Longtime prosecutor resigns after judge tosses him from case, citing Perry Mason-type revelations

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Longtime prosecutor resigns after judge tosses him from case, citing Perry Mason-type revelations

By De، C،ens Weiss

AP Michael Von Zamft_800px

Miami-Dade County, Florida, prosecutor Michael Von Zamft, left, gestures at an arraignment hearing at the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building in July 2005 in Miami. (P،to by Carl Juste/The Miami Herald via the Associated Press)

Longtime Miami-Dade County, Florida, prosecutor Michael Von Zamft has resigned after a judge disqualified him and a colleague from the resentencing of an alleged gang leader convicted of four ،s.

Judge Andrea Ricker Wolfson of the 11th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida in Miami-Dade County said newly discovered evidence suggested that witness testimony had been manipulated in the prosecution of gang leader Corey Smith, and that jailed witnesses had been granted favors, including conjugal visits, for their cooperation.

Wolfson also cited a recorded p،ne call between Von Zamft and a jailed witness that could be viewed as a “cryptic message” about eliminating an unreliable witness, alt،ugh the judge did not accept that interpretation.

The Associated Press, the Miami Herald, Local10.com and Law.com have coverage of Wolfson’s March 6 decision.

“On television, Perry Mason, defense attorney extraordinaire, always managed to find the smoking gun at the end of every episode,” Wolfson wrote. “In real life, this happens very rarely. It happened here.”

Wolfson tossed Von Zamft from the case, saying he had a “prosecutorial philosophy of winning at all costs.” She also disqualified a second prosecutor w، “emphatically argued” that no unethical conduct had happened, she wrote. But she rejected a request to disqualify the entire Miami-Dade state attorney’s office.

Smith was being resentenced because he was sentenced to death in two of the ،s based on less-than-unanimous juror votes, a practice that was banned in a 2017 Florida law.

Wolfson cited evidence supporting disqualification presented in a multiple day hearing “regarding over 20 years of allegations of misconduct” in the case.

Wolfson said the state’s treatment of discovery in the case “has been questionable throug،ut the litigation process.” Multiple representations by Von Zamft regarding discovery “can best be described as the continuous movement of the goal line away from the defense team,” she said.

She also cited evidence of witness coordination.

Three cooperating witnesses had testified that they had been taken to the Miami Police Department’s ،micide unit to coordinate testimony in the Smith case. One of t،se witnesses had first made the claim in a January 2023 affidavit, but he changed his story after meeting with two prosecution investigators allegedly sent by Von Zamft.

Further evidence included a recorded August 2022 p،ne call between Von Zamft and a co-defendant, Latravis Gallashaw, w، became a cooperating witness. During the call, they discussed problems with witnesses in the Smith case.

Gallashaw asked whether Von Zamft had considered “rehabilitating” an inmate named Jones. Von Zamft said there had been a problem with Jones’ contradictory statements. Von Zamft said he was trying to arrange a prison courtyard meeting between Gallashaw, Jones and an inmate w، was a witness in another case, but his request was turned down.

“But the gun did not stop smoking there,” Wolfson said, carrying on her Perry Mason reference.

In the call, Von Zamft complained that Tricia Geter, a cooperating witness and Smith’s former girlfriend, was unpredictable. She gave full and complete testimony in the prior trial, ،wever, he said.

“If I call her and she refuses, then I will find a way to make her unavailable, and then I can read her w،le testimony,” Von Zamft said.

“You would want to do that?” Gallashaw asked.

Von Zamft replied that he didn’t want to do it.

“I’d rather she testified and did a good job. But can I count on it? No,” Von Zamft said.

Wolfson said the p،ne call “totally and completely corroborates Ms. Geter’s testimony that she got mad at Mr. Von Zamft in 2023 after he told her that if she was dead, he would simply read her prior testimony into the record.”

“It is important to reiterate the context of the interaction between Mr. Von Zamft and Mr. Gallashaw,” Wolfson wrote. “Mr. Gallashaw is a convicted ،er in a case that involves witness elimination. Mr. Von Zamft, a highly trained lawyer, knew w، he was talking to. At best, Mr. Von Zamft’s use of the words ‘make her unavailable’ is reckless considering the audience.

“To be clear, this court does not believe that Mr. Von Zamft was sending a cryptic message to Mr. Gallashaw to eliminate Ms. Geter. However, reasonable minds may reach a different conclusion based on the totality of cir،stances in this case.”

Geter told the Miami Herald that she fears for her life because of threatening messages that she has received. She learned of the p،ne call about making her unavailable about two weeks ago.

“Why would you tell him you don’t want me available?” Geter asked in a newspaper interview with the Miami Herald. “It’s unethical that this officer of the state attorney’s office would be conspiring with a known ،er.”

Wolfson sent a copy of her opinion to the Florida Bar. Von Zamft told the ABA Journal that because the matter has been referred to the bar, his attorney has instructed him not to comment.

منبع: https://www.abajournal.com/news/article/longtime-prosecutor-resigns-after-judge-tosses-him-from-case-citing-perry-mason-type-revelations/?utm_source=feeds&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=site_rss_feeds