Letters from the Issue of February 6, 2003

Camilo and Me

Though it happened a while ago, it was something you don't forget: Tristram Korten should be commended for his in-depth, thoroughly researched, and well-written article concerning Camilo Padreda ("A Friend Indeed," January 30). Credit should also be given to New Times editor Jim Mullin for continually allowing his reporters the time and free reign for such important projects.

I read the article with great interest, particularly the comment about Padreda's friendship with former Florida Insurance Commissioner Bill Gunter. This caused me to dig through old papers and locate a letter dated June 6, 1985, written by an ambulance-chasing attorney I was investigating for insurance fraud at the time, addressed to then Commissioner Gunter. The letter begins: "As a followup to my prior conversation with Mr. Camilo Padreda, I am writing this letter as a formal complaint concerning Mr. John P. Askins, one of your investigators in Miami, Florida." Basically the writer alleged that I was investigating him only because he was a "well-known Cuban American," or so he said. I subsequently was told that Padreda apparently had called Gunter on behalf of the subject and alleged that I was prejudiced against Cubans, even though I don't know Padreda.

This letter was of no small concern to me, since Padreda was known for his political fundraising and was often seen with Gunter during his trips to Miami. One of Gunter's top aides quickly contacted my boss, Bob McKenna, director of the division of insurance fraud, and let it be known I was most likely guilty of what was said and should be taken off the case. Thankfully McKenna, a fearless man of impeccable integrity, backed me up 100 percent. I regret to say there aren't too many Bob McKennas in government these days. In fact McKenna is no longer in government at all, as Gunter eventually fired him for committing too many acts of integrity.

The point is that an influence peddler like Padreda often does get his way with government officials despite an unsavory past. It appears this may have occurred at the Miami Police Department, much to the detriment of the fine police officers working there. Furthermore it is inexcusable that current and former high-ranking federal law-enforcement officials choose to consort with a fellow who, by his own admission, has bribed elected officials. Let me assure you their subordinates think less of them for the poor example they set.

I thank New Times for terrific journalism and urge you to keep up the great work.

John P. Askins


Editor's note: Askins formerly supervised the Miami office of the Florida Department of Insurance's fraud division.

Dogfight Club: The Venom Flows Like Blood

Free weekly long on hypocrisy, short on integrity: I am appalled at New Times's decision to run the Brandon Dane article "Dogfight Club" (January 23). Unfortunately it's no surprise that there are individuals like Dane who get their kicks by watching the mauling of innocent animals, or that there are people like the story's dog owners who have been entrusted with the care of their dogs but are instead completely heartless as to their suffering. What is surprising to me is that New Times editor Jim Mullin would actually finance his reporter's participation in an act of animal cruelty, which, by the way, is also a crime. It is totally hypocritical to attempt to distance the paper from the potential consequences of its reporters' actions (i.e., possible arrest) while simultaneously handing him an expense check for his services! New Times truly has exhibited a complete lack of journalistic integrity with this story.

Dogfighting is a heartless, cowardly, immoral, and barbarous act of animal cruelty and an abuse of humans' responsibilities to care for creatures that can not choose whether or not to fight in such situations. The horrific description of animal suffering contained in this article is the best justification I've heard for why this is a felony in most of the nation. It is my hope that this ill-conceived report will serve to focus the attention of our elected officials and the Miami-Dade Police Department on taking swift action to end such abuse and put individuals like Brandon Dane where they belong -- in jail.

I have been an avid reader of New Times since moving to Miami fifteen years ago. Please be sure to let your advertisers know that this article has ensured I have read my last edition.

Robert S. Brunn

Miami Beach

A disgusting glamorization of evil: While I fully support freedom of speech and freedom of the press, "Dogfight Club" turned my stomach. I am appalled that New Times not only published such a disgusting article glamorizing dogfighting, but financed it as well.

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