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Election outcome isn't U.S. attorney's only worry

Are U.S. Attorney Robert Genzman's days in office numbered?

Well, if Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton holds on to his lead over President Bush and wins the White House, Genzman could have time to catch the home and road games of his hometown Orlando Magic this basketball season.

Observers agree that Genzman, a Bush appointee, won't survive into a Democratic administration. That is the way of the world for most U.S. attorneys. Genzman's term lasts another year, and he says he has made no plans contingent on various election outcomes.

"I haven't even thought about it," he said. "It's complete speculation at this point."

So who might become Tampa's next U.S. attorney? On that there is little agreement and only some speculation, in part because most lawyers think it's too early to bank on Clinton.

Genzman, meanwhile, has had to deal with more than just presidential politics. Bay area defense lawyers have been grumbling about inactivity by Genzman's office, and poor communication within it, for a year. But the frustrations began to boil out publicly over the past two months during the investigation of Key Bank of Tampa.

When federal, state and local law enforcement agents raided the bank in August, everyone assumed a federal grand jury was waiting to indict someone.

But so far, the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office has taken the lead, while Genzman waits to play a possible federal trump card.

At least that's what he suggested at a big Key Bank news conference Sept. 25. Genzman had a seat at the table among representatives from nine other task force agencies.

The U.S. attorney was quiet until someone asked whether his presence meant federal charges were forthcoming.

"As you know, we don't confirm or deny the existence of any investigation," Genzman replied. He did concede his assistants had been working with the task force to explore any federal violations.

So what difference does it make who prosecutes the Key Bank case?

Perhaps the first noticeable difference has been the publicity surrounding the investigation. Under Florida law, state prosecutors must divulge all kinds of materials _ like detailed affidavits in support of search warrants and wiretaps _ that have generated lots of news stories. Such documents rarely see the light of day in federal court cases.

Defense lawyers also enjoy the advantage of liberal pretrial exchange of evidence and witness lists in state court. Federal prosecutors, however, aren't required to show their hand until trial.

Another difference: punishment. State court offers little chance that any Key Bank defendants named so far would serve substantial prison sentences if convicted. Federal court usually provides stiffer penalties.

Now back to the rumor mill. While no front-runner has emerged in the "What-if-Clinton-wins" race for U.S. attorney, a few names come up when you ask around. Among them:

Judy Hoyer, an assistant state attorney in Hillsborough. Hoyer has federal prosecution experience, is an expert in complex fraud cases and once worked for Robert F. Kennedy.

Morris "Sandy" Weinberg, 42, a defense lawyer with Zuckerman, Spaeder. Weinberg was a federal prosecutor in New York and went to law school with Al Gore. A partner from his firm's Miami office, Robert Martinez, was appointed U.S. attorney there earlier in the year.

Ron Cacciatore, 55, a solo Tampa lawyer. Cacciatorre is listed in the Best Lawyers in America but recently had heart surgery. "Me? Are you crazy?" he responded to the idea of taking the job.

Stephen Crawford, 37, a lawyer at the firm of Trenam, Simmons. He acknowledges that he's interested and has been asked about the job by some people he won't name, but he says it's way too early to handicap the race.

Last year, Genzman caught flak in the national news media during a U.S. Senate subcommittee investigation of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International scandal.

Some witnesses alleged the 1988 Tampa money laundering case against BCCI could have been broader and tougher and that Genzman's office later hampered efforts by a New York prosecutor to go after other BCCI crimes.

But last week, the subcommittee released its final report. Chairman Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., remained critical of a few Genzman decisions but joined GOP colleague Hank Brown of Colorado in calling the Tampa agents and prosecutors who convicted BCCI and five former bankers "heroes."

Brown credited Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Jackowski, "noted for his uncommon drive and tough demeanor," with being "chiefly responsible" for the successful prosecution.

Jackowski briefly transferred to Denver after the 1990 BCCI trial but returned to Tampa this summer.

"And the report lends no credence to the earlier suggestions of coverup or foot-dragging" within his office or the Justice Department, Genzman said.

Tampa federal prosecutors remain the only American officials to convict and jail any BCCI officials.