Some Miami defense lawyers offer up their support, saying her office is more reasonable than counterparts in Broward or Monroe, where prosecutors are less willing to drop a weak case or accept plea deals.
“I think her office as a whole handles itself in a fair manner. You can quibble with individual cases, but at least I know there are prosecutors who I can talk to,” said defense lawyer David S. Markus. “I think the problems in the state attorney’s office are caused by a lack of funding, not by a lack of leadership.”
The last couple of years, however, have been rocky for Fernández Rundle.
She engaged in a public spat with former Miami Police Chief Miguel Exposito over prosecutorial delays in finishing investigations into police-involved shootings.
Exposito later accused her of playing favorites in dropping a public corruption case against the grandson of black activist Georgia Ayers — who referred the case to prosecutors in the first place. Rundle shot back that the cops proceeded despite warnings that there wasn’t enough evidence.
“The problem I have with her is that she is very aggressive against certain politicians or government workers, yet with others she takes the soft approach. She gives you all the reasons in the world to not go after them,” said Exposito, whose stormy tenure ended in September after public battles with his own boss. “I think she needs to go.”
Most notably, last year a jury acquitted Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones in a bribery case, and another grand theft case was dropped months later. Spence-Jones has said she plans to sue Fernández Rundle for “prosecutorial and investigatory misconduct.”
Spence-Jones is now actively supporting Vereen, who says the state attorney’s office engages in “political prosecutions.” He has also ripped prosecutors for not charging U.S. Rep. David Rivera, a Republican, on allegations of financial misconduct.
His campaign is hoping Fernández Rundle is vulnerable with black voters, a bloc that has traditionally backed her.
“Kathy, she’s been OK, but not good enough,” said Miami Rev. Jerome Starling, who is supporting Vereen. “I think her ties to the African-American community have gotten weaker.”
Influential local black leaders such as Carrie Meek, lawyer H.T. Smith and Ayers are backing Fernández Rundle. Rev. Carl Johnson, of the 93rd Street Baptist Church, admits that the troubled Spence-Jones prosecution may push some black voters away, but not him.
“I’m unashamedly supporting Kathy,” Johnson said. “She punishes the punitive in heart who have no regard for the law, but she also gives mercy that is corrective in nature.”
Said Fernández Rundle : “I believe the African-American and Haitian and Caribbean community know who we are as an office and what we stand for and they appreciate the hard work we do for them. I don’t think they’re going to be fooled by a lot of loud, noisy people who may have vendettas against the office.”