There was little suspense to the somber and uneventful hearing inside a Fort Lauderdale courtroom this morning as accused Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein pleaded guilty to the five charges against him, but the scene outside federal court was another story.
What was supposed to be a brief statement from Rothstein's wife, Kim, after the proceeding nearly turned into a brawl between a local TV reporter and one of Kim Rothstein's bodyguards.
The morning started with Scott Rothstein shackled and in his tan prison scrubs, pleading guilty to every charge in the massive $1.2 billion scheme.
Rothstein quietly responded to a number of questions from U.S. District Judge James Cohn with hardly more than "I understand your honor," and "Guilty" as he admitted to charges including fraud, conspiracy and racketeering.
Rothstein, 47, sat through the nearly 30-minute hearing without making eye contact with wife Kim or his parents, Harvey and Gay, who all sat in the audience throughout the court appearance.
"Rest assured that we are not done and rest assured that we intend to follow every lead and to bring to justice those who helped perpetrate this $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme," said U.S. attorney Jeffrey Sloman. "A Ponzi scheme this size...was brought to this day within a couple months I mean that's unprecedented."
Sloman wouldn't comment as to whether more arrests were coming.
Rothstein's sentencing hearing was set for May 6.
Making her first public appearance since news of the scandal broke nearly three months ago, Kim Rothstein read a written statement to reporters outside the federal courthouse, defending herself and stating she played no role in her husband's wrongdoing.
Wearing a grey pants suit with her blonde highlights pulled back in a ponytail, the scammer's wife defended herself and her husband.
"Today is the saddest day of my life. Two years ago when I married the sweetest man I'd ever met, I would never have believed our future together would come to this," Kim Rothstein said. "While I have committed no crime, the court of public opinion has chosen to believe otherwise. That is why I want to take this opportunity to state unequivocally that the public slurs and accusations against me are unjustified and based neither on evidence or fact."
"I am not being investigated, I have been charged with no crime. The evidence to date clearly shows that I was neither involved in nor had knowledge of Scott's business activities," she said. "For any who believe I have been personally enriched by Scott's activities, I can assure you quite the contrary, but that's as it should be.
"While this debacle has left me isolated and wrongfully maligned, I am not here to wallow in public self pity. As a woman who has grown significantly wiser in the past few months, I only want to see that all those who were involved are also held accountable."
After refusing to answer questions from reporters, Rothstein attempted to leave and that's when all hell broke loose.
As a reporter from another station tried to ask her a question, Kim's bodyguard, Joe Alu, stepped in and the two began to scuffle.
The reporter and the bodyguard were separated before punches were thrown, but not before the burly Alu, a former Plantation police officer, wrestled the reporter to the ground and the two rolled into a nearby flowerbed.
Rothstein's parents didn't comment for the most part, but his mother was seen crying as she hopped into a waiting car after the hearing.
"Is there something unusual about a mother crying?" a tearful Gay Rothstein asked a photographer before leaving.
Rothstein is facing a maximum of 100 years in prison, though that number could be reduced at sentencing.