Mike Fasano, meet William Gladstone.
Fasano, the state senator whose district includes much of Pasco and Hernando counties, rushed to try to influence an ongoing criminal trial in the 6th Judicial Circuit Court in New Port Richey. It's what the guy does. Constituent service is his calling card and prolific letter-writing is part of the methodology.
Gladstone was the four-time British prime minister in the 19th century. Winston Churchill cited him as an inspiration. Gladstone's words are quoted frequently in the court system. Perhaps you've heard or read them.
"Justice delayed, is justice denied.''
Fasano's hurrying did just that. His knee-jerk letter-writing just put the brakes on a slow-moving criminal court case in which the victim is 91 years old.
Thursday morning, Fasano faxed a letter to Circuit Judge Jack Day, who had been presiding over the non-jury trial of Joseph and Cynthia Clancy. They are accused of exploiting the elderly and grand theft from a person 65 or older. Authorities charged the Clancys in 2005 with stealing the home and assets of Eloise Mudway. The financial transactions make it such a complicated case that the assigned prosecutor and assistant public defender agreed to waive a jury trial and let Day decide guilt or innocence.
Fasano was familiar with the case. Mudway's caregiver, Jeff Kores, stopped in to see him late last year. He feared the dawdling court system would deny Mudway her opportunity for justice.
"At 91, every day is a blessing,'' Kores said Friday, tactfully avoiding the unspoken fear (defense strategy?) that Mudway could die before the case came to trial.
Fasano said he told Kores there was little he could do because the case was in the courts. Kores briefed the senator with periodic updates and a few weeks ago told him the trial date had been scheduled.
Thursday morning, Fasano read a newspaper account of the trial, got peeved and started writing.
"If John and Cynthia Clancy have done even half of what they are alleged to have done, they should get the strongest possible sentence. Too often we read of deadbeat individuals in this state taking advantaged of our elderly residents. Enough is enough!''
One little problem. The trial was ongoing and the person deciding the Clancys' fate was the letter's recipient, Judge Day. The defense asked for a mistrial, citing the improper attempt to influence the judge. State law was on their side. Day acquiesced and recused himself from further proceedings in the case.
Fasano offered a mea culpa.
"I made a mistake. I admit to it. I'm sorry I wrote the letter too soon,'' he said.
Fasano also said he won't stop his letter writing to the judiciary. He'll just wait until cases are over before contacting the courts. Judges, he said, have no problem lobbying him, either.
"They seem to have time to write to me whenever they want raises.''
And here is where the goodwill evaporates. The senator turned combative after a public rebuke from Day, who said:
"It's an important case and it's been treated as an important case by the state. Thousands of dollars of resources have been expended to get it in this week.
"So, it's really ironic that this case is forced (to end) especially at times when we have concerns expressed by the Legislature about our efficiency.''
Fasano goofed and he knows it. But Mudway is thrilled he took the time to intercede. Kores, too, said the senator should be beyond reproach in this case. I suspect the judiciary does not share the sentiment, particularly after the poke in the eye about salaries.
Again, the senator might want to introduce himself to Gladstone, who was highly acclaimed for his oratory skills and once delivered a four-hour speech on budgetary matters. It took so long, Gladstone began his conclusion by saying he was sorry.
"All I can say in apology is that I have endeavoured to keep closely to the topics which I had before me.''
Fasano would be well-served to do likewise.
Reach C.T. Bowen at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 1-800-333-7505 ext. 6239.