WEST PALM BEACH -- The Florida Attorney General's Office and the Florida Bar -- the two most powerful legal organizations in the state -- said Palm Beach County prosecutors misrepresented their advice in order to release confidential plea negotiations in the Rush Limbaugh investigation.
Both organizations said they felt they were used by State Attorney Barry Krischer. Limbaugh supporters called for an investigation or even the removal of Krischer from the prescription drug case involving one of America's most loved -- and hated -- radio personalities.
Wednesday's developments further illustrate the difficulty prosecutors face in investigating high-profile cases that deal with news coverage and the public interest, experts say.
Assistant State Attorney Ken Selvig, in a letter Wednesday to the attorney general's office, denied prosecutors were trying to justify releasing the records, saying they were simply asking if there was anything they missed in their research as to whether those records should be released.
At issue is a memo included in the release Friday of letters between prosecutors and Limbaugh's attorney Roy Black in which both sides tried to end the case through a plea deal. Krischer's office said in the memo it had consulted with the attorney general and the Florida Bar and felt, backed up by their advice, it was legally and ethically compelled to release the documents requested by the media.
But both the attorney general's office and the Bar rebut the memo.
"I don't think the Bar or any organization provides services as a straw man to hide behind," said Bar President Miles A. McGrane III. "In our opinion, misstatements were made about our role."
Assistant Attorney General Patricia Gleason, in a letter dated Wednesday to the state attorney's office, claimed Krischer's office had an ulterior motive.
"It seems to me that the purpose in contacting me about this issue may not have been to obtain impartial advice on an open government issue, but rather to use part of our conversation to justify your office's decision," she wrote. "This is disappointing to me personally and professionally."
Gleason said she told Selvig that a court might refuse to OK release of the documents based on "constitutional concerns." Joanne Carrin, attorney general office spokeswoman, said those constitutional concerns were due process and the right to a fair trial. Gleason said she recommended to Krischer's office that it seek advice from the Bar, notify the defense counsel and consider whether to seek help from a judge.
Selvig, in a two-page response to Gleason, said the office's decision to release the records was partly made after referring to the attorney general's public records law manual and determining there was no exemption for plea negotiations.
Selvig said Black "already knew about" the release of the plea negotiations. He said that according to the public records manual, a judge couldn't intervene in the matter.
Selvig also said Black should have been more clear that the negotiations discussed in the letters were confidential, even though they are noted as such.
The attorney general's office, among its many duties, assists local law enforcement agencies and prosecutes statewide crimes. The Florida Bar licenses all attorneys, investigates complaints about lawyers and advises them on ethics.
Bar wants to correct record
Late Wednesday, the Florida Bar weighed in on the matter, faxing a letter to Limbaugh's attorneys reiterating what its records show: that in no way did the Bar tell Krischer he was ethically obligated to release the plea negotiations, McGrane, the Bar's president, said.
Krischer was asking for a legal opinion, which was beyond the scope of the Bar, he said. Like the attorney general's office, the Florida Bar said Krischer might want to seek a judge's advice, records show.
"We felt it was important to correct what was re