Lawyer Todd Foster says since his success in the case, he has been urged to apply to become U.S. attorney in the Middle District.
By GRAHAM BRINK
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 16, 2001
TAMPA -- Todd Foster spent months attacking U.S. Attorney Donna Bucella for the way her assistants prosecuted his clients, Steven and Marlene Aisenberg.
Now Foster, the less-flamboyant of the couple's two lead attorneys, is talking about replacing Bucella as U.S. attorney in the Middle District of Florida.
Foster helped hand the office its most embarrassing defeat in recent memory when he successfully argued in December that investigators had lied and fabricated evidence against the Aisenbergs.
Since the case was dropped, Foster said, he has received calls from members of the local defense bar asking him to consider applying. Foster said he has not made up his mind but is giving it serious consideration.
"The office needs to capitalize on the many talented people it has," said Foster, who advocated firing the two lead prosecutors in the Aisenberg case. "It also needs to get rid of the lethargy that seems to have settled into certain quarters over there."
The U.S. attorney in Florida's 35-county Middle District, which includes Pinellas and Hillsborough, oversees a 220-employee operation with a $17-million budget. Bucella, who was appointed by President Clinton, resigned May 1. Several others are interested in the job, including Jack Rudy, a former assistant U.S. attorney and interim Hillsborough state attorney. President George W. Bush will decide who gets the job.
A registered Republican, Foster, 43, received his law degree from Florida State University and went to work as an assistant state attorney in Jacksonville. He went to work for the FBI for 21/2 years before taking a job with the organized crime/drug enforcement task force at the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of Texas. In 1989, he became an assistant U.S. attorney in the Tampa office and eventually rose to chief of the major crimes section.
Foster listed among his top accomplishments the 1993 prosecution of Sedrick McKinney, a violent felon and drug dealer whom Foster put away with a lengthy prison sentence. The same year, he also helped convict three Tampa bankers on conspiracy and bank fraud charges stemming from a check-kiting scheme that cost defunct Commerce Bank of Tampa $2-million.
In 1994, high-profile Tampa attorney Barry Cohen lured Foster away into private practice. Foster helped provide the litigation savvy to handle the criminal cases that Cohen attracted. And Cohen provided Foster a ready pipeline of big cases.
In a case that made national television two years ago, Foster represented Jose Martin Rodriguez, who claimed to be suffering from a sleep disorder called narcolepsy that caused him to doze off when he killed another motorist in Pasco County. Foster and another lawyer won the case on appeal.
But by far the biggest case of Foster's defense career was the Aisenberg case. The couple were suspected of killing their baby and lying to authorities. Foster admitted that any transition into the U.S. Attorney's Office would be less rocky if he hadn't been involved in the case. But, he said, sometimes it takes someone who has witnessed the problems first-hand to turn the office around.
He'd like to see the office take on the "highest level of prosecutions" like more high-level bank fraud and organized crime cases. "If that office doesn't do those types of cases, no one will," he said. "It needs a kick in the butt."
- Contact Graham Brink at (813) 226-3365.
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