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JQC Files Formal Charges Against Broward Judge Matthew Destry For Secret Deal With Controverisal Political Activist

Judge Matt Destry , left, is all smiles with Vicente Thrower at recent community event in Pompano Beach.

Just days before the August primary, the Investigative Panel of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) determined Broward County Circuit Court Judge Matthew Destry violated numerous judicial rules by meeting with a local political activist. JAABlaw first reported the formal charges against Destry. While he was soundly defeated in the primary, the severity of charges would have likely lead to Destry’s removal from the bench. As REDBROWARD exclusively reported, Barbara Duffy was Destry’s only opponent to vigorously question his actions and demeanor on the bench. Even though voters rewarded Duffy with the most votes, the number of candidates running against Destry guaranteed a November runoff.

Last year, Destry gained international scorn for his sentencing of Herbert Smith to sixty-years in prison.

Four years ago, Herbert Smith was found guilty of seven burglaries and thefts. He served two years in prison. While serving four years of probation, police stopped Smith for driving with a suspended license. According to the Sun-Sentinel, “Smith violated his probation in October by driving with a suspended license in a car with another convicted felon and an ammunition clip filled with .40-caliber bullets, the same judge who gave him a second chance in 2012 decided to send a stronger message.” The judge was Matthew Destry.

The Broward State Attorney wanted Smith to serve 13 years in prison. Destry sentenced Smith to 60 years in prison. “I think 13 is a bit much, but the law is the law,” said Smith’s attorney, Brian Greenwald. “The prosecutor was not being vindictive.”

Following the public outcry, Destry changed his mind. He suspended Smith’s sentence.“To go from 60 years in prison to being released that day — the takeaway is that justice is random in Broward County,” Howard Finkelstein of the Broward Public Defender’s Office tells New Times.“Destry did the right thing but for the wrong reasons.”


According to the JQC, Destry changed Smith’s sentence after a secret meeting at a Las Olas restaurant. One week after sentencing Smith, Destry met activist Vicente Thrower and Rev. Alan B. Jackson at Mangos. “This meeting, …took place outside the presence of the State Attorney and Defendant, and without the knowledge of either party.” When questioned by JQC investigators in August, Destry was “evasive” about Thrower. Destry admitted Thrower had his personal cell phone number. “Only when pressed did [Destry] disclose that he was a political activist who had worked to generate community support for your first judicial campaign in 2010.”

After meeting with them for an hour, “Mr. Thrower and Rev. Jackson convinced you to reopen the matter, arguing that their community had not been adequately heard on Mr. Smith’s sentencing, and they wanted a chance to speak on his behalf. You have admitted that while meeting with Mr. Thrower and Rev. Jackson you committed to setting a hearing to reconsider Mr. Smith’s sentence, and invited Mr. Thrower and Rev. Jackson to attend and be heard regarding the matter.”

According to the JQC, Destry admitted to the improper meeting at a Sun-Sentinel editorial board meeting. “You also acknowledged this meeting between yourself and Mr. Thrower and Rev. Jackson during an interview with the editorial board of the Sun Sentinel newspaper. Your comments were tape-recorded, and witnessed by other judicial candidates as well as newspaper staff. You further acknowledged to the Commission that, after this meeting, you were aware that Mr. Thrower began urging members of his community to support your current re-election campaign.”

Since prosecutors and defense lawyers were not told about the meeting, investigators determined Destry’s meeting with Thrower constituted an ex-parte meeting, a huge no-no for judges. Destry conceded it was ex parte, but tried to argue it fell under an “emergency” or “scheduling” exception.

Following the meeting, the JQC stated Destry scheduled a new hearing on his own accord to discuss his sentencing. Neither prosecutors nor defense lawyers had made a motion regarding sentencing.  JQC investigators stated Destry failed to give lawyers adequate notice, but he, “personally phoned Mr. Thrower to inform him of the date and time of the hearing, and again invited him to be present.”

Finally, the JQC stated, “Taken together, your actions create the appearance of a quid pro quo exchange of political support for favorable judicial action, and further constitutes inappropriate conduct in violation of Canons 1, 2(A), 3B(2), 3B(7), 3B(8), 3B(9), 5A(2), 5A(3), 5A(4), of the Code of Judicial Conduct.”


Former Broward Health Chairman & His Legal Dream Team’s History Of Silencing Online Critics

As reported earlier this week, it appears as though someone does not want REDBROWARD to reveal information regarding the Young At Art childrens museum in Davie. On September 6, attorney Bruce Green sent a preservation letter to Broward Health Commissioner Sheela Van Hoose regarding REDBROWARD.com. Green is one of the lawyers who sued Florida Governor Rick Scott after David Di Pietro was removed as chairman of Broward Health. Jay Spechler, another one of Di Pietro’s lawyers, is married to Mindy Shrago, the executive director of Young At Art. Spechler was enraged after REDBROWARD asked about a item related to the museum last month.

Green’s letter arrived two weeks after Spechler became angry about our line of questioning.Days later, a Spechler emissary tried to broker a “truce.” The emissary was told Spechler should contact REDBROWARD directly. The next day, an anonymous post on the JAABLaw courthouse blog featured a photograph of this reporter’s family including two minor children. 

One could reasonably take the legal action and family picture as a threat.

Di Pietro and his legal team have a history of attempting to silence online critics.


In March 2016, another member of Di Pietro’s legal team brought legal action against JAABlaw website operator William Gelin. Brian Silber wanted Gelin to reveal information about an anonymous reader who posted comments about former Sunrise City Commissioner Sheila Alu. Silber’s “Jane Doe” lawsuit wanted identifying information, including IP addresses, about the person who made comments about Alu. Silber was seeking $15,000 in damages.

In May, Judge Michael Gates agreed with Gelin’s argument that Citizens United and other case law gave First Amendment protection to anonymous political speech.

In July, Di Pietro filed a “John Doe” lawsuit on behalf of two doctors affiliated with Broward Health. Jean-Jacques and Juliana Rajter are suing Vitals.com, a medical professional rating website. The lawsuit alleges an anonymous reviewer gave Rajter a one star rating on the website. The lawsuit wants Vitals.com to reveal identifying information about the anonymous reviewer. Di Pietro’s complaint asks for $10,000 in damages.

According to Broward Health magazine, Jean-Jacques Rajter served as the “Chief Medical Information Officer for Broward Health.” It’s unclear if Rajter is the first Broward Health doctor to be represented by David Di Pietro or his legal “dream team.”


Following his lawsuit against Florida Governor Rick Scott, David Di Pietro’s legal team submitted a huge legal bill to Florida taxpayers. In June, Buddy Nevins of BrowardBeat reported Bruce Green, Jay Spechler, and Brian Silber wanted $155,000 in legal fees and expenses. According to Nevins:

*Brian Silber, a criminal defense attorney and courthouse blogger who wants $42,525 in fees at $450 per hour.

*Bruce David Green, a Florida Bar certified aviation attorney who is asking for $49,938 at a rate of $450 per hour,

*Jay Spechler, a former Broward judge who is asking for $45,450 at a rate of $450 per hour,

*Ashley Steffen, Rudy Mayor and Nicole Martell, who are part of Di Pietro’s law firm and asking for $17,122 at $250 per hour.