State attorney race gets interesting

by Tom Lyons – Herald Tribune

Saturday, July 21, 2012

It’s unusual to hear a prosecutor say what Ed Brodsky just said about a rich man’s determined attempt to get him to file a criminal charge.

"It was one of those moments in my career when it felt like a 200-pound elephant was on my shoulders," Brodsky said. He and his boss, State Attorney Earl Moreland, "felt this immense political pressure."

Brodsky said he knew there would be consequences for saying no. "I saw what was coming," he said.

The tale is like a cliched backstory for a political intrigue film. But it is suddenly part of the previously uninteresting race in which Brodsky is trying to become the new state attorney upon Moreland’s retirement.

The race determines which local lawyer will soon be deciding who gets charged with a crime in Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties. But it was supposed to be dull — a slam dunk. Brodsky has Moreland’s endorsement, and the endorsement of almost every big name in local law enforcement, including a list of local past and present sheriffs and police chiefs, and the Fraternal Order of Police.

His top challenger, fellow Republican Peter Lombardo, is a former prosecutor who left Moreland’s employ years ago. But Lombardo has so few public endorsements he has been pushing the idea that he hasn’t sought endorsements. He didn’t seem to have any money, either.

But wait. Suddenly, TV viewers are seeing lots of pro-Lombardo ads. Some of them rip Brodsky and indirectly blame him for a murder

The killing was actually committed by a man who had been charged with armed robbery of a pizza delivery man, but who had gone free when that charge was dropped. Brodsky signed off on dropping the charge.

Lombardo insists that was an outrageous and lazy decision, based on a false claim that the victim had disappeared when almost no effort had been made to find him. He even was still living in the same place.

It’s one of several Brodsky decisions Lombardo portrays as unconscionable. And I think all are probably worthy of criticism; I’ve written critically about some of them myself.

But here’s the thing: Cops and prosecutors screw up sometimes. No longtime prosecutor who has risen to No. 2 and supervised a stable of other prosecutors handling thousands of cases could possibly claim a record of perfect outcomes.

But what’s new is that, suddenly, there is money to air those anti-Brodsky ads. And Brodsky has a fascinating accusation about why.

Enter Gary Kompothecras, that guy who got so rich with his own "Ask Gary" ads that hook up accident victims with doctors and lawyers. He’s a well-known political donor, too.

Like almost everyone else, Kompothecras had been a Brodsky supporter. But he switched sides, and Brodsky says Kompothecras, through a business, is apparently the ad-money source for Lombardo now, and that the reason is obvious: Brodsky and his boss, Moreland, angered Kompothecras by refusing to file charges against a former employee he adamantly wanted charged with stealing trade secrets, or some such.

From what little I know about that, I’d rather the former employee be hugged and thanked for lifting the curtain on some Kompothecras business practices.

Moreland and Brodsky were right not to be swayed by a rich and politically powerful guy’s high-pressure tactics.

But is it true, as some Brodsky supporters are implying, that Lombardo must have made a devilish deal to file the charge Kompothecras wants, if he’s elected?

I seriously doubt that. Lombardo told me he doesn’t know a thing about that case, never discussed it, and has made no deal of any sort. He says some of those ads are being paid for with his own money, earned fair and square as a private-practice lawyer.

If Kompothecras funds other pro-Lombardo TV spots through a political action committee or the like, that’s fine, but Lombardo has not promised anything.

A Herald-Tribune reporter has tried and tried to "Ask Gary" about his support of Lombardo, but has been told he is in Mexico and unavailable. So I asked Lombardo why he thinks Kompothecras suddenly became such a Lombardo fan.

Well, Lombardo said, he doesn’t really know since, of course, he and Kompothecras have barely ever spoken. But he figures the "Ask Gary" guy is like lots of other voters and got fired up about things like that pizza robbery case and other injustices Lombardo has been talking about.

Right, that must be it.

800-ask-gary, ask gary, askgary, ed brodsky, gary kompothecras, manatee state attorney, Peter Lombardo, State Attorney Earl Moreland

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