- Associated Press - Thursday, October 2, 2014

MIAMI (AP) - A former law partner of convicted $1.2 billion Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein was sentenced Thursday to nearly three years in federal prison for a conspiracy conviction that included illegal campaign contributions to Charlie Crist’s 2010 Senate campaign.

Much of the sentencing hearing concerned Stuart Rosenfeldt’s otherwise distinguished legal career, his charitable works and devotion to his family. But U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke said she could not impose an overly lenient prison term because of the serious nature of the crimes Rosenfeldt committed.

“This taint is just too tough to rub away,” Cooke said.

Rosenfeldt, 59, will report to prison on June 5 to serve the 33-month term. In brief remarks, he apologized for his wrongdoing but also took full responsibility.

“I give you my word I’ll spend the rest of my life seeking redemption,” he said.

Rosenfeldt became the 25th person sent to prison in the Rothstein fraud case, which involved investments in phony legal settlements. Rothstein himself is serving a 50-year prison sentence. The other name partner in the now-defunct Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler law firm, Russell Adler, got just over two years behind bars.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence LaVecchio said the campaign finance violations - which mainly involved contributions Rosenfeldt made that were illegally reimbursed by the law firm - were intended to give Rothstein a veneer of legitimacy and access to leading politicians. In addition to the Crist campaign, Rosenfeldt admitted making illegal contributions to 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain.

Crist, a former Republican governor, is now a Democrat and is running against GOP Gov. Rick Scott. Scott has made Crist’s connections to Rothstein an issue in the campaign, and in an interview with Associated Press reporters and editors earlier this week, Crist pointed out all the tainted money was returned.

“He was a donor. He was a donor to many people,” Crist said of Rothstein. “This race is not about who I knew in the past before he became whatever he became. It’s not my fault, and Floridians know that.”

In addition to the campaign finance violations, Rosenfeldt admitted involvement in a check-kiting scheme that helped prop up the Ponzi scam - which collapsed in October 2009 - and to violating the civil rights of a paid escort who was threatening to publicly expose their sexual relationship.

In the latter case, Rosenfeldt admitted going to Rothstein for his connections to top Broward Sheriff’s Office officials. One of them, former Lt. David Benjamin, orchestrated a confrontation between deputies, the woman and her boyfriend in which she was told to leave Florida or face arrest. The deputies also handcuffed the boyfriend and deleted evidence in the woman’s cell phone that linked her to Rosenfeldt.

Benjamin was sentenced to five years in prison for his role in that episode.

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Follow Curt Anderson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/miamicurt

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