The law office of Raúl Recoba is located on Calle Ocho across from a liquor store and above a discount beauty-supply store. Here, the sidewalks are stained dark with discarded gum and cortaditos. Recoba works inside a small, clean room down a long, white hallway. His window provides a sweeping view of Little Havana, obscured only by pigeons pacing the sill.
Recoba is not one of South Florida's highest-powered attorneys. In fact, the 41-year-old Uruguayan joined the Florida Bar only three years ago. But he has already been tasked with handling one of the state's most headline-grabbing cases: the upcoming murder trial of porn star John Snavely, better-known as Champ.
It's a tall order. Snavely's fingerprints and DNA were found at the scene of the crime. Detectives even claim he confessed. But Recoba says that the police work has been sloppy and that his client is innocent. "They are choosing the path of least resistance and John is the only guy that they have," he says. "Is that justice?"
As reported previously in New Times, multimillionaire Samuel Del Brocco was found stabbed to death inside his Pompano Beach townhouse on September 12, 2010. At first, suspicion fell on Del Brocco's young employee, Justin DeVinney, a former Playgirl model who stood to inherit $3 million upon Del Brocco's death. DeVinney was soon cleared after confirming his whereabouts on the night in question.
In July 2013, however, the Broward Sheriff's Office matched DNA from a Coke can in Del Brocco's townhouse to Champ, a hulking, handsome Texan with a long rap sheet and a growing reputation as an up-and-coming porn star. Detectives also found Snavely's fingerprint on Del Brocco's Porsche, which had been washed just hours before his death.
The case against Champ seemed open-and-shut when he put himself at the scene of the crime. According to a BSO report, Snavely admitted to meeting Del Brocco at a gay bar, going back to his townhouse in the Porsche, and drinking a can of Coke. "Snavely stated that once he and the client moved to the bedroom he began to do the 'private dance' and that the client wanted him to masturbate," the report says. But Snavely couldn't get it up, he allegedly told detectives, so Del Brocco drove him home.
Prosecutors consider Snavely's statement a key piece of evidence. "The suspect seemed to question himself about whether or not he could have been involved in the victim's death and not remember it due to drug use," according to an arrest affidavit.
But Recoba says there is no confession.
"John tells me that the things that [Detective John] Curcio reported are not at all the things he talked to him about," Recoba says. "[Detectives] are going to say what they are going to say. But they don't have anything written by John. How hard is that? How hard would it have been to bring your little recorder if you've been doing this for 30 years and you suspect that someone may give you a spontaneous statement?"
Unfortunately for Recoba, the "confession" is just one of several obstacles to getting Snavely out of jail. But the young lawyer isn't short on answers.
Neither the DNA on the Coke can nor the fingerprints on the Porsche proves Snavely was with Del Brocco when he died, Recoba says. Fingerprints from car washers were also on the Porsche.
"What if John's fingerprints were from before and these guys, who were sloppy enough to leave their own fingerprints, missed going over another spot?" Recoba says. The same is true of the Coke can, which Recoba says could have been left over from long before.
"The fingerprints alone cannot establish a timeline," Recoba says. "You need other information."
There are no fingerprints on the murder weapon, a knife found stashed under a throw rug in the kitchen, Recoba points out. And hair fibers found on the knife don't match either Del Brocco or Snavely.
Meanwhile, there are other potential suspects, from a drug dealer to a string of male strippers who partied with Del Brocco.
"They are building their case on assumptions," Recoba says of prosecutors. "If you balance the evidence, you can reach other conclusions. That's the final point. So without having to go into [John's] innocence, there is plenty of reasonable doubt."
Recoba says his client is being vilified for his lifestyle. Prosecutors adamantly deny that.
"That is completely false," says Assistant State Attorney Adriana Alcalde. "I am very surprised by some of the accusations and allegations made by the defense attorney in this case, but I because I am the prosecutor on the case it would not be ethical for me to comment or respond to them."
(Detectives also declined to talk before the trial but are confident in their case.)
Recoba claims the case against Champ "doesn't add up" but that, after four years of investigations, authorities are too invested to start over.
"We have to defend against a bluff," he says. "They want to send him to jail. They want to be famous, and they are going to make him into a monster. And he's the perfect monster: porn star, bisexual, young, drugs, party. Great monster."
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Come December or early 2015, a jury will decide if that monster is real.
Editor's Note: This article has been revised.