Public Criticism Delays Nomination in Middle District of Florida
By Stephanie Woodrow | January 25, 2022 11:18 am

Harry Shorstein (Shorstein & Lasnetski)

The three finalists to be the next U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida “are being attacked by old adversaries, an assault that has stymied selection efforts,” The St. Petersburg Times reports.

In July, a Florida screening committee submitted three finalists for Middle District U.S. Attorney to the state’s senators. Eight people were considered by the panel.

The three finalists are Harry Shorstein, a partner at Jacksonville law firm Shorstein & Lasnetski who previously served as a Florida state attorney; Robert O’Neill, head of the office’s criminal division who once served as interim U.S. Attorney in the district; and Roger Handberg, an Assistant U.S. Attorney in charge of the Middle District’s Orlando office.

Sen. Bill Nelson (gov)

Although it has not been made public which of the finalists were recommended by Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and then-Sen. Mel Martinez (R), concerns about the finalists have already been aired. Martinez resigned Sept. 9 to join the private sector. He was replaced by Sen. George LeMieux (R). President Obama has yet to nominate anyone for the post, due in part to the public bickering, according to the St. Petersburg newspaper.

In September, current Florida State Attorney Angela Corey tried to derail the candidacy of her former boss, Shorstein.  Three years ago, Shorstein fired Corey and later publicly opposed her bid for election to the state prosecuting job before Corey trounced Shorstein’s former chief of staff in the bitterly contested election. As part of her anti-Shorstein effort, Corey wrote to Nelson and Martinez asking them not to recommend her former boss to Obama.

Sen. Mel Martinez (gov)

Last month, state Circuit Judge Kim Hammond unsealed a court order of his that is critical of Shorstein. Hammond denounced  Shorstein in the 2008 order regarding the ex-prosecutor’s management of a still-sealed grand jury examination into state attorney John Tanner’s probe of the Flagler County, Fla., prison.

Now, former Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney, who is now president of the University of North Florida, is attacking Shorstein, who he says lacks the personality, temperament and management skills to be U.S. Attorney, the newspaper reports.

Meanwhile, O’Neill has come under criticism from former Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Del Fuoco, according to The St. Petersburg Times. Del Fuoco, who blames the loss of his job on O’Neill, has sent letters and e-mails to both the White House and Nelson’s office claiming that investigations by the U.S. Attorney’s office were compromised because of a extramarital relationship O’Neill had with an office employee, the newspaper reports. The newspaper reported that some associates and friends say the affair was with an employee of a contractor who was neither hired nor directly supervised by O’Neill.

Sen. George LeMieux (gov)

Del Fuoco also has raised questions about O’Neill’s ownership interest in Four Green Fields, a Tampa bar that once raised money for Irish Republican Army political leader Gerry Adams, according to the newspaper. O’Neill has publicly acknowledged his ownership of the bar, but told the Times he did not organize or attend the event.

Del Fuoco has filed a federal lawsuit in which he accuses O’Neill of defamation in comments that were included in his application for U.S. Attorney, the newspaper reports.

Handberg has come under less fire than Shorstein and O’Neill, with the major criticism being his lack of experience and outside support, according to the Times.

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