The Collector

What do Armando Valladares, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Miriam Alonso, Xavier Suarez, Alex Penelas, Steve Clark, and the Miami Herald editorial board have in common? They're just a few of the big names enlisted by accused embezzler Roberto Polo in his fight to a

Prosecutor William Hoyt answered tersely. A man of Ross Perot-like stature and inflection, he noted the account statements sent to Polo's clients, and the sworn statements of Alfredo Ortiz-Murias and Ramona Col centsn. Moreno rubbed his eyes. These were the same arguments he'd heard five days ago, at an initial hearing that had been cut short after the William Lozano verdict was announced. Moreno moved on to the issue of bail.

Hoyt immediately protested. Polo had already jumped a huge bail in Italy. Here in the States, U.S. marshals had searched for nearly two months before locating and arresting him. Besides, Hoyt pled, Polo was an "international citizen" who had been given his chance to argue for bail at a hearing last year and been denied.

Shohat's argument was uncharacteristically succinct. He merely read a list of the people willing to sign a personal surety bond on Polo's behalf: Steve Clark, Alex Penelas, Armando Valladares, Pedro Reboredo. Then he spun around and asked the gallery who else would sign. The gallery rose, as one.

"If this man has no ties to this community, why are all these people with ties to the community ready to put their John Hancocks next to his name?" Moreno wondered.

Hoyt marched back and forth, a look of frustration reddening his face. He cited case law suggesting that bail was only granted in extradition matters under special circumstances. "The entire record in this case is a special circumstance," Moreno shot back. Without further ado, the judge set a bond of $200,000. In addition, he required that Polo live at his parents' dwelling, under house arrest, and that ten of his supporters sign personal surety bonds of $10,000 apiece, the sum they would have to pay should Polo flee. Finally, he vowed to rule on the extradition request within 30 days.

Outside in the hallway, the Polo forces reconvened. For half an hour the entourage reveled in the victory before descending the marble steps to the cameras and microphones waiting below. Maria Polo walked into the noon light stoically, her exit recorded by a bank of television cameras. The white collar draped over her black dress lent her the solemnity of a nun. To her it was all quite clear: the judge had finally seen past the lies. The tall, balding man called Shohat, along with her son's noble advocates, had shown him the way. All around her reporters scurried to secure sound bites from the assembled personages. Hialeah Mayor Julio Martinez bragged that he himself would help pay for Polo's bond. Armando Valladares lashed out at Polo's Mexican accusers. Even the taciturn Roberto Polo, Sr., spoke a few cautious words.

The wrangling over bail might delay matters, but the legal resurrection had begun. Soon enough Roberto Polo would be free to make the world a more beautiful place.

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