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Shortage of facts may let judge slide

By MARY JO MELONE

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 27, 2001


The problem with the Bob Bonanno story is that we'll never know.

The problem with the Bob Bonanno story is that we'll never know.

He won't say.

And there's next to no evidence.

We'll never know why he was in another judge's darkened office, nosing around, 15 months ago.

Bonanno, whom we in Hillsborough County still have to call Your Honor, has given several explanations.

Just because he's a judge doesn't mean, apparently, that he thinks he should give only one.

It does mean that he is impervious to the regard of his peers. For surely at least a couple other judges think he ought to talk straight. Surely one or two have told this to him.

Bonanno's varying statements could suggest perjury.

But you have to have the basic facts to know if someone is lying.

And in Bonanno's case, the basic facts were reed thin.

Lucky him.

A bailiff caught him in the office of one of his courthouse enemies, Circuit Judge Greg Holder, 15 months ago. She didn't see Bonanno going through Holder's desk or working on his computer. Nothing was missing.

He was a shadowy figure under suspicious circumstances. The suspicions were that he was looking for something Holder had that could damage him or his friends, judges Dennis Alvarez and Gasper Ficarrotta.

They're both gone -- after a steamy mess of courthouse girlfriends, campaign fundraising, and just plain clubbiness -- but not Bonanno.

You should have such luck.

You do the 9-to-5 grind. Bonanno dances between the raindrops.

Plop.

A grand jury said in June he's a bad guy and ought to resign. But that's no order, just a call to the better angels of Bonanno's nature, whatever angels there are.

Plop.

The Judicial Qualifications Commission says this week that Bonanno is just a bad boy who deserves a reprimand.

This is what you get when investigators have only confusion to put their hands on -- conflict and a big smile on the judge's face.

The next stop for Bonanno is the Florida Supreme Court, which will have to look at these opposing views of this man and decide what to do with him.

I have said there is no evidence. There is no evidence of what he was doing in Greg Holder's chambers.

But there is evidence that Bob Bonanno has funny notions about truth-telling and story-spinning.

This is not exactly what you want in a person who is supposed to weigh the words of strangers and treat the facts with respect.

Respect with this guy seems to be a moving target.

Only his luck holds fast. Bonanno keeps following his notion of true north, and no matter how false it is, he holds fast to his path.

Amazing.

My own wish, as you can guess, is that the Supreme Court ends Bob Bonanno's streak of luck. My own wish is that they drop-kick him out the courthouse door and make him 9-to-5 it.

You have to be smart to make it as a street lawyer, and Bob Bonanno is not generally regarded in Tampa as one of the great legal minds of the age. He might finally need an umbrella when it rains.

- You can reach Mary Jo Melone at mjmelone@sptimes.com or at (813)-226-3402.

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