Colleagues at Miami’s criminal courthouse were stunned to hear about Wacks, who cut a distinct figure in the first-floor cafeteria, with bright copper-colored hair and a customarily rumpled gray suit, but few people in the building knew him well outside the courtroom.Wacks, who ran a solo practice from his South Beach home, was a “brilliant writer’ who used to craft appellate briefs in criminal cases, recalled defense lawyer Albert Levin. “One of the nicest, sweetest guys you’ve ever met,” Levin said.
Former prosecutor Ergio Fernandez recalled trying cases against him in the early 2000s.
“He was always someone who struck me as really out of place in criminal court, where it’s dog-eat-dog and things can get very heated and nasty,” Fernandez said. “He was always so pleasant and kind and so mild mannered.”
Wacks was driving west, presumably to Miami’s criminal courthouse, at about 6:30 a.m. Tuesday when his car was hit.
According to an arrest warrant, Soto was behind the wheel of a rented black Nissan Armada that was captured on surveillance videos speeding “in a reckless manner.” Witnesses and detectives estimated he hit speeds of over 100 mph.
As the Nissan SUV weaved through causeway traffic, it changed lanes, hitting the back of Wacks’ Honda Civic at about 95 miles per hour. “The force of the crash was so significant” that the Civic was “propelled 368 feet” into the wall, according to a warrant by Miami Beach Detective Nick Guasto.
The Armada was ditched on the off-ramp of the Dolphin Expressway at Northwest 12th Avenue, just yards from Miami’s criminal justice complex. Soto lives nearby and investigators believe he walked home on foot.
Surveillance footage — taken from the office of the Miami-Dade’s state attorney — shows the bearded Soto ditching the SUV. Detectives also found surveillance video from just before the crash, showing Soto behind the wheel of the SUV on Ocean Drive, the warrant said.
An eyewitness also placed him driving the Nissan just before the crash, according to the warrant.
Soto surrendered Wednesday night at Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center. His defense lawyer in the previous federal case declined to comment because he yet to speak to Soto.
Elia Soto Miami-Dade Corrections (does he look like MKULTRA to you?)
Source: Miami defense lawyer clings to life after high-speed hit-and-run crash
Top Miami civil lawyer Ervin Gonzalez found dead at his home
Ervin Gonzalez, a high-profile Miami lawyer with Colson Hicks Eidson, pictured at his office in 2012. Gonzalez was found dead on Thursday night. Tessa Lighty Miami Herald File
June 9, 2017
by David Ovalle and Jay Weaver
Ervin Gonzalez, a premier civil trial attorney who led some of the most significant personal-injury and class-action cases in Florida, was found dead inside his Coral Gables home on Thursday night, police said.
Gonzalez’s death sent a thunderous shock throughout South Florida’s legal community. His death was ruled a suicide, a Miami-Dade police spokeswoman said on Friday.
Gonzalez, 57, a partner with the prominent Coral Gables law firm Colson Hicks Eidson and a former president of the Dade County Bar Association, drew praise Friday from colleagues and friends who struggled with the loss of an attorney who seemed at the height of his career.
In a statement, the firm said “words cannot convey our grief, admiration, or affection for this pillar of our community,” and remembered him as a “caring, warm, brilliant and masterful trial attorney.”
“He will be remembered for his intellect, skill and ability to befriend and defend the rights of people from all walks of life with a zest and dedication that was unrivaled,” partner Dean Colson said.
In the statement, the law firm disclosed that Gonzalez — known publicly for his charismatic and warm demeanor — had been quietly battling mental illness.
“Ervin’s passing reminds all of us that mental illness can strike anyone regardless of how accomplished or content they might appear,” Colson’s statement said. “Like the Ervin we all knew and loved, he valiantly fought this personal challenge with unmatched effort. He simply was unable to win his hardest and final trial.”
In an interview, Colson told the Miami Herald that Gonzalez “suffered from depression.”
“We knew about it for several years,” he said. “We tried to be supportive.”
Gonzalez’s death shook the legal community so deeply that a Miami federal judge talked about the late lawyer before a hearing on the Takata airbag case in which his law firm has been involved.
“He was a friend of judges and lawyers, but also most importantly of this community,” U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno said Friday afternoon. “He was a credit to his Cuban heritage. He rose up from almost nothing.”
Miami attorney Dennis Kainen, who served as president of the Dade County Bar Association in 1999-2000 just before Gonzalez’s term, described his colleague as a “phenomenal lawyer.”
“But there are a lot of phenomenal lawyers in this town,” Kainen said. “Ervin was also a really good human being. He was willing to help anyone.”
Kainen, who sat with Gonzalez on the Florida Bar Board of Governors, said his death was “truly shocking,” partly because he was a health and fitness fanatic.
“He was the most controlled and disciplined person I knew,” Kainen said, noting that for the Dade County Bar Association’s monthly newspaper, Gonzalez organized and wrote 12 pieces in advance for his regular tips column.
Miami lawyer Ben Kuehne, who also served as a past president of the association, called Gonzalez “the quintessential fighter for justice.”
“His advocacy made the community a better place,” Kuehne said.
Another former association president, attorney Jack Hickey, expressed his shock and sorrow over Gonzalez’s inexplicable death, saying on a Facebook post that he “was at the top of his game.”
According to his bio, Gonzalez had boasted 33 verdicts of at least $1 million or more.
He had been on the forefront of many high-profile cases, from medical malpractice to the desecration of graves in a Jewish cemetery.
In 2005 case, he won a $65.1 million verdict for the family of a 12-year-old boy who was electrocuted at a Miami bus shelter during a storm. Five years later, Gonzalez was one of two Florida lawyers appointed to serve on the national committee overseeing plaintiffs’ claims stemming from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Gonzalez also represented hundreds of homeowners who were victims of high-sulfur Chinese drywall in the construction of new homes, and he won the first jury verdict in the country. He assisted in securing a $1 billion settlement with a Chinese manufacturer of the drywall and in negotiating other large settlements.
“My job is to do the right thing, and through that process, impact important change,” Gonzalez told the Miami Herald in 2012. “I’m fortunate to be able to pursue a practice that allows me to do what I love the most.”
Gonzalez, a University of Miami law school graduate, had leadership roles in a number of legal groups. He was a former member of the Florida Bar Board of Governors and had served on its executive committee. Gonzalez also served on the National Board of Trustees of the National Institute of Trial Advocacy and the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers.
A decade ago, Gonzalez survived the scandal of a former high-profile plaintiff’s attorney, Louis Robles, with whom he had tried numerous asbestos personal-injury cases. Robles pleaded guilty to stealing more than $13 million from thousands of elderly clients and was sentenced to 15 years in prison by a Miami federal judge in 2007.
But evidence showed Gonzalez was unaware that Robles was operating a Ponzi-type scheme, by diverting settlement payments owed to clients to finance his lavish lifestyle in a Key Biscayne waterfront mansion.
If anything, the Robles scandal seemed to enhance Gonzalez’s reputation as a trusted, go-to trial attorney, leading to his successful run with Colson Hicks Eidson, the powerhouse boutique law firm.
His colleague, Kainen, said that while Gonzalez attained a storied legal career, he possessed a virtue that raised his profile among his peers: “He was the epitome of integrity.”
Gonzalez is survived by his wife, Janice, who owns a public relations business.
The viewing will be Monday, from 7 to 9 p.m., at the Vior Funeral Home, 291 NW 37th Ave., Miami. The funeral service and Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday, at Church of the Little Flower, 2711 Indian Mound Trail, Coral Gables.
Source: Top Miami civil lawyer Ervin Gonzalez found dead at his home
Mysterious death of federal prosecutor on Hollywood beach ruled a suicide #Outrage
Beranton J. Whisenant Jr
August 10, 2017
by Elizabeth Koh and Jay Weaver
The death of a federal prosecutor whose body washed up on a Hollywood beach more than two months ago with a gunshot wound to the head has been ruled a suicide, the Hollywood Police Department said Thursday.
Beranton J. Whisenant Jr., 37, had just started a new job in the Miami office of the U.S. attorney in January when his body was found floating in the surf on May 24. His death stunned family members, friends and colleagues who had remembered him as a passionate man dedicated to his legal work and public service.
Hollywood police said detectives and the Broward medical examiner determined Whisenant “died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound” before his body was discovered just south of Magnolia Terrace on Hollywood beach. It did not say why the investigation took so long to determine the cause of death. The probe was handled by Hollywood police after the U.S. attorney’s office and the FBI dismissed any connection to Whisenant’s job or previous cases.
Hollywood spokeswoman Miranda Grossman said in June that detectives were “still actively investigating it and are waiting for new evidence to come in.”
Before Hollywood police announced the investigation had concluded Thursday, several web sites had published unfounded rumors about possible motives behind Whisenant’s death, though there was little evidence in any of his prior cases or background to substantiate them.
Whisenant had worked as a state prosecutor in Jacksonville and as a civil lawyer for the Miami law firm Foley & Mansfield before taking the new job in the U.S. attorney’s office, and colleagues said that he eventually hoped to become a judge. He had also volunteered on Florida Bar committees and taught as an adjunct professor at the University of Miami law school.
Acting U.S. Attorney Benjamin Greenberg and former U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer interviewed Whisenant for a spot in their Miami office.
“Anytime his name came up, people had glowing things to say about him both in and outside the office,” Greenberg said, noting it was partly because of his involvement in the Florida Bar and the black lawyers association in Miami-Dade County.
Ferrer always liked to ask prospective prosecutors about their greatest accomplishment or proudest moment. Whisenant’s response was obtaining a law degree from the University of Florida at the same time his mother was earning hers. Whisenant’s mother and father, both physicians, raised the family in Jacksonville.
Lawyer Timothy Ferguson, a close friend of Whisenant’s from their years working together at Foley & Mansfield, called him a “fierce advocate and trial attorney” on his Instagram account.
“There is no one I would rather have had by my side in the trenches at trial,” Ferguson wrote after his friend’s death.
Another friend who knew Whisenant, Miami lawyer Michael Feiler, said his career “was very motivated by public service.”
Whisenant is survived by wife Ebony, who is a doctor and teaches at Florida International University’s medical school, and three children.
Source: Mysterious death of federal prosecutor on Hollywood beach ruled a suicide
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