Posted Feb 11, 2014 07:40 pm CST
Updated: A federal jury deliberated for only about two hours on Tuesday before convicting a South Florida attorney on three counts of wire fraud.
Christina Kitterman, 39, was accused of helping her former boss, the now-convicted disbarred former managing partner of the shuttered Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler law firm, hold off some of the investors he fleeced during a massive swindle.
Testifying in her own defense Monday, Kitterman told jurors that she had no idea Scott Rothstein was involved in a fraud until he briefly fled to Morocco months after an April 2009 phone call that is at the center of the case against her. Prosecutors say Kitterman impersonated a Florida Bar official, Adria Quintela, during a conference call with some Rothstein investors, delaying exposure of the Rothstein scam. Kitterman admits she participated in the call, but says she never used Quintela’s name, which she didn’t know how to pronounce, and insists she had no fraudulent intent, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports.
“I thought I was helping our firm,” she testified.
Rothstein is serving a 50-year federal prison term under the witness protection program for a $1.2 billion fraud and hoping to win an earlier release by cooperating in this and other cases. He painted Kitterman as a party girl and a willing participant in what he described in his testimony as a “friends with benefits” relationship.
However, the defense portrayed her as a younger and less-experienced lawyer under the sway of a difficult and sometimes abusive boss. Rothstein and Kitterman first met when he was an adjunct law professor and she was his student in a trial advocacy class at Nova Southeastern University.
The jury began its deliberations at about 1 p.m. Tuesday in the West Palm Beach case.
Kitterman, who is free prior to her sentencing, could get as much as 9 to 11 years.
Her lawyer, Valentin Rodriguez Jr., said he and his client are “deeply disappointed” by the verdict but don’t regret taking the case to trial.
“All the world got to see him,” Rodriguez said of Rothstein. “We felt he was essential to our defense … the jury needed to see him and how manipulative he was and is.”
ABAJournal.com: “Ex-lawyer disbarred for $1B scheme testifies in shackles for former colleague facing wire fraud case”
South Florida Business Journal: “Kitterman says she had innocent motives when she helped Rothstein”
Updated at 5:35 p.m. to include news of Kitterman’s conviction.