Paralegal Accused Of Theft
December 13, 1995|By SARAH RAGLAND Staff Writer
WEST PALM BEACH – — Paralegal Michael Barfield made his name by taking on police and prosecutors. Now he’s on the defensive.
Barfield, 33, best known for helping a grieving mother win a $1.25 million judgment in a police brutality case, was charged with extortion and grand theft on Tuesday.
He is accused of stealing from an Okeechobee woman who hired him in January to help her collect money from her ex-husband, West Palm Beach police reported.
Detectives said Barfield agreed to help Jodie Everett collect about $7,500 from her ex-husband. Barfield collected $5,000 from the man, but told Everett he collected $3,000, police said.
Moreover, Barfield put Everett off for months as she tried to collect the $3,000, less Barfield’s 30 percent fee. Barfield also tried to whittle down Everett’s share further with other fees, police said.
When Everett told Barfield she would go the State Attorney’s Office, the Better Business Bureau, other agencies and the media, Barfield told her he controlled Palm Beach County judges and he could make it difficult for her to maintain custody of her son, police said.
“He has no business being in the paralegal business,” Everett said. “He is nothing but a crook.”
Ted Brabham, Barfield’s attorney, said the charges are the work of police officers nursing a long-festering grudge.
“I don’t believe my client is guilty of anything, and we will prove that in court,” Brabham said. “We will also show that the West Palm Beach Police Department is retaliating against Mr. Barfield.”
Barfield emerged as a prominent critic of the West Palm Beach Police Department and Palm Beach County State Attorney Barry Krischer after a hitchhiker died while in police custody.
Barfield worked with the Jewett family in their crusade to prove Bobby Jewett was a victim of police brutality, helping Jewett’s mother win a $1.25 million settlement from the city of West Palm Beach.
Jewett died from blows he received during a scuffle with two West Palm Beach undercover officers on Nov. 24, 1990.
Krischer, who was in private practice at the time, successfully defended officers Glen Thurlow and Stephen Lee Rollins in their criminal trial. The officers were acquitted of second-degree murder and aggravated battery.
Thurlow remains with the West Palm Beach Police Department. City officials lost their bid to have him decertified as a police officer. Rollins was decertified and resigned.
Brabham said that when police searched Barfield’s office on Tuesday, they seized his computer, his phone books and numerous files, including a file dealing with a settled lawsuit involving Krischer.
“They took a lot of files that have nothing to do with this case,” he said. “Something smells.”
Everett said she never intended to get caught in the middle of a feud.
“Mr. Barfield stole money from me,” she said. “If the city of West Palm Beach has a problem with him, that’s not my problem. My problem is: Mr. Barfield is a crook.”
Barfield has other legal troubles. A Palm Beach County court administrator filed a lawsuit against Barfield, accusing him of slander during broadcasts over radio station WJNO (1230 AM) in 1993. The civil case is being heard in Martin County.
The Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office said Martin County prosecutors are handling the extortion and grand theft charges because of concerns about conflicts of interest.