Name: Gregg Rossman
Your age: 55
Family status: I am blessed to be married to Irene for over 31 years now We are the proud parents of two beautiful children who are now adults.
What is your address and how long have you lived there?
Address is exempt and confidential but it is in Hollywood and we have been in the same house 20 years. Our first home was within a mile of this one and we lived there for 9 years.
Please tell us about your education and the highest degree you attained.
I attended Broward (Community) College after high school as I worked my way through college and obtained an AA degree. I then went up to Florida State University and obtained a B.A degree in Communications. I came back to South Florida, got married and worked for three years before attending Nova Southeastern from 1991-1994 and obtained my (Juris Doctor) law degree. I worked throughout my college and law school education. I took on significant debt in law school. We paid it all off by 2002 on an Assistant State Attorney’s and a teacher’s salary.
Please outline your work history for the past 15 years.
I have worked since I was 14 years old. However, as an attorney I have worked from October 3, 1994 to September 30, 2014 as an Assistant State Attorney in Broward County. From October 1, 2014 to the present I have had my own P.A. – Gregg Rossman, P.A. (associated with Bauman & Rossman from 2014-2017 and d/b/a as Rossman Legal from 2017 – present.) I was recruited to be an Adjunct Instructor at Broward College’s Institute for Public Safety in 1997. I taught at night after working as an Assistant State Attorney all day. I have been teaching legal classes/topics there ever since.
Have you ever been arrested, charged or convicted of a crime? Have you ever received a “withheld adjudication” or had a matter sealed or expunged? If yes, please explain.
Have you ever been a plaintiff or a defendant in a civil action, including bankruptcy or foreclosure, or had a restraining order issued against you? If so, please explain.
Are you a member of any civic groups? If so, please name them.
Nativity Men’s Club. Youth Sports of Hollywood Board Member (past). I coached youth baseball for ten years and youth softball for three years. I am proud to say those kids are now adults and most still call me Coach Gregg. I have participated in building homes with Habitat for Humanity.
Have you ever run for office before? If so, where and when?
Why are you running for this office?
I am running to be State Attorney to ensure that the justice system is balanced in a way that respects victims' rights first and foremost. Victims and victim’s next of kin have repeatedly expressed to me that they feel “only defendants have rights” that are recognized by Judges and the system as a whole. This belief is largely what led to the push for laws like Marsy’s Law. I believe our society can only survive and flourish if we hold true to the rule of law as laid out in the contractual documents citizens created to allow their government specific authority. This includes the due process each defendant must be afforded in accord with our governing documents, both State and Federal. Our justice system, just like our government as a whole, relies on checks and balances to ensure that all stakeholders have confidence in the system. So, each defendant is afforded an attorney no matter their ability to pay for one. It is that attorney’s oath and obligation to selfishly guard his/her client’s rights throughout the process. For there to be balance, there must be a strong, vibrant and effective State Attorney’s Office giving voice to victims' rights and the rule of law while also guarding the due process afforded all citizens.
What in your experience has best prepared you to be state attorney?
Two things: my life experience and my legal experience. At 55 I have experienced loss in my own family relative to drug abuse. I have experienced loss through senseless violence. I have seen legislative efforts employed to curb crime waves in every decade of my life. I have seen the pendulum swings and the effects of successful programs or legislative changes and the unintended negative effects of some well intended laws. This life experience allows me to have a steady hand when considering proposed changes, sweeping or otherwise.
My work experience in the State Attorney’s Office was long enough (20 years) to see the inefficiencies within all aspects of the system and the mismanagement of resources within the Office itself. I saw an Office decay from the inside out based on a hostility to internal accountability and innovation. I devoted my professional life fighting to protect people as a fierce advocate in court and by fighting to improve the efficiency of the office and the working environment of all those that worked on the SAO team. I stayed in that fight until I no longer believed I could affect necessary change. I am running to bring these experiences back to the office and to implement accountability measures throughout the office. Properly trained and committed Assistant State Attorneys are a community’s best assurance for firm but fair enforcement of the law. Properly valued and respected non-lawyers in the State Attorney’s Office allow the daily mission to be accomplished to the benefit of the community.
As a lawyer, what types of cases have you typically handled?
I have handled every kind of misdemeanor prosecution from DUI to illegal fishing nets. I have prosecuted every kind of felony from drug possession to homicide. I was assigned to the Career Criminal Unit from 2000-2005 where it was typical to try 25 cases a year. I was in the Organized Crime Unit from 2005 until May 14, 2007. In that Unit I handled complex Racketeering (RICO) cases and gang cases. From May 2007 to September 30, 2014 I was assigned to the Homicide Trial Unit. I tried 65 cases in that time including death penalty cases.
Since leaving the SAO and starting my own practice I have diversified my case work. Presently, my focus is civil litigation including business litigation and probate litigation.
Please describe your law office and your case load.
My firm, Rossman Legal, has three lawyers. One attorney practices primarily in Estate Planning and Probate. One attorney handles business and other civil litigation for the firm. Most of my time is devoted to advising several municipal police agencies on training, updating policy and procedures and ensuring adaption to new laws or cases.
How many cases have you tried in the last five years? Of those cases, how many were tried before a jury to verdict and judgment, and how many were tried before a judge? Approximately what percentage were criminal, civil, traffic or juvenile?
As stated above I tried 65 cases between 2007 and 2014. In the last five years I tried two homicide cases. I was asked to “keep” several homicide prosecutions even after I left the office because of the complexity of the cases. I agreed to stay on two. Those cases were tried in the summer of 2015. They were both tried to guilty verdicts before a jury.
In my civil practice all filed cases were settled in mediation or won by judgment entered by a Judge. I have not tried any civil jury trials.
What pro bono legal work have you done in the past three years?
I have represented the following all pro bono: parents in need of guardianship for autistic children aging into adulthood; people in need of debt relief based on medical debts; tenants in need of representation from over bearing landlords; young families unexpectedly in need of probate; an emergency intervention in a public records lawsuit; many people with real estate and other contract issues; and most importantly I have represented several elderly victims of abuse and exploitation pro bono. This has inspired me to make elder abuse my top priority in office. It is shameful what is happening to our most precious citizens. I believe elder abuse is to South Florida what Pill Mills were 10 years ago.
How would you assess the performance of outgoing State Attorney Mike Satz?
Mike is an honest man that served the community well. His overall contribution to our community is deserving of great respect. However, the Office stagnated and the lack of accountability metrics made it impossible to know who was deserving of praise or who needed correction. No Fortune 500 company has the same CEO it had in 1976. It is just the normal state of things. Bill Gates is still a genius but he hasn’t run Microsoft on a day to day basis for some time. All businesses/organizations need an infusion of new ideas and new perspective and government agencies are no different.
What are the three biggest challenges facing the state attorney’s office?
The biggest challenge will be dealing with an expected significant budget cut due to the pandemic. Almost the entire SAO budget is salary. An experienced hand will be needed to navigate the rough waters ahead. The second challenge is implementing metrics that fairly assess all employees so they can know what is expected of them and allows me to recognize those that are excelling. The third challenge is building confidence in the office’s ability to deliver firm but fair results independent of outside influence. All stakeholders need to know the State Attorney’s Office will base decisions solely on the facts that can be proven weighed against the applicable laws.
Do you think the state attorney should be a more vocal leader in our community or is the current model about right?
Absolutely yes. The State Attorney must be a more vocal leader in our community. It is thought that staying in the shadows or out of the public view insulates the State Attorney from scrutiny or criticism. It does not. The State Attorney should be scrutinized and accountable to the community he/she serves.
In what ways could relationships with the Public Defender’s Office be improved?
The State Attorney’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office need to engage in honest dialogue and not public name calling. The mission of each agency is separate and distinct but the collective mission is building confidence in the system.
What is your view of civil citation programs, including the Promise Program?
Conceptually, the ideas and motivation behind programs such as the Promise Program and civil citations are well meaning. However, the implementation of such programs has been a complete failure and this should not be a surprise. New programs must be properly vetted and tested prior to implementation. These were not. The civil citation program was implemented without any ability to track the issuance of such citations. One agency had no way to know if another agency has issued a citation. The Promise Program became a gaping hole in the system precisely because it removes the “system” from the process. It is preferable to get services to those children in need of such services but pretending acts did not occur does nothing to assist in identifying children in need of services or intervention.
How would you address the problem of racial disparities in the criminal justice system and the perception of racial bias?
I would ask all stakeholders, including the media, to dig down into the statistics and look for honest data to base our decisions on. It is routinely stated that racial disparities can be proven by looking at the percentage of people in prison by race and comparing that to the percentage of race in our population. That is too simplistic to withstand honest dialogue. Men make up 49% of the population but 93% of the incarcerated population. Does anyone believe there is systemic sexism built into the criminal justice system?
It is also said that there is sentencing disparity based solely on race of the offender. This is also too simplistic a statement. Sentencing is based on a multitude of factors all within the framework of a statutorily created sentencing guideline. This guideline assesses no punishment based on race. It takes into account the severity of the crime, the injuries to the victim or victims, the prior criminal convictions of the offender and if applicable the hateful motivation of the offender. These factors are utilized to give a Judge a guideline within which to sentence offenders. Mitigating factors are also presented to the Judge to be weighed against the other factors. This system was created in the late 1980s and has been continuously updated precisely in response to claims of racial disparities in sentencing by Judges in differing parts of the State.
So, we must take an honest and open look at all aspects of the issue. Crime is the result of many social problems most of which cannot be addressed directly by the State Attorney. An overwhelming majority of cases are brought about in a reactive manner where police officers are called to a scene by a witness or victim. The subjects of those investigations are identified by civilians and are not chosen by law enforcement. The race of drivers on traffic stops is already tracked so we are building a database upon which we may base future action.
Assuming that the coronavirus or similar illnesses become more commonplace, what changes would you suggest be made in the court system to protect the rights of the public and the rights of defendants?
I would hope that we have learned from this pandemic and I hope it is a once in a hundred years occurrence. What we have learned is that the justice system cannot completely shut down for as long as it has. Simply shutting down the system denies victims and defendants their Constitutional rights. I would suggest a review of all protocols and the processes utilized during the pandemic so they can be improved to an extent that if, God forbid, something similar comes along we will be ready to keep the system as open as possible. In this pandemic procedures were created on the fly often without input from or consideration for some of the stakeholders outside the courthouse.
What is your opinion of the death penalty?
I have prosecuted death penalty cases. It takes a tremendous emotional and spiritual toll on everyone involved – and it should. It is sadly necessary and it is appropriate in the most depraved cases.
What should be done about the problems in our prisons?
This is question is vague and overbroad. I am not sure what you are asking. That said, I am running for State Attorney not Secretary of the Department of Corrections.
Do you support the Smart Justice reform effort, which proposes bail reform, sentence reform and another approach to mass incarceration? Please explain.
No. These are simplistic and misguided proposals. We must look at data with honest perspective and utilize it to our advantage. We tried most of these ideas in some form in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Crime was out of control and the Career Criminal designations were created to address the data that showed a small number of people were committing a large number of crimes. We focused on them and decided to keep them in prison. Since that time crime rates have steadily declined. We should not experiment with the safety of our community. Everywhere “cashless bail” has been implemented the violent crime rates have skyrocketed – NYC is a prime example.
What is a statute that you believe should be changed and why?
The laws regarding elderly abuse and public corruption both need serious work. Elderly exploitation is to South Florida right now what the pill mills were to South Florida 10 years ago. The punishment must be severe for anyone that preys upon the most vulnerable and most precious among us. The public corruption laws need to be tightened to address case law that makes it very difficult to prove many cases without a stated quid pro quo.
What changes should be made to the Sunshine Law?
The Sunshine Law needs to be amended as it relates to a case that the Sun Sentinel brought forward. The next of kin of any murder victim must have a seat at the table and some say in the public dissemination of video that depicts the death of their loved one. In 2015 such an exemption existed but was allowed to sunset for everyone except law enforcement officers. I believe all people have dignity and are deserving of the same protections. I worked with Sen Lauren Book to revive this exemption. The legislature only saw fit to revive it in “mass shootings” which is a good start. However, as I said, I believe all people have dignity and should be able to prevent the dissemination of such videos to the general public. Allowing press outlets to view such videos is not an issue. They can do so and fulfill their watchdog role without actually taking possession of such videos. If the next of kin believed it was important to release such video they could agree to it. They must have a seat at the table.
What more could be done to address the impact that people with mental illness have on public safety and the criminal justice system?
As a society we need to come to terms with the multi-facted issues presented by mental illness. This is an area of great importance to me for a number of reasons. In fact, I have consulted with two mental health professionals to further develop an effective plan for addressing this complex issue. We know for instance that jails and prisons across the country provide mental health services for approximately 10 times more individuals than state psychiatric hospitals. This represents approximately three million individuals receiving mental health services in jails and prison at any one time. We also know that individuals who suffer from major mental disorders such as Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder are more likely to be victims of crimes as opposed to perpetrators of crime. Nonetheless, individuals with mental health disorders do come to the attention of the criminal justice system at an alarming rate. We are fortunate in Broward County to have both felony and misdemeanor Mental Health Courts. However, those specialty courts must be utilized properly to divert individuals with mental health disorders into appropriate treatment settings and to protect the public from criminal activities. It really starts with an effective system to evaluate individuals and discriminate between those who are attempting to feign mental health symptoms as an excuse for criminal behavior and those who are truly mentally ill and deserve consideration for diversion programs and downward departures from sentencing guidelines. The failure to properly discriminate between those groups often leads to the victimization of individuals with serious mental health problems in various treatment programs and a continued carousel of recidivism by the same individuals. I am committed to evaluating each case involving the issue of mental health considered on an individual basis for the best outcome for the victim, the individual charged and the community as a whole. I am also committed to meeting with treatment professionals running mental health programs in the community to ensure quality services for those individuals who are court ordered to treatment facilities. I will not be afraid to ensure accountability within these programs. I will rely on a select group of experienced mental health professionals in the community to assist in determining the merit of any mental health defense. I will always do what I believe is the right thing based on science and the attendant factors of each case.
If elected, how will you know you’ve been successful?
The community will be a safer and more cohesive community. The Office will have well trained Assistant State Attorneys that will provide stability and will become the next bedrock of the office moving forward.
Why should voters vote for you over your opponents?
We are both interviewing for the job. Voters should assess our qualifications in comparison to each other as if they were personally hiring us to work for them personally. I have 55 years of life experience. I am a second generation Miamian. I’ve been married to the same person for 31 years. I have lived in the same city 31 years. I have been a lawyer 26 years and in that time I worked 20 years in the State Attorney’s Office doing the hard work required to make a difference in my community. Since leaving I have built a successful practice and as stated above accomplished great things in pro bono work. I can be counted on to stick it out through difficult times.
Mr. Pryor is 33 years old. He has been a lawyer 7 years. If elected this will be his 6th job in those seven years. That should be a concern for every voter.
I am completely independent of any political influence. There is nothing more independent than a Republican State Attorney in Broward County. I have no political heavyweights backing me.
Mr. Pryor is heavily supported or even propped up by Broward County Mayor Dale Holness. This was well documented in the Sun Sentinel articles after the primary. Every voter should be concerned about political influence over the Office that is responsible for enforcing all laws including public corruption laws.
Is there anything you want us to know about your opponent(s) or anything else, for that matter, that we didn’t ask about?
Yes. I suspect you will properly look over both of our campaign finance reports. Harold appears to list lunch, dinner and gas money with regularity. I guess they could all be legitimate campaign expenses but we should be better than that. I pay my own gas expenses and buy my own meals just as I did before becoming a candidate. Also, there is a large expense on August 13 for something listed as VJW Communications. It is difficult to find out anything about that company. The address is a UPS Store. Finally, there is an expense listed on August 17 for SKKV Property Maintenance for the stated purpose of “Election Day Poll Working Consultants.” The company is a janitorial service. It is possible their employees were paid to be at polls. Just wondering if anyone actually looks behind what we candidates list as expenses.
Is there anything about yourself that we didn’t ask about that would embarrass you if an opponent found out?
Yes. I wear a Tom Seaver jersey to baseball games all over the country even though the Mets are not one of the teams playing. My kids bought me the jersey and then a few years later encased it in a display case so I couldn’t embarrass them any longer. I bought another one. I’ve lived a simple, straight forward and hopefully honorable life. Much of my professional life has been in the public arena so I am largely a known quantity. I’ve never made an important decision in my life based on money or popular opinion. That will not change.
Why should voters choose you over your opponent(s)?
As stated above I hope voters will vote qualifications over affiliation. An intelligent electorate should investigate the qualifications of all candidates. The State Attorney should be a non-partisan race equivalent to judicial elections. We should all hope the State Attorney will be as impartial as a Judge weighing only relevant facts and applicable laws to decide how cases should proceed. I have 20 years of experience doing exactly that with distinction. I am completely independent of any political influence.
I’m told by mutual friends Mr. Pryor is a very nice kid. I accept that. That does not make him qualified to run an office as consequential as the State Attorney’s Office where decisions can involve life and death. He has been a lawyer 7 years. If elected this will be his 6th job in those seven years. If he were a “gig worker” that might not be an issue. As an attorney that should be a concern for every voter.
Mr. Pryor is heavily supported or even propped up by Broward County Mayor Dale Holness and many other politically powerful office holders past and present. This was documented in the Sun Sentinel articles after the primary. Every voter should be concerned about political influence over the Office that is responsible for enforcing all laws including public corruption laws.
How much money have you raised so far? Please include today’s date.
As of the most recent filing report dated September 4 - $54,115.00. There is another $5,500 that has come in after the reporting date so it has not yet been reported.
Have you answered questionnaires from any other groups this election season? If so, please attach them.
Yes, the ACLU of Florida. It is publicly available.
Have you been endorsed by any other group? If so, which one(s)?
I have been endorsed by the FOP District 5 Lodge, IUPA Local 6020, Broward County PBA, Ret. BSO Col. Al Pollock (Democratic Candidate for Sheriff) and Cooper City Commissioner Jeff Green.
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