Santeramo defense: "Organized labor is under assault"
This morning Pat Santeramo was in a jail jumpsuit at the Broward County Courthouse, where his Miami attorney, Ben Kuehne, argued for a reduction in his bond.
But Broward Circuit Judge Michael Orlando kept the bond at $480,000 and the former Broward Teachers Union president will likely spend at least one more night in jail. Next up is a hearing to prove that the money he uses for the bond wasn't stolen friom public school teachers.
Santeramo is charged with a slew of crimes connected to what investigators allege was an ongoing scheme to defraud teachers out of more than $300,000 over a period of five years. If convicted, the 64-year-old Santeramo could spend the rest of his life in prison.
But in a press release issued by his Miami attorney, Santeramo says he will "prevail."
"I call upon the legions of teachers, parents, and students whose lives improved during my time of BTU leadership to withhold judgment, as I now dedicated my attention to another battle," Santeramo says in the release. "With your support and the ever present sustenance of my family, I am confident I will prevail."
In the release, Kuehne writes that Santeramo never acted dishonestly or received any "personal gain other that which he has lawfully earned." Kuehne claims the case is an attempt to "dismantle public and private unions throughout America."
"The righteous cause of organized labor is under assault," Kuehne wrote in the release.
The case, however, didn't start with the Broward Sheriff's Office -- it was prompted by several BTU members themselves, people who say they deeply believe in the union's cause.
In the video above you'll see one of them, former BTU board member Leslie Janin-Starr, who was one of the union members who alerted authorities to Santeramo's seemingly criminal behavior and is a witness in the case. She told me the case distressed her not only because Santeramo may have stolen teachers' money, but because it would give unions across the country -- unions she believes in -- a black eye.
And current BTU administrator John Tarka stood side-by-side with Lamberti at yesterday's press conference saying that the union had put together a "restitution team" to get the money back that Santeramo allegedly stole from it.
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