May 17, 2007
After 20 years, much-honored state prosecutor leaves for private practice
By Tonya Alanez, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
He's leaving behind a job he loves.
After 20 years with the Broward State Attorney's Office, 13 of those as a homicide prosecutor, Tony Loe is reluctantly moving to the civil arena. He says he can't afford to stay. His last day is today.
With two college-boundsons, Loe, 51, stands to triple his income as a civil trial attorney.
He'll join Garfinkel Mager, representing property owners fighting insurancecompanies to honor hurricane-related repairs, Loe said.
But if he should win the lottery, Loe said, he would return to his government job in a heartbeat.
"The intrinsic gratification that I derive from doing this job is phenomenal," Loe said.
"Every single day you get to do a job where you have the opportunity to do the right thing."Losing a veteran prosecutor is a blow to an office that has seen a large exodus of young lawyers because they can't afford to repay student loans andstart families on their salaries.
"It's nice to be on the side of truth, justice and the American way, but it's difficult when lawyers with comparable experience and ability are making infinitely more on the other side," said prosecutor Brian Cavanagh,head of the homicide unit.
Prosecutor turnover is a statewide problem. Florida loses more than half its young state prosecutors within their first five years, according to the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association.
The Florida Bar recognized Loe in 2006 as its outstanding government lawyer.Colleagues say Loe's meticulous trial preparation and compassionate touchwith victims' families make him stand out.
"He would squeeze 36 hours into 24 hours somehow, someway," said Cavanagh, citing Loe's tenaciousness and ultimate dedication. "That same energy is contagious in a good way, it's an intangible inspiration."
Aside from juggling a bulging caseload, Loe has moonlighted for years as ahockey official and referee, partly for extra money, partly to satisfy hislove of the sport.
Among Loe's prosecutorial highs were Paul Hamwi's conviction for his wife'sand daughter's murders after an innocent man spent 10 years imprisoned forthe crime. Loe also persuaded 12 jurors to unanimously recommend death forLucious Boyd, convicted of kidnapping, raping and murdering a nursing student. Unanimous decisions for the death penalty are rare. Of the 47 homicide cases Loe has prosecuted, 10 defendants have been acquitted.
He says the victims' families, their hugs and gratitude have kept him going over the years.
The day he resigned, he received an unexpected card from a victim's sister from a case he prosecuted 13 years ago, said Sarahnell Murphy, assistant state attorney in charge of the domestic violence unit. She wrote to say thank you yet again.
"I told him it was karma and he needs to stay, but that didn't work," saidMurphy, who regards Loe as a mentor.
"The justice system as a whole will have some making up to do with the loss of Tony."