.  And as Catherine Crier, a former distict court judge and TV legal analyst, explains, “”There’s an interesting provision right at the end of the statute [that says] you can’t use ‘Stand Your Ground’ if you initially provoke the use of force, unless that person is coming at you with such great force that you really are fearful for your life, and you’ve exhausted every other means of escape other than force.”

“You’re telling me that George Zimmerman — armed — has a gun, and he is terrified that Trayvon Martin is going to get him, and he has really tried to run?” Crier asks.

Of course, before the media starts calling for prosecutors to drop the case against Zimmerman they should probably remember that the prosecution has already seen those images.

“They were fully aware of that information, and yet reached a conclusion that they could prove second degree murder beyond a reasonable doubt,” Coffey explained.  “Rushing to judgment that Zimmerman is innocent is equally as wrong as rushing to judgment that he is guilty.”

As it stands now, the group representing Zimmerman is taking steps to try to quell the media sensation that has arisen, although it might well be too late.  They’ve urged the public to remember that “the only proper place to determine the guilt or innocence of George Zimmerman is in court,” partially because the only people who will have all of the information at their fingertips will be the jury.