Critics say accused wife of Fort Lauderdale police chief gets special treatment -- South Fl...

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South Florida
Critics say accused wife of Fort Lauderdale police chief gets
special treatment
Public defender contrasts case with poor held on such felonies

By Tonya Alanez

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

9:29 AM EDT, March 27, 2009

Justice wears a blindfold, because justice is supposed to
be blind, applying equally to all.

But in Broward County, some critics say, if you're the
Fort Lauderdale police chief's wife, that doesn't seem to
be the case.

How the matter of State of Florida v. Adderley has been
handled so far, these lawyers contend, proves yet again
that defendants with pull or money, or both, fare much
better in court.

Eleanor "Leisa" Adderley, 45, is accused of firing a bullet
into the couple's bed while her husband, Frank, lay in it
last July and then firing two more shots as he ran to a
neighbor's house.

The impetus, according to court records: She had discovered that her husband of 17 years had a recent
affair with another woman.

Charged with two felonies – aggravated assault with a firearm and shooting into a dwelling – Adderley
could face a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison under Florida law.

A scheduled plea hearing today was rescheduled to April 17.

State prosecutors say Adderley has received no special treatment and that she's been charged according
to the law and the evidence.

But Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein said if any of his poor clients were in a similar
situation, they would face harsher charges with no chance of bargaining their way out of mandatory
prison time.

"I don't fault the state for their compassion and decisions here, only that their compassion and decisions 4/21/2009
Critics say accused wife of Fort Lauderdale police chief gets special treatment -- South Fl... Page 2 of 3

seem to be isolated to people who are either not poor or are connected to powerful people," Finkelstein

In a jurisdiction where prosecutors have "a tendency to overcharge" crimes, Eleanor Adderley has,
without a doubt, received preferential treatment, says Bill Gelin, a defense attorney, courthouse blogger
and critic of Broward State Attorney Mike Satz.

"If you have any political juice, or connections, or money, you get treated much differently here in
Broward," Gelin said. "She's probably got the proper charge under the law, but here in Broward it's just
such a glaring disparity because everyone else gets these huge overcharges."

"Show me the case," replied Ron Ishoy, the state attorney's spokesman, reacting to general claims that
the office brings overly harsh criminal charges against people.

Greg Lauer, another defense attorney who worked more than three years as a Broward prosecutor, said
that money and status allow an accused person to hire a skilled attorney who can make savvy use of the
full panoply of legal possibilities allowed a defendant.

Eleanor Adderly has retained one of Broward's most celebrated defense lawyers, David Bogenschutz.

"If you're poor, it's hard to get people to pay attention to you," Lauer said. "If this exact situation
happened to an extremely poor family ... then the state attorney's office would look at this as an
attempted murder, rather than what it very well may be — a suicide attempt by a distraught woman
trying to deal with her husband's infidelities."

Bogenschutz declined comment on the plea negotiations other than to say, "We are still trying to figure
out the best thing to do."

Prosecutor Sarahnell Murphy, who heads the State Attorney's Office's Domestic Violence Unit, says
each case is unique and assessed on its specific facts.

"We consider everything that law enforcement presents, everything the defense attorney wants to
present, and that's what was done in this case," Murphy said.

To claims that the chief's wife should have been charged with attempted murder, Broward prosecutors
say that would require proof of a clear intent to kill. Minus a verbal death threat — and no one has ever
said Eleanor Adderley made one — a bullet fired into a box spring isn't enough, they say.

Prosecuting and defense attorneys agree that domestic-violence cases are a breed of their own, because
victims are tied to their alleged attackers and often don't want to prosecute. Without a victim insisting on
prosecution to the full extent of the law, they say, the state's case is weaker.

According to court documents, on July 8, Eleanor Adderley spent most of the day in a motel room with
her husband's 9 mm Beretta service weapon to her head, contemplating suicide. But images of the
couple's then 14-year-old son kept her from pulling the trigger.

The chief's wife has since undergone counseling with a Tamarac psychologist. In an Oct. 10 letter to the
court, Dr. William Dorfman said his patient was dealing with "increased feelings of hopelessness and

Within hours of his wife's arrest, Frank Adderley, 47, presented an affidavit to the court saying he would 4/21/2009
Critics say accused wife of Fort Lauderdale police chief gets special treatment -- South Fl... Page 3 of 3

"participate in family counseling in order to resolve this delicate family matter."

He paid his wife's $25,000 bond and agreed to move out of the couple's Plantation home so his wife
could remain there.

A victim's wish influences — but doesn't necessarily control — cases, especially in domestic violence
situations, Murphy said. But "it certainly plays a role in considering plea negotiations," she said.

If the state should waive the mandatory minimum 20-year sentence, Florida law says prosecutors must
submit a memo to the court detailing why.

Tonya Alanez can be reached at or 954-356-4542.

Copyright © 2009, South Florida Sun-Sentinel 4/21/2009