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Gersten, too, refuses to speak to the Miami media, which he believes are cooperating with authorities in the conspiracy to destroy him. "I have no comment, not to the New Times or to the National Enquirer. Don't ever call here again," he snapped in a recent telephone interview. "There are laws here regarding people's privacy.... What goes on there does not matter. I have a new life. There's nothing personal. I want you to stay out of my life. I'm home."
Gersten has not been so shy with the Australian press, where he has been portrayed as a truth-seeker whose investigation into Miami corruption sparked a political crusade against him. This past October the Sydney Morning Herald published a sympathetic 2000-word story about Gersten and the House Committee's review of the case. It ran with this headline: "The Man Who Knew Too Much."
In recent years Gersten has been living in Neutral Bay, a suburb north of Sydney. He applied for political asylum in 1993, asserting he was being persecuted by Janet Reno and a slew of political rivals. He was denied refugee status after a panel of judges ruled against him in July 2000. He remains in Australia using an interim visa issued while he appeals the panel's decision.
As part of his Sydney law practice, Gersten has taken on various humanitarian causes pro bono, says personal friend and client Andrew McNaughtan. He notes that Gersten -- the man who once used a gun to threaten a Miami hotel parking valet -- now represents refugees trying to stay in Australia and also is speaking out against human-rights abuses in East Timor. The people of Miami, McNaughtan says, have got the former commissioner all wrong. "Joe has been shell-shocked," he explains. "I believe he was framed by prosecutors who used the media to convict him."
McNaughtan describes Gersten as a broken man who now depends on a handful of friends to get by. But prosecutor Joel Rosenblatt came away with a distinctly different impression. As he made small talk with Gersten outside a Sydney courtroom, Rosenblatt was impressed by the ex-commissioner's jovial demeanor and impressive girth. "He looked more rotund than I remember him to be," Rosenblatt recalls. "It doesn't look like he's been depriving himself of anything."