Akerman Partner Richard Sharpstein Found Dead In Home
Updated at 6:30 P.M.
Prominent Miami criminal defense attorney Richard Sharpstein, a quick-witted defender of people ranging from millionaires to beat cops, was found dead Tuesday by his housekeeper at his Miami Beach home, his law firm said.
"We are shocked and deeply saddened by the death of our partner," said Akerman chairman and chief executive officer Andrew Smulian. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to Richard's family during this very difficult time."
Sharpstein, 63, who practiced for 37 years, joined Akerman as a partner in April 2012 after being with Jorden Burt for 10 years. He was a solo practitioner for many years and started his legal career as a prosecutor for Miami-Dade State Attorney Janet Reno.
The Miami legal community was stunned by the news, some openly sobbing when they were told. Shocked law partners gathered in the firm's lobby of their Miami headquarters as word of his death spread.
Sharpstein, who was gracious and generous but didn't want any credit for it, often looked at life as a long-running comedy. His tongue-in-cheek voicemail message said he was out fighting for "truth, justice and the American way."
The skilled trial lawyer who was adept at insightful cross-examination lived a colorful slice of Miami life from its cocaine cowboy days to the present. Clients included Miami real estate agent Brian Alden Davidow, a co-defendant of Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega.
Sharpstein also represented a former General Development Corp. executive accused with others of running a complex fraud selling Florida swampland primarily to Northerners with no exposure to the Sunshine State. Sharpstein lost at trial, arguing federal prosecutors championed a case of widespread buyer's remorse. Jurors convicted company officials, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit adopted Sharpstein's position.
He said of the charges, "If you're going to charge these men with a crime, you might as well indict Vanna White for hiding vowels."
Sharpstein attended a Daily Business Review awards ceremony Friday recognizing the Most Effective Lawyers of 2013. He was honored for persuading the Drug Enforcement Administration to reverse the $20.2 million seizure of funds from his client, Republic Metals Corp.
'Larger Than Life'
Miami attorney Howard Srebnick of Black, Srebnick, Kornspan & Stumpf said he emailed Sharpstein Monday night to kid him about his latest award. "Who was this winning the award?" he wrote next to an attachment showing the award. Referring to a professional wrestler they both liked, Sharpstein responded, "Dusty Rhodes, known as 'The American Dream.' "