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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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For once, Broward sheriff can't get even
By STEVE BOUSQUET, Tallahassee Bureau Chief
Published September 8, 2007
When somebody self-destructs the way Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne has, it's tempting to look for a simple answer.
Was it greed? Sex? Stupidity?
As with much involving Jenne, the answer is hard to find. It's buried inside the tortured psyche of a man who spent nearly four decades on the political stage and was once seen as a viable candidate for governor.
No more. Jenne's slow, sad descent hit bottom Wednesday when he pleaded guilty to tax evasion and mail fraud conspiracy. He faces up to two years in prison and stands to lose his law license and six-figure pension that began 35 years ago as a young prosecutor, working alongside longtime friend Bob Butterworth.
"It's just very sad that he had to end his political career this way," said Butterworth, the state's child welfare secretary and a former Broward sheriff. "He's obviously faced up to the mistakes that he's made."
In a maze of elaborately built schemes involving secretaries, a developer friend, his former law firm and consulting businesses - all of it concealed from the IRS -- Jenne sold his office and his integrity for about $84,000.
The way this once-savvy Democrat trashed the dream job that Gov. Lawton Chiles gave him nine years ago raises a basic question: Why would someone throw away so much for so little?
Having covered him for much of his career, it's hard to know. The secretive Jenne built an emotional fortress around himself. Nor can the answer be found in the reams of news copy that chronicled his downfall.
A couple of hunches: Bruising political defeats left him unable to handle success. Or he might have felt he was untouchable at the controls of a giant police force.
For two decades, Jenne prowled the Capitol ever in search of the next rung up the political ladder. He had a sharp intellect and desire to improve higher education.
But he had a vindictive streak that scared people. He collected enemies the way other politicians collect plaques. In a memorable case, the senator aimed a volley of verbal abuse at a university president, calling him a liar the educator wasn't at the hearing.
Jenne was on the verge of becoming Senate president in 1986 only to have it snatched away by a coalition of Democrats and Republicans who refused to entrust him with so much power.
He then set his sights on a Cabinet post, insurance commissioner.
In a down-ballot 1988 race decided largely by who looked better in TV ads, Jenne was a balding, grim-visaged bulldog - no match for the telegenic Tom Gallagher.
Soon he was back in the Senate trenches as Democratic leader, at a time when the Legislature was giving Chiles fits. When Chiles needed Jenne, he was there.
Along the way, he skirted the line of propriety (not the first or last lawmaker to do so). He made a ton of money at a law firm that represented hospitals that lobbied the Legislature. He won a Senate seat without living in the district.
Jenne long craved executive-level power, and he finally got it in 1998 when a sheriff died of cancer. Chiles handed a powerful political machine to Jenne, despite his lack of police credentials.
His critics panned the choice as a payback, but Jenne overcame low early expectations and expanded the size and reach of the Broward Sheriff's Office.
In taking the job, Jenne chose power over money, and that cost him dearly. The charging documents by federal prosecutors paint a picture of a man desperately trying to make ends meet, falling deeper and deeper into an abyss of his own making.
Here's the final irony. Jenne's reputation for getting even stirred fears that he would use the power of his office to punish his enemies in a J. Edgar Hoover-like effort to smear reputations.
But in the end, the mortal blow was self-inflicted.