Prosecution Complex

The strange saga of a smooth-talking hit man, jealous secretaries, and a ruined prosecutor

When the investigators arrived in March, they found the truth an elusive target. There were numerous claims and counterclaims. Rosenblatt soon negotiated transactional immunity for his client, which basically allowed her to speak freely without fear of prosecution. (Independent counsel Kenneth Starr granted Monica Lewinsky the same protection in the Clinton case.) The investigators' motivation for the immunity grant isn't known. It's likely they didn't expect to uncover any criminal wrongdoing and just wanted to get to the bottom of a complicated situation.

When Rossbach began to testify, she implicated her co-workers in a cascade of complaints. Investigators couldn't substantiate the majority of them. Among her claims: Molina-Abad confessed to falling in love with Ayala. Molina-Abad had phone sex with Ayala and told him "I love you." And Molina-Abad talked to Ayala about getting a gun to kill Rossbach.

Molina-Abad denied the accusations.
Rossbach made even more claims about Navarro: Ayala had given her $2000 to buy a Jet Ski. She stole money from the parking lot where she worked part time. She and another secretary, Olga Cabrera, teamed up to have phone sex with Ayala. She smoked marijuana with FBI agents. Rossbach even asserted that Navarro talked about Ayala's penis size and asked the killer how to start an escort agency.

Navarro and Cabrera also rejected those accusations. Navarro even took a polygraph and passed.

Though Rossbach agreed to take a polygraph, she fell ill the day of the test and left work. She never took the test. Rosenblatt says the investigators never called.

Rossbach saved her most stunning accusation for last. At first she was indirect, saying she couldn't approach Band about the problems because he wasn't talking to her. Then the following exchange took place:

Investigator: "Why is Michael not talking to you?"
Rossbach: "Michael sexually assaulted me (crying) and he was very (inaudible)."

Investigator: "Oh gosh. Ah, well let me stop a minute so you can stop crying and get yourself together."

At this point, the investigator stops interviewing Rossbach about Ayala and starts questioning her about Band. Rossbach asserts that for years Band asked to sleep with her. He even wanted to include a girlfriend from Orlando in a menage à trois.

She claims he became aggressive at the major-crimes Christmas party. "I always ask my husband to come because I do feel very uncomfortable with Mr. Band," she says. "He'd tell me, 'You know you want me.' And, um, 'Why'd you bring your husband?' ... And he goes, 'Come on, let's go in the office.' ... I was like, 'Get away from me, Michael.'"

Eventually Rossbach says she entered an office with him. Band stood in front of the door, put his hands on her breasts, and said she needed a "boob job" like his Orlando girlfriend. Then she walked out.

New Times talked to several people who attended the Christmas party. None of them remember Rossbach mentioning the incident or acting uncomfortable around Band. One person, who requested anonymity, even supplied a photograph taken at the party that shows Rossbach, Band, and Navarro embracing. Rossbach, smiling broadly, has both arms around Band.

But the investigators took the allegation seriously. If Rossbach's charges were true, Band had committed simple battery, a misdemeanor. The investigators then tried to verify her claim. They asked Rossbach whom she had told about the harassment before February, when Band started looking into the Ayala matter. Any discussion after that point would be tainted, they reasoned. Among the answers they received:

*Prosecutor Weintraub confirmed that Rossbach had complained about Band, but she couldn't say when.

*Senior trial counsel Abe Laeser strongly denied Rossbach's claim that he had responded, "Sherry, why don't you just give Michael what he wants?" after being told of the harassment. ("It's an absolute lie," Laeser responds.)

*Rossbach's sister Lori Maltz confirmed the claim. She said Sherry told her about the harassment in January. But Maltz's testimony comes with baggage: She was fired from her job as a secretary in the prosecutor's office in 1992 for "conduct unbecoming a state employee."

Investigators didn't reach private investigator Diaz, who denied to New Times that Rossbach told him of the harassment. Rossbach said: "I started to confide in him and tell him that Michael was harassing me and bothering me, and he thought I should do something about it." Diaz responds: "No, that's not correct. Sherry had problems with people in the office on many occasions. But I don't remember any of it having to do with Michael Band fondling her or sexually harassing her, nor do I think he would do such a thing." The investigator contacted him once, then never followed through, he says. Rosenblatt dismisses Diaz's claim. He says the investigator changed his story.

Rosenblatt also says Rossbach sought counseling about the Band affair and that the investigators interviewed her counselor. Band's lawyer Roy Kahn says no such interview took place. New Times couldn't determine the truth of either claim.

Band denied the allegations but refused to take a polygraph. "It was his lawyer's advice that he not take a polygraph," Kahn says. "They're just not reliable." In fact, all of the prosecutors interviewed for this story supported Band's refusal. "Michael's decision not to take a polygraph is consistent with what any lawyer would do," says one former prosecutor. Another attorney asserted that polygraphs are about 50 percent accurate.

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