By Michael E. Miller
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Police looked up the pending assault charge against Garcia. Particularly telling was that Hernandez, who lived on the streets of downtown Miami, knew where Blake lived in North Miami -- though he didn't know Blake's name. (Garcia later told police that Hernandez must have seen Blake's case file in his office.) In his deposition, Hernandez maintains that he never intended to kill "the old man" or to hire anyone to do it. He just pocketed the money Garcia gave him and spent it, mostly on crack.
The police found Hernandez's statements convincing enough to arrest Garcia for solicitation of first-degree murder. The State Attorney's Office is still pressing that charge, along with the aggravated assault. Because the alleged assault involved a firearm, that charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of three years in prison. The maximum sentence for the solicitation charge is also three years.
George Garcia would not comment for this story. His attorneys, Ed Shohat and Pamela Perry, advised him not to do so, and they themselves declined to comment. But the four-volume court file of the consolidated case against Garcia, filled mostly with depositions, makes their defense strategy clear: Portray Hernandez as a lying, thieving crackhead and portray Joe Blake as a dangerous nut case with a vendetta against lawyers.
Planned defense witnesses have asserted that Hernandez himself was using the Blake assault case as a way to shake down Garcia. One states in his deposition that he overheard Hernandez saying he wanted a $15,000 payoff from Garcia in exchange for retracting his accusation that Garcia solicited him to harm Blake.
Perry and Shohat have found many lawyers who have seen Joe Blake (or Joe Blaine) lose his temper. In fact, at least one lawyer came forward voluntarily after the Miami Herald ran a story on March 28, 1996, describing both the alleged assault on Blake and Garcia's alleged solicitation of Hernandez.
"My reaction was, some poor schmo dealing with Joe Blaine fell into one of his traps," says attorney John Genovese, who encountered Blake in the Eighties, during his Willard Garden Hotel days. "This Joe Blake was so similar to the Joe Blaine I remembered: He was playing the victim, where I regard him as very cunning."
Genovese contacted Garcia's defense lawyers and was deposed. "My impression of Joe was that he was a kind of menacing, kind of aggressive guy," Genovese says. "But in front of the court, it was always, 'I'm a disabled veteran, I'm on medication,' and so forth."
Genovese mentions that, while Blaine was running the Willard Garden, he was accused of menacing tenants with a gun. County records show that Joseph Addison Blaine (whose birthdate is the same as Joseph Addison Blake's) was charged with aggravated assault, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, and felony possession of a firearm in 1982. The charges were dropped. Joseph Addison Blaine (with a birthdate in 1923 that matches the one on a driver's license issued under that name and that expired in 1981 -- and whose home address was the Willard Garden Hotel, where Blake lived at that time) was charged with second-degree grand theft in 1981. Those charges were dropped.
Blake denies ever being charged with these crimes, despite what county records say. "I would be suspicious of anything coming from the court clerks under the name Blake or Blaine," he cautions.
The Garcia case file contains depositions from lawyers who have had more recent dealings with Blake, both in person and over the phone, wherein they state that Blake "did not seem rational," or that "he was a very rude old man," or that "he made threats of violence against me and my secretaries."
Blake called Michael S. Goodman, trying to get him to take over the Public Storage case after the Garcia incident. Goodman declined. "He was calling lawyers cheats, MF's, you know, saying derogatory things about them," Goodman recalled in his deposition. "Then he told me he was going to fuck me up like he fucked up George Garcia. I think at the end, according to my notes, I told him to go fuck himself and I hung up the phone."
None of this testimony surprises Blake in the least. "The Mob protects its own," he murmurs.
The front door of Joe Blake's one-bedroom apartment doesn't have a doorknob, just two deadbolts. A jalousie on the door bears a sticker reading: "Trespassers will be shot on sight."
Blake responds to a knock by opening the jalousies and peering through the metal grill behind the glass. "I'm drowning in paper," he explains, opening the door only a crack. "I live in a little warehouse. I just don't let anybody in here, period."
Blake locks up the apartment, gets in his car, and tears off toward the FIU library, where he likes to conduct his meetings. He's tough to follow; he drives fast and aggressively, traits that have earned him numerous tickets and that would help him shake any aspiring hit men.
Blake is pushing ahead with the Public Storage and Miami Jewish Home suits. His activism continues as well, with his favorite cause being justice for Emilio Ippolito, whom he steadfastly describes as a "political prisoner." He hasn't given up hope on the Willard Garden Hotel case either. Even though his last appeal was denied in 1994, he still harbors hopes of filing charges under the federal RICO statute against the bank that "screwed" him.