By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
Poring over the transcripts of the secret tape recordings compiled by the Dade State Attorney's Office as part of its criminal case against former Miami city commissioner Humberto Hernandez, three things became clear:
First, Hernandez's former chief of staff, Jorge De Goti, has a vivid, albeit limited, vocabulary. Second, Evelyn Herbello deserves an Oscar for her performance as the government's undercover agent. And third, these tapes are far less incriminating for Hernandez than the public has been led to believe. A close reading of the transcripts reveals that they are probably not the smoking gun prosecutors need to guarantee a conviction in the vote fraud case.
First things first.
JORGE DE GOTI: MIAMI'S POET LAUREATE
Who knew that the commissioner's right-hand man possessed such an evocative speaking style? In this passage from a January 22 conversation between Herbello and De Goti, Herbello explains that she is worried because agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) are threatening to arrest more people in the vote fraud scandal. "Oh, please," De Goti says dismissively. He tells her he knows exactly what he is going to say when FDLE agents come knocking on his door:
"'Why don't you suck my left nut?' Shit, I'd tell them, 'Why don't you suck my left nut and prove it? Okay, cocksucker?' I'll tell them just like that."
Other memorable De Goti quotes culled from the tapes:
*"I have nothing to hide. I can shit on his mom, and on anyone's mom, because I've got nothing to hide."
*"They can charge me right now for being, ah ... for putting my dick out in the corner and [they can say] that I put my dick in the corner and I didn't! They can arrest me for anything!"
*"Where's that faggot brother of mine, shit, what a faggot! My brother is such a faggot."
*"I was on the line with the, with city hall, they say the news [media] are all [there], all the fucking news, fucking dumb motherfuckers."
*"Fuck you, you know, you know what I mean?"
*"These guys are fucking scumbags."
*"Stupid fucks! Hello?"
Not since Tony Montoya (Al Pacino's character in Scarface) has a Cuban-American been recorded using the f-word so many times. On one tape Herbello finally asks De Goti if his mother ever smacked him for cursing so often. "A whole shitload of times," he replies.
The most poetically profane passage (think haiku) is the outburst below, which comes as De Goti drives Herbello to her office. Without provocation, De Goti exclaims, "Oh, man, what an asshole, shit, motherfucker."
EVELYN HERBELLO: A STAR IS BORN
On December 9 the Miami Herald reported that dozens of fraudulent absentee ballots may have been cast in November's city election. Many of those ballots, the newspaper noted, were linked to associates of Humberto Hernandez. Two examples cited by the Herald were the ballots of Evelyn and Rudy Herbello. Evelyn Herbello worked for the City of Miami and was once Hernandez's secretary. Rudy Herbello is a sergeant with the Miami Police Department. Although they own a house in West Dade, they both voted in the City of Miami through absentee ballots.
"There's no discrepancy," Rudy Herbello told the Herald at the time. "Does that mean I can't have more than one house? Some information you have is not accurate."
Evelyn Herbello was more curt, refusing to answer the Herald's questions. "You guys write whatever the hell you want anyway," she was quoted as saying.
Herbello's bravado was short-lived, however; soon she contacted the Dade State Attorney's Office and offered to cooperate. She claimed that her husband knew nothing about fraudulent votes and that the person who helped her register illegally in Miami was Jorge De Goti's father Jose.
"When I first met with her," recalls Joe Centorino, head of the state attorney's public corruption unit, "she was very vulnerable, very emotional. She was in tears. She came in to see me with her priest."
Centorino asked her if she would be willing to wear a wire. "I think she was very conflicted about that at the outset because she still considered these people to be her friends," he says. "But she agreed, and once she got into it she was more comfortable with it. She did a superb job, there is no doubt about it."
Centorino says even he was amazed at Herbello's ingenuity during her meetings with Jorge De Goti and Hernandez. "No amount of coaching could make her as good as she was," he marvels.
One series of meetings was particularly tricky. Prosecutors asked Herbello to meet with another city employee, Rene Alfonso, who they believed had also voted illegally. FDLE agents had confronted him once, and now they wanted to see what he would tell Herbello.
While Herbello pumped Alfonso for information, she also tried to turn him against Hernandez and De Goti. During their January 20 meeting, she told Alfonso that Hernandez and De Goti would try to lay the blame for the vote fraud scandal on underlings like them.
HERBELLO: I mean, who's going to pay for it? You and me. You think they're going to stand up for us? They are not going to do anything for us. They're just going to turn their backs. It doesn't matter, you cooperate with FDLE and with the state. And no matter what they say, what they call you after this ... Rene, let me ask you a question. If, uh ... because I'm waiting any moment for [FDLE] to knock on my door. If you sit down with Centorino, with the agents, and they ask you to cooperate.