South Florida's billion-dollar conman Scott Rothstein kept jurors — and a packed courtroom — enthralled as he testified for more than six hours Wednesday about sex, the Mafia, his involvement in political and police corruption and the massive Ponzi scheme he masterminded.
Looking much slimmer than he was at his last public appearance nearly four years ago and sporting a white goatee and short gray hair, Rothstein, 51, took the witness stand in handcuffs. He wore a blue collared T-shirt, jeans and white sneakers. Security in court was tight but discreet, with at least seven federal agents guarding Rothstein.
Though he was subpoenaed as a defense witness in the wire fraud trial of Christina Kitterman, an attorney who formerly worked for him, much of Rothstein's testimony portrayed Kitterman as a "team player" who happily participated in the felonies she is charged with committing. He even accused her of committing several additional crimes.
"I did for her, she did for me," Rothstein said, explaining that their relationship involved doing whatever needed to be done to cover each other's back — whether or not it was a crime.
Kitterman's defense attorney Valentin Rodriguez Jr. accused Rothstein of lying in a selfish bid to try to get some years shaved off his prison term by cooperating with prosecutors.
But Rothstein insisted that it would be self-destructive for him to tell lies that could easily be disproved by documented evidence and would destroy any remaining hope he has of ever being freed from prison.
The once flashy but now disbarred lawyer, who is serving 50 years in federal prison for running the biggest investment fraud in South Florida's history, spent the day bragging about the success and complexity of his scam, throwing other people under the bus, and apologizing for all the innocent people that he hurt.
Friends with benefits
"I am NOT happy about being here," Rothstein said, adding that he wished he didn't have to testify about Kitterman, who he said was a close, trusted friend.
He also alleged in court that the two had a sexual relationship.
"We were two friends who fooled around from time to time," Rothstein testified, alleging Kitterman "pulled me into a bathroom stall to make out with me" at Runway 84 in Fort Lauderdale.
"I loved her and cared about her and I believe she loved and cared about me," he said.
Rothstein said he and Kitterman often hung out at the restaurant with Mafia types and associates, some of whom Kitterman seemed to know even before he tried to introduce them.
He said she was well aware of his involvement in many kinds of illegal activity, testimony the judge let jurors hear so they can make up their own minds about whether he is being truthful and whether she was someone he trusted to involve in his crimes.
Rothstein also said the two of them faked emails and other documents to avert a possible malpractice lawsuit or Florida Bar complaint and dupe one of her clients — the owner of the Automatic Slims club — into thinking she had done work that the client accused her of failing to perform.
He said he met Kitterman when she was a student in the trial advocacy class he taught as an adjunct law professor at Nova Southeastern University and later hired her to work for a small law firm he ran.
Leaning on the witness stand with his cuffed wrists on view, Rothstein's tone became noticeably excited when he talked about his pursuit of money, political power and what he liked to call the "rock star lifestyle" of fancy cars, expensive homes and jewelry.
He said he started the fraud small to keep his failing law firm financially afloat after he let it grow too quickly.
"My desire for power and money and some of my partners' desire for power and money," were to blame, he said.
"I refused to fail and I let this Ponzi scheme explode," Rothstein testified . "At that time, I had an ego that was out of control."