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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Shell Shocked--and Not by a Conch Shell

For those of you out of towners who read this and know a little about Key West's tradition of political alchemy, you may share my utmost surprise when I read today's Key West Citizen to learn that prominent Key West attorney Jimmy Hendrick was convicted on Friday on 4 criminal counts in federal court in Key West. The charges were conspiracy, witness tampering and obstruction of justice. Read the whole story in The Miami Herald.

I met with Jimmy Hendrick several years ago regarding a personal matter. He could not represent me because he had a potential ethical conflict with one of the people I wanted to sue. I also met with him on a couple of other occasions and was deeply impressed by his professionalism. I have been an in house attorney for two banks for many years and have engaged many attorneys to perform numerous legal duties over the years,and Jimmy Hendricks struck me as one of the smartest and sharpest attorneys that I had met.

I have said that Key West is a very big, small town. Everybody knows way to much about everybody else's' business. We know who is cheating on the spouse, partner or the I.R.S., who is drinking to excess or doing drugs, who is succeeding or failing in business, who got arrested for doing something stupid. We have people come here from all over the world. And we have people who live here who have never gone anywhere.
I do know his wife. She used to be my normal waitperson at the Cafe Marquesa. She quit that job a couple of years ago. But she was always very friendly and upbeat. I feel very sorry for her.

I was working at another real estate company when Hendrick was first arrested and indicted. Some of my fellow Realtors immediately said he was guilty. And I said "You can't say that. He hasn't even had a trial." I was furious. People were assuming that he must be guilty because he was smart (and I will admit conniving). But being sharp does not equate to guilt. I remember asking one of the Realtors would he prefer to go to an attorney that is smart and wins his cases or go to someone knows and is cheap. His response was to go to the attorney who wins cases. I said that is Jimmy Hendrick.

The jurors were from all over Monroe County, and it stretches about one hundred miles northeast of Key West. Hendrick had been the county attorney, so I sense that most of the jurors were somewhat familiar with his name and reputation for being smart, but maybe not for the allegations charged. He won most of his legal battles, and for that I am sure he had some enemies. I trust that the jury panel did not have any member that harbored ill will for Hendrick.

He will appeal. It is a sad day in Key West.

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Gary Thomas in a Nutshell

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Key West, Florida, United States
I first read about Key West in a magazine called "After Dark" sometime in the mid 1970's. But it wasn't until March 1984 that I made my first visit to the island that would become my home. I had two weeks for a vacation and reserved a room at Colours Guesthouse (now Marrero's Guest House) for one week. I thought that if I didn't like Key West, I could always go back to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale for the rest of my trip. But after a couple of days in Key West, that was no longer a consideration. But when I wanted to extend my stay for the extra week I found there was no room at the inn. The guesthouse owner did find me a room at LaTeDa, the infamous guesthouse/restaurant. That's a story I'll write another day. But those two weeks in Key West gave me the realization that I had found Paradise. Key West has been my home since 1993 and my only regret is that it took me so long to get here. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties CRI. Let me help you find your new home or business in Paradise. Living in Paradise is not a slogan, it's a way of life.