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There are days when Ellis Rubin's law office is the center of the universe for everything that is weird about South Florida. At any given time you might bump into Johnny Carson's black granddaughter, the bald-headed man with the cure for AIDS, the girl who killed her father, the boy who murdered his neighbors after watching too much television, the guy who electrocuted the burglar, the man who loved Merv Griffin, the condo commandos with the illegal door decoration, or the wife who butchered her husband.
But you don't often see the serene, neoclassic house-turned-office bathed in floodlights and swarming with news reporters, traffic-control cops, and gawkers. That sort of Rubinesque scene normally takes place on the steps of some courthouse or another. So this was unusual, and the old community just east of Biscayne Boulevard, along NE 23rd Street, was filled with curiosity. The folkz n the hood stared wide-eyed from porches and driveways and street corners at the carnival. What now hath the maverick lawyer wrought behind those iron gates?
This night the focus of Ellis Rubin's appointment with the press was not the old pin-up queen nabbed for shoplifting, or the stripper whose new breasts had turned to stone, or even the former Catholic schoolgirl who suffered from nymphomania and I-95 orgasms. This time it was Rubin himself, the acclaimed attorney of the oddly afflicted, who was the accused.
A thick vine stalk of microphones and cables stood at ground zero. Like guns leveled and aimed for an execution, a dozen large video cameras were arranged in formation, on standby, ready to fire at the slightest movement of the front door. Rubin was late.
A light-stepping, white-shoed man with a mop-top haircut brazenly walked past the restless crowd, up the steps, and knocked on the front door. He peeked inside and then turned with a flourish toward the assembled masses. "Settle down, sharks!" he shouted in an arrogant, booming voice. "Feeding time will be in exactly two minutes."
You could feel the ill wind of a lynch mob rise from the crowd, threatening to pull the rope tight around the neck of this freaky stranger, who seemed to revel in the animosity and catcalls he elicited. And then, as suddenly as he had appeared, he trotted off-stage carrying a gaily wrapped package in a bag under his
The date: September 10, eve of Kathy and Jeff Willets's plea-bargain hearing at the Broward County courthouse.
The time: A little past 8:00 p.m., three hours after Channel 7 reporter Jane Akre told the world that a crime may have been committed right inside Rubin's law office. Her report stirred up the muck of camera crews prowling around Broward and Dade counties in search of the Willetses, and sent them hurtling in the direction of Rubin's office.
The would-be seller: Handsome young Guy Rubin, son of Ellis, who was secretly taped as he did the dastardly deed.
The would-be buyer: Overweight, ambitious, 39-year-old tabloid television reporter Steve Wilson of Inside Edition, a man whose world is one big spy-cam. And it is rolling before he walks in your door.
The snitch: The same Wilson. He tricked Guy Rubin into thinking Inside Edition wanted to purchase the tape, reported the alleged crime to Broward prosecutor Joel Lazarus, and then got set to broadcast the story all over the land.
The rub: A legal melee. Attorneys hire attorneys. Scores of men named John Doe hire more attorneys. The Willetses lose their plea bargain. Rubin's law office is raided and he becomes the subject of criminal and ethics investigations. The former Fort Lauderdale politician admits he had sex with Kathy. Channel 7 picks up Inside Edition. And Jane Akre and Steve Wilson ask for a restraining order against George Martin-Trigona.
"It was strange," recalls a free-lance cameraman who was videotaping the Rubin press conference. "There was this strange guy hanging around that nobody seemed to know. He seemed to be a real fan of Steve Wilson. He kept coming up to everybody and saying stuff like, `Did you know the great Steve Wilson is going to be here?' We were saying, `Yeah, yeah,' ignoring the guy."
Moving through the crowd with a sense of authority, the white-shoed man talked to anyone in his path, issuing orders and offering advice. When Wilson arrived, the "strange guy" saw him first. As the Inside Edition reporter got out of his car, a bellowing voice heralded his arrival: "Ladeeez and gentlemen! Now arriving is the world's greatest television reporter, from Inside Edition, Mister Steeeeeeve Wilson!"
No one applauded. A sheepish look crawled over Wilson's face. It was a disorienting moment for the man of the hour, as all eyes turned his way. And before he could sidle up to someone, anyone, and ask, "Who the hell said that?" a hand was thrust nearly in his face: "I'm George Martin-Trigona." Steve Wilson, pursuer of news stories, stared into the Cheshire-cat grin of his worst nightmare: George Martin-Trigona, pursuer of human beings who appear on television.