David Aronberg has handled his share of notable cases as Palm Beach state attorney. But none have captured national attention like the criminal charge of Donald Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski last April. Lewandowski was charged with battery after being accused of grabbing Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields at a campaign rally.
‘This was one of the most high-profile misdemeanors in history,” said Aronberg, a Democrat who served as a state senator and assistant attorney general before being elected state attorney in 2012.
After carefully studying the Jupiter police’s file on the Lewandowski case and conducting an independent review, Aronberg decided not to proceed. “While the evidence in this case is legally sufficient for the police to charge Mr. Lewandowski, it is not strong enough to meet the burden of a reasonable likelihood of a conviction,” Aronberg said at a press conference announcing his decision. He added that politics played no role in how his office approached the case.
As Palm Beach state attorney leading a team of 120 prosecutors and 220 professional staff in five offices, Aronberg has followed a similar approach to felonies as well as misdemeanors. “We review each case before filing charges, drop the weak ones so we can focus on the stronger cases,” he said. “That is the best use of our limited resources, and it is better for defendants who are released without getting a criminal record.”
Aronberg ‘s leadership has led to a significant increase in conviction rates for both felonies and misdemeanors, a decrease in the number of juveniles charged in adult courts, and greater coordination with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. “I love this job because we can deliver justice every day,” he said. “We are independent of political pressures and our relationships in the criminal justice system have never been better.”
Entering Public Service
As a child in Miami, Aronberg idolized his grandfather Daniel Golden, who was a lawyer from New York. “That’s how I became interested in the law as a profession,” he said. “I also watched every episode of ‘LA Law’ to see how to present a case to a jury. “I also have a love of politics and public service, and I though a career in law would be a natural fit.”
Aronberg attended public schools in Miami before going on to graduate with honors from Harvard College and Harvard Law School. After earning his juris doctor, he joined Steel Hector and Davis, but as a young associate in a large firm, he spent far more time in the law library than the courtroom. However, the firm loaned Aronberg to Bill Nelson, who was then Florida’s insurance commissioner, to investigate European insurance companies that refused to honor World War II-era policies sold to victims of the Holocaust. “This was the largest consumer fraud in the history of the world, so it was hard for me to go back to bill hours in a private law firm,” he said.
Instead, Aronberg joined the Florida Attorney General’s Office in Fort Lauderdale, working in the Economic Crimes Division. “I wanted to get to a courtroom quickly, so I took a pay cut,” he said. “But it was worth every penny because of the experience I gained.”
In 2000, Aronberg was chosen to be one of 15 White House Fellows from across the country. In this non-partisan position, he served in two presidential administrations as a special assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury working on international money laundering cases, including the laundering of terrorist assets.
Two years later, Aronberg was elected to the state Senate in a district that ran from West Palm Beach to Fort Myers. He was its youngest member at the time. Aronberg was reelected in 2004 and again in 2008, and served until 2010.
“In Tallahassee, I focused on criminal justice and consumer protection issues,” said Aronberg, who was chair of the Senate’s Port Security and Military and Veterans Affairs Committees. “I was able to work well with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle,” he added.
In the Legislature, Aronberg was a leader in passing new laws regarding opioid abuse, identity theft and port security. He also received national attention for his work to close loopholes in the state’s sex offender laws, such as eliminating the statute of limitations in child molestation cases.
Aronberg ran for Florida attorney general in 2010, but lost to Dan Gelber in the Democratic primary. After Republican Pam Biondi was elected, she hired Aronberg as a special prosecutor for prescription drug trafficking. In his role as the attorney general’s “Drug Czar,” Aronberg led an “anti-pill mill” initiative that helped clean up the pain clinic industry and reduced the number of people dying from oxycodone abuse.
Leading the Palm Beach Office
Since becoming state attorney in 2012, Aronberg has expanded Palm Beach County’s drug and veterans courts, which focus on rehabilitation rather than incarceration. He has also created innovative diversion programs for first-time DUI and domestic violence offenders. “Our first-time DUI offender program is the only program of its kind endorsed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving and has a success rate approaching 99 percent,” he said.
Aronberg has also been successful in staffing the office with talented young attorneys, and enhancing the training program. “I’m proud that we have the largest and the most diverse law firm in Palm Beach County with a high percentage of women and minority attorneys,” he said. “But our biggest challenge continues to be retaining skilled attorneys after they’ve been here for three to five years.”
As part of the “team spirit” in the office, Aronberg has personally handled first appearances, hearings and trials, and works Christmas day so his first appearance prosecutors can spend the holiday with their families.. To unwind from his courtroom responsibilities, Aronberg enjoys working out at his Crossfit gym and spending time with his wife Lynn and their basset hound Cookie.
“Our focus in the office continues to be prosecuting violent crimes and career criminals,” he said. “At the same time, we want to keep building our diversion programs to help non-violent young people stay out of the criminal justice system.”
Drawing on his experience in prosecuting the state’s pill mills, Aronberg is now leading a task force that’s taking on the abuses in the “sober home” industry – the rehabilitation centers and residential programs for recovering addicts.
In October, law enforcement officials raided Whole Life Recovery, a Boynton Beach treatment center, and arrested its owner and manager on multiple counts of patient brokering, a third-degree felony. The owner is accused of allegedly paying a finder’s fee for every addict with medical insurance who was referred to the facility.
“This is a major first step,” Aronberg said at a news conference with officials from the FBI, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Florida Division of Insurance Fraud, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and municipal police chiefs and officers. “We’re going to hold those accountable who have destroyed lives so needlessly,” he added.
Looking ahead, Aronberg says more laws are needed to protect Florida residents from abuses in the drug treatment industry. “It will take a united statewide effort,” he said. “But we need to get ahead of the curve to address this growing statewide problem.
South Florida Legal Guide 2017 Edition
Back to: South Florida's State Attorneys and Public Defenders Back to 2017 Edition