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Prosecutor accused of sex harassment decides to resign

 
Published June 14, 1998|Updated Sept. 13, 2005

The state attorney's office in Miami-Dade County is facing a shake-up after three secretaries were fired and a top prosecutor said he would resign amid a phone-sex investigation.

Chief Assistant Michael Band, who heads the agency's major crimes unit, said Friday that he would step down upon completion of a high-profile murder case this fall.

The announcement came after an independent prosecutor's report detailed allegations that he sexually harassed a secretary in his office. Band denied harassing Sherry Rossbach and said he had been planning to resign for at least a year for financial reasons.

Secretaries Barbara Abad, Olga Cabrera and Raquel Navarro were fired for their involvement in sexually explicit telephone conversations with Jorge Ayala, a former cocaine cartel hit man. He is a key prosecution witness in the government's drug and murder case against Griselda "The Godmother" Blanco.

Although investigators found nothing criminal, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said any telephone relationship with Ayala was indefensible. Since Ayala is a witness and the secretaries had access to prosecutors' files, investigators worried the case could be compromised.

Allegations against Band came to light during the phone-sex probe. Rossbach told investigators he sexually harassed her and touched her breasts in December.

Band said he chose to walk away rather than fight the allegations, which could involve a lengthy suspension before the case is resolved.

"After 20 years in this town, my word has to mean something," he said.

Special prosecutors said Friday they were prepared to pursue criminal charges against Band if he had not resigned. The resignation also ended a related civil inquiry into a sexual harassment complaint.

Band will turn over control of the major crimes office to David Gilbert but remain on staff until the conclusion of the Jimmy Ryce murder trial. Band is lead prosecutor in the high-profile case against Juan Carlos Chavez, who is accused of kidnapping, raping, shooting and dismembering the 9-year-old boy.

Rossbach had expected Band's resignation to be immediate and is considering suing her former boss, said her lawyer, Robert Rosenblatt.

Rossbach also was suspended during the phone-sex investigation but was cleared and reinstated with back pay June 1.