Prosecution Complex

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

Things deteriorated rapidly for the major-crimes unit boss. The investigators took an aggressive tack, Kahn recounts: "They said, 'We find there's enough here to charge you with simple battery.' Then they offered to withhold charges if he resigned." Kahn says he found the case laughable and looked forward to defending Band.

Kahn and Band then met with Rundle. "The state attorney had competing interests," Kahn says. "She cared deeply about a devoted employee. She also cared deeply how the office would appear as this was played out in the papers."

He adds: "She never asked him to stand and fight."
Rundle says Band's decision to resign was "solely between him and the special prosecutors." She says she did not encourage him to resign.

The timing couldn't have been worse. The Chavez trial was about to begin. If the Fort Myers prosecutors filed criminal charges, Band would automatically be suspended from the case.

The deal was struck in June: Band would handle the Chavez prosecution, then step down. On June 15 Rundle fired Molina-Abad and Navarro for conducting inappropriately intimate conversations with Ayala. She also fired Cabrera for forging signatures. The investigators strongly recommended reinstating Rossbach, who had been suspended.

"State Attorney Katherine Rundle rushed to judgment and made a hasty decision motivated by selfish and political reasons by terminating others and reinstating Sherry Rossbach," Navarro says. "What line did we cross that Sherry did not?"

Fallout continued. Orlando prosecutors took over the Blanco case and decided it had been compromised by Ayala's relationship with the secretaries. They offered Blanco a deal. In October she pleaded no contest to three murders in which Ayala implicated her.

Throughout the ordeal friends tried to convince Band not to quit. "A lot of people in the office are mad at Michael for resigning so readily," says one former prosecutor. "He kept saying, 'For the good of the office we must put this behind us. The work we do is too important.' Michael is one of those really good eggs that truly believes he is doing God's work."

Band defends his boss. "Kathy has been my friend for seventeen or eighteen years," he says. "When her father died, I was with her. When my father died, she was there with me. She is a good person." He claims he is not happy that people are using his case to criticize her. "You are going to knock this office and that is unfair. People need to see this office as more than Kathy, and more than myself."

Rundle returns the sentiment. "I'm really disappointed to see him leave. He was a great prosecutor," she says. "I respect Michael's decision."

In October a jury convicted Chavez and recommended the death penalty. That ended Band's career as a prosecutor. Now he's considering private practice.

Band's ordeal might continue. "This case is not over," Rosenblatt vows. He is preparing a sexual harassment civil suit against Band.

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