When Lynn Aronberg was quizzed by attorneys representing wealthy Wellington developer Glenn Straub, questions quickly veered to her short-lived marriage to Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg.
Incensed at the turn Lynn Aronberg’s deposition was taking, prosecutors abruptly ended it and later successfully petitioned a judge to keep her sworn statements from becoming public.
Last week, attorneys representing The Palm Beach Post and The Miami Herald went to court to lift the unusual restriction and others that prevent the public from learning the details of the salacious and potentially far-reaching case.
State Attorney Dave Aronberg is a TV news pundit. Is he serving Palm Beach County or himself?
Previously:‘Angry Patriot Hippie’ collapses after jury finds her guilty of threatening to kill FBI agents
Harriette Glasner’s grit: How her diamond-studded bracelet could keep abortion rights alive
Claiming that Lynn Aronberg’s testimony, along with that of her powerful ex-husband, could shed light on how the county’s top law-enforcement officer does his job, they asked the judge to reverse course.
“To the extent the testimony of either witness potentially implicates Mr. Aronberg’s job duties or actions that reflect on his suitability to be a State Attorney, transparency is of utmost public importance,” newspaper attorneys Dana McElroy and Mark Caramanica wrote.
They claim Broward County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Bailey didn’t take the proper steps before ordering that Lynn Aronberg’s deposition remain off-limits to the public. They also claim Bailey failed to justify why he found it necessary to impose a gag order, preventing defense attorneys, prosecutors and others from talking about the case.
Rancor marks exchanges between lawyers for Straub, Aronberg
Typically, such requests are made by defense lawyers who don’t want pre-trial publicity to rob their clients of fair trials. In Straub’s case, however, the restrictions were requested by prosecutors.
Straub’s attorneys, in fact, have joined the newspapers in asking that the restrictions be lifted. They have also asked Bailey to force a reluctant Aronberg to answer their questions.
Illustrating the rancor that surrounds the case, in court papers, Straub’s attorneys accused Aronberg of lying to try to avoid their questions. To escape a planned deposition, Aronberg filed an affidavit, claiming he has no information to offer.
Aronberg’s statement is “false, misleading, misrepresents and fails to disclose numerous relevant and significant facts which are important to defendant Straub’s defense,” wrote defense attorneys Michael Gottlieb and Larry Zink.
In response, an assistant Palm Beach County state attorney snapped back.
In a motion to block Aronberg’s deposition, prosecutor Leigh Miller accused Gottlieb and Zink of making “continuous and unfounded remarks.” She insisted their “energetic, but offensive effort” was designed to smear Aronberg to shift attention away from Straub.
Why Miller, instead of a Broward County prosecutor, filed the motion on her boss’ behalf is unclear. The case is being handled by a Broward judge and Broward County prosecutors because of its high-profile cast of Palm Beach County characters, including Aronberg and Straub.
Spokespersons for state attorney’s offices in both Palm Beach and Broward counties declined comment on why Broward County prosecutors didn’t file the motion on Aronberg’s behalf. Both said they can’t talk about pending cases. But legal experts say such motions are usually handled by prosecutors involved in the case.
Straub, Aronberg were friendly before investigations, break-ups
From the start, the prosecution of Straub presented a potentially prickly problem for Aronberg.
The 75-year-old polo-loving Straub, a well-known and contentious figure in Wellington and beyond, is accused of filing $77,380 in false liens on homes owned by his former girlfriend, Jessica Nicodemo. Prosecutors contend Straub filed the liens to punish the 38-year-old Nicodemo for breaking up with him.
Before the breakup and before the Aronbergs’ nearly two-year marriage crumbled in 2017, the couples were friendly. They were seen together at charity events.
In a deposition, Nicodemo described Lynn Aronberg as her best friend. She introduced Dave and Lynn to each other and later, when the Aronbergs’ marriage fell apart, Nicodemo said she served as their unofficial “marital mediator.” Lynn slept on Nicodemo’s couch hundreds of times while waiting for her divorce to become final in August 2017.
While Aronberg insists he took no part in the investigation that led to charges being filed against Straub, Gottlieb and Zink said evidence suggests otherwise.
In a deposition in a civil case Straub filed against Nicodemo, Lynn Aronberg said she talked with Brian Fernandes, then Aronberg’s chief assistant, about her friend’s accusations, Gottlieb wrote. Phone records show they also exchanged texts.
Aronberg also had telephone conversations and exchanged texts with Nicodemo, Gottlieb said.
In the affidavit, Aronberg said if he talked to Nicodemo it wasn’t about her allegations against Straub.
“As I always explain to anyone who asks similar questions, I told Ms. Nicodemo that, if she believed a crime had occurred, she needed to speak to her local law enforcement agency who would then investigate,” he wrote.
‘Whatever happens in any courtroom directly or indirectly affects all the public’
Given the starkly different contentions that swirl around the case, the public deserves a full picture of how it unfolded, the newspaper attorneys said. Further, county residents need to know what Lynn Aronberg said when she was questioned about her politically powerful ex-husband.
Neither will happen unless the restrictions are lifted, the attorneys wrote.
“This case involves matters of great public interest concerning criminal allegations against a prominent local businessman, and also involves the State Attorney,” they said.
State and federal courts have consistently ruled that court records and proceedings should be open to the public, they said.
“Whatever happens in any courtroom directly or indirectly affects all the public,” they wrote, quoting a 1977 decision by the Florida Supreme Court. “To prevent star-chamber injustice the public should generally have unrestricted access to all proceedings.”
Jane Musgrave covers federal and civil courts and occasional ventures into criminal trials in state court. Contact her at [email protected].
- Attorneys seek Deshaun Watson NFL investigation documents
- Amber Heard's Attorneys Ask for Johnny Depp Defamation Case Verdict to Be Tossed
- Despite rebukes, Trump’s legal brigade is thriving
- Amber Heard's Attorneys Seek to Toss Verdict in Johnny Depp Defamation Trial
- What to know about abortion and digital info