Lenny Englander, Kane's Furniture
and Judge "gag order" Logan
Bob Butterworth (D) was good for the people of Florida--he got them a $11 billion settlement from the tobacco industry. But Bob Butterworth was bad for the big business interest that run Florida. He brought an antitrust suit against Microsoft. He was never quite able to shut down casino gambling boats in Florida but he did manage to get Eckerd drug stores to modify one of its business practices. Eckerd requires its customers to sign a form acknowledging pickup of a prescription. But in the small print Eckerd had its customers agreeing to let Eckerd use customer information for marketing purposes. Butterworth got Eckerd to stop. [Melvin Sembler is Mr. Republican Party in Florida, most especially in Pinellas County. Eckerd Drug Stores was founded by Sembler's friend Jack Eckerd, now deceased. In fact Sembler Company has built 130 drug stores for Eckerd which today is owned by J.C. Penny's (purchased for $ 2.2 billion). Like Sembler, Jack Eckerd was and Eckerd companies are major contributors to Florida state Republican candidates and to the state Republican party. See Sembler national contributions. See Sembler Florida state contributions. See Eckerd Florida state contributions.]
In 2002 after 16 years in office, Bob Butterworth had been term limited out. One of the leading contenders in the race to fill Butterworth's void was Republican Charlie Crist who was backed by shopping center magnet Melvin Sembler. [See Sembler and Charlie Crist.] In 2002 The Daytona Beach News Journal (8-30-02) reported that Charlie Crist was outdoing his opponents by far in campaign contributions from companies or lobbyists opposed to Bob Butterworth, namely those linked to tobacco, Microsoft or gaming. It reported that Crist had received $2,000 from companies that offer cash advances (an industry that Butterworth had looked at), and that "representatives of a drugstore chain recently investigated by Butterworth gave Crist $1,500."
In 1990 Bob Butterworth launched a statewide investigation into the furniture business. That investigation culminated in 1995 when a group of furniture retailers were given fines for misleading advertising practices. Burdines was fined the most; Kane's Furniture of St. Petersburg paid $80,000, the second-highest fine. Kane's, with annual sales of $90 million, has 14 stores in Florida under the names Kane's and Savon with most being in the Orlando area. Kane's was founded in 1948 by Maurice A. Rothman (deceased) and his wife Thelma. By 2001 Butterworth was investigating Kane's again, looking into new reports of "misrepresentations in ads, delivery of incomplete orders, credit errors, and otherwise poor customer service." [SPT 11-27-2002] "It is by far, by far, the most complaints we've ever received about a retail business," said Jacqueline Dowd, an assistant attorney general with the economic crimes unit in Orlando. Kane's got an unsatisfactory rating with the Better Business Bureau of West Florida because of the level of complaints. The Attorney General's Office offered to settle with Kane's if it agreed to fix it's problems and pay a fine of $400,000. Kane's rejected the settlement and instead sued the state in Pinellas County alleging intimidation and coercion. Pinellas Circuit Judge W. Douglas Baird dismissed the suit, but Kane has appealed.One source of information that the state relied on was a web page maintained by one Manuel Gonzalez of Land O'Lakes. Mr. Gonzalez posted like 300 letters of complaint he had received against Kane's. Kane's official web page is at www.kanesfunriture.com . Manny Gonzalez's page was at: www.kanes-furniture.com . [Mr. Gonzalez was not the only consumer web site reporting on Kane. Check out these sites:
On 10/01/2002 Kane Furniture donated $25,000 to the Republican Party of Florida. Kane director Irwin M. Novack contributed $500, the legal limit, to Jeb Bush in 1998 and another $500 in 2002. He also contributed $500 to Charlie Crist in 2000, in 2001 and in 2002. Kane's officer Edward Turville, an attorney, has contributed $50 each to Sixth Circuit Judge Irene Sullivan and to Judge Thomas Penick's campaigns. Kane's Thelma Rothman contributed $ 350 to former state Congresswoman Margo Fischer who is wife of former St. Petersburg Mayor David Fischer. (They have a son named Jimmy.)
Charlie Crist was elected Attorney General in November 2002 but would not take office until January. In November 2002 Bob Butterworth filed a rare civil suit against Kane's alleging, "Unfair and deceptive trade practices: scheme to defraud, civil theft, common law cheating, selling used goods as new, advertising misrepresentations and finance and warranty violations. This 15 store chain has generated an unprecedented number of complaints for a retail business about misleading ads, defective furniture, worthless warranties, unfulfilled promises of delivery and unfair billing practices." The case number is L02-3-1004. The defendants are Kane's Furniture and d/b/a Savon Furniture; Irwin Novack, individually and as director of Kane Furniture Corporation; Doug Bravata, individually and as a managing authority of Kane Furniture Corporation.
Kane sponsors an exhibit at the Florida Holocaust Museum called the Hall of Tolerance. Perhaps that is where Kane director Irwin Novack met Leonard Englander, partner in the law firm of Englander and Fischer. [Partner H. James Fischer (AKA Jim Fischer) is former president elect of the St. Petersburg Bar Association (1994).] Leonard Englander is on the board of the Florida Holocaust Museum. Kane hired Englander's law firm to silence Manuel Gonzalez and www.kanes-furniture.com. According to USA Today (1-7-03) Manny Gonzalez says, "Their attorney called me and said if I didn't take the site down, they'd have me and my wife put in jail. Now they're suing me for quite a bit of money." On December 19 Englander and Fischer got Pinellas County Circuit Judge Walt Logan to issue a temporary injunction to deny Manny Gonzalez his free speech by making Gonzalez take down his site. [Case 02-10017CI-8, defendants Diane and Robert Gonzalez.] State Attorney General officials were furious at Judge Logan's decision. Angie Sheridan, assistant Attorney General in the economic crimes unit in Orlando stated, "We think it's the most outrageous thing." She said the state would file a "friend of the court" brief on Gonzalez's behalf, and she described the injunction as both "anti-consumer and a violation of free speech." But Judge Logan decided to agree with Englander who was calling it a trademark infringement.
When a judge shuts down a web page in violation of a person's First Amendment right to free speech, it makes national news. USA Today reported the story on January 7, 2003, the same day that Tampa's ABC TV Action News learned of Judge Walt Logan's rare temporary injunction and reported on it. With the gag (I mean cat) out of the national bag, Judge Logan was not about to sign a permanent injunction, so on February 11, 2003 Lenny got Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Thomas E. Penick to sign the permanent injunction against Manny. (Kane's officer Edward Turville, an attorney, contributed $50 to Judge Penick's campaign in 1998; a Frank Logan chipped in $100.) Six months later ABC Action News reported that Judge Logan had once again stifled free speech by issuing another temporary injunction to silence a man who again was claiming that he was reporting fraud [except at the time no one until this writing realized that Judge Logan had previously issued a similar temporary injunction.] This time the man is Ray Bradbury. On September 3, 2003 Robin Guess and ABC Action News carried a segment on a suit that Ambassador Mel Sembler has brought against Ray Bradbury. Mr. Bradbury found a medical device allegedly once belonging to the Ambassador in the Ambassador's trash. Mr. Bradbury had placed the item for auction on eBay, he says, to raise money to help charities and also to bring to light the stories of the former clients who were abused at Straight, Inc.--a juvenile drug rehabilitation program founded and operated by Ambassador Sembler and his wife Betty. More sensational than the medical device mentioned is the revelation made by Mr. Bradbury that he may have found sensitive government material when he stated, "I feel that based on what I've seen from what I got, it could have national security ramifications." The Saint Petersburg Times picked up on the story on September 4. [See ABC segment.]
In November 2001 Sembler Company gave a farewell reception for Mel and Betty Sembler who were on their way to Italy to serve his latest ambassadorship. Former Eckerd Corp. head Stewart Turley and his wife Linda were there. Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich was there with Tampa attorney and former Straight board member Joseph Garcia and his wife Anne. Sembler Company president Craig Sher, who is former vice president of Temple Beth-El where Sembler is a member and whose wife Jan Miller Sher is the chairwoman of the Temple Beth El school board, was there along with the former president of Temple Beth-El, Leonard Englander. Leonard Englander is the attorney representing Mel Sembler in the Bradbury gag order. Englander was there with his client Irwin Novack of Kane's Furniture and his wife Patti. They were talking about their upcoming trip to the World Series. The Novacs were also going to take in the shows, but the Englanders were going for the sights. It is possible Leonard Englander met Kane's Irwin Novack through the Florida Holocaust Museum. Mr. Englander certainly knows his client Mel Sembler through the Florida Holocaust Museum. Mr. Englander is on the board of the Florida Holocaust Museum; Mel Sembler and his wife Betty are former board members. The Florida Holocaust Museum was founded by Sembler's good friend Walter Loebenberg who was also the president of Straight Foundation, Inc. When Sembler was appointed ambassador to Australia he held a fund raiser auction "to spend an evening with Mel and Betty at the ambassador's mansion in Australia." The high bidder at $1,500: Walter Loebenberg. Former Straight board member Ray Synder is also on the board of the Museum. Today, Bruce Epstein, MD and his wife Amy are the executive directors of the Florida Holocaust Museum. Dr. Epstein was another former Straight board member.