By Michael E. Miller
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Another charter, this time involving influential Key West attorney Nathan Eden, landed Martin-Trigona in court once again in 1983. Eden's clients, who leased the boat for a shrimping expedition, reportedly took it out of safe waters in stormy seas, where the hull began to split apart. (The boat was later destroyed in a storm.) After unsuccessful efforts to recover money for the loss of the vessel, Martin-Trigona filed a federal civil suit alleging that Eden's clients were actually using his boat to smuggle drugs, and that the prominent attorney was acting as their "investment advisor." With his habitual flair, Martin-Trigona distributed a press release and copies of his lawsuit to the media. (He says he had declared a personal war on Key West's drug smugglers, openly criticizing them so much that tavern owner -- now mayor -- "Captain" Tony Tarracino warned him his life was in danger. It seems Martin-Trigona had been rude to one of the alleged dealers: "I told him I was going to kill his mother first so she wouldn't be around to cry for him.")
At Eden's urgings, the Monroe State Attorney's Office arrested Martin-Trigona and charged him with extortion and libel. "I was worried," he recalls. "I was facing twenty years. I went to see a Catholic priest friend of mine. He listened and gave me the best four words of advice I've ever heard: ~`Go see Ellis Rubin.'" On June 20, 1983, he drove to Rubin's Miami law office, where he was startled to see the attorney sitting outside in a chair. Several television camera crews were lurking nearby, readying equipment. "I thought to myself, `Is this guy crazy? What is he doing seeing clients on his front lawn?'"
Rubin leaned over and whispered to Martin-Trigona. It was his birthday, he explained, a day when he traditionally sat in the front yard -- often with the news media at hand -- and dispensed free legal advice to anyone who stopped by. "I told him my story and he didn't say anything for five minutes. He just stared up in the sky." Then Rubin lowered his gaze, turned toward the cameras, and pronounced his decision: "George, I will take your case. And I will win your case. When Ellis Rubin shows up in Key West, they'll all go running for cover."
Rubin got the two libel charges dismissed in a hurry. And on December 12, 1984, a Key West jury acquitted Martin-Trigona of the extortion charge. His suit alleging drug smuggling, also handled by Rubin's office, was settled favorably out of court, Martin-Trigona says. "Ellis Rubin and I have a mutual defense alliance," he says today. "He saved my life. I was facing twenty years and he freed me. I will do anything I can for the man. I will do anything I can to prevent Akre and Wilson from tearing him down."
For more than a year after discovering Jane Akre on CNN, Martin-Trigona observed her on his living room TV set and attempted to contact her through long, involved letters in which he referred to both himself and Akre in the third person: "I do believe that when Jane Akre meets George Martin-Trigona for the first time, it's going to be a very extraordinary experience for both of us and one we will not likely ever forget," reads a copy of one such correspondence. He wrote just as many letters to Akre's supervisors at CNN, praising her performance and urging them to move her into a prime-time slot: "Someone as brilliant and professional as Jane Akre does not belong on the 3 to 7 a.m. graveyard shift."
Driven by an insatiable curiosity, he conducted an extensive genealogical search that traced Akre's family back hundreds of years to a treeless island -- Akreham -- on the southwest coast of Norway. Martin-Trigona says Akre responded to him only once -- on her personalized stationery, which he still has. She commended him on his research. "I've tried to tell her that I would teach her everything I know about research," he says, "how to use the Library of Congress, how to go into public records. But she doesn't seem interested. It's a mistake on her part, because when she is out of television, what else is she going to do?"
The "relationship" cooled when Akre left CNN in 1986. Though he tried hard, quizzing dozens of CNN staffers, Martin-Trigona could not track her down. "I lost her for two years," he laments. "Then, would you believe it, out of 50,000 cities in the United States, she moves to my town. Once again the hand of fate intervenes."
Akre's ageless good looks, resonant voice, aggressive reporting style, and past experience in smaller markets and the CNN dues cellar made her a perfect match for Channel 7's "tabloid TV" challenge to the staid South Florida network affiliates. And for George Martin-Trigona, her arrival in Miami was the perfect opportunity to begin anew his mission to reach her. He sent Akre things he thought she'd find interesting (scuba diving catalogues, for example) and wrote letters to her (one was six pages long, typewritten, single-spaced). No reply. In fact, after more than six years of effort, Martin-Trigona can only recount two positive experiences with Akre. They occurred twenty months apart.