Jayne C. Weintraub
Compassion for the Underdog
Jayne C. Weintraub has represented many high-profile clients in her career as a defense attorney, including former Major League Baseball star Jose Canseco, performer Sean Combs and Minnesota Vikings player Leon Hoard. She’s also been a TV star and a frequent legal commentator on national media.
But regardless of the client, Weintraub is a compassionate defender of the underdog bringing all her legal skills to bear on the case. “Growing up in North Miami in the 1970s, I could see that our society was not fair to everyone,” she says. “I always wanted to help people, and I believe that everyone accused of a crime is entitled to the best possible defense.”
A Miami attorney who practices with her husband Jon A. Sale at Sale & Weintraub, she is also of counsel to Broad and Cassel and a member of the firm’s White Collar Criminal and Civil Fraud Defense Group. She represents individuals under investigation or charged with criminal offenses in federal and state courts, and has brought more than 100 jury trials to verdict.
“Jayne is one of the hardest working attorneys I know,” says Robert DePriest, a former client. “Her ability to understand the nuances of my case and keep everyone focused on the facts, rather than all the innuendos and opinions, was critical to achieving my acquittal. She believed in me and was tenacious in her defense. I will always have a warm place in my heart for her.”
Launching Her Career
A native of Long Island, Weintraub moved to South Florida with her family, graduating from North Miami Senior High School, before earning her undergraduate degree at George Washington University and her juris doctor degree at Nova Southeastern University. “ I saw the law as a profession where I could do some good things, particularly for children and teens,” she says.
As a law student in 1979, Weintraub interned with the State Attorney’s Office, which was then led by Janet Reno. After passing the Bar, she went to work for her office. “I felt that was where I could give a teenager another chance and make a difference,” she says. “I loved that job and the opportunities to learn and grow as a lawyer were immense.”
Within a year, Weintraub was trying murder cases, while learning from a team of seasoned lawyers. She went to murder scenes and watched as police retrieved evidence — the “real CSI” — or prepared search warrants as needed on a rotating basis. . “I found I loved everything about trial work,” she says. “I love the preparation, the procedures and the arguments. It really hooked me.”
While still in her mid 20s, Weintraub was assigned to one of the nation’s toughest murder cases: the brutal 1982 slaying of 10-year-old Staci Weinstein in the family’s North Miami Beach home. Initially, her father, Marvin Weinstein, was suspected of the crime, but after a year-long investigation, police arrested two men who had been cleaning carpets in the neighborhood. John Donald Pierson Jr. pleaded guilty and was sent to prison, and Edward Robert Wasko was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
“When you see a child like Staci beaten and shot to death, it’s really a heart-wrenching experience,” Weintraub says. “I always remember those young victims.”
Weintraub later became an assistant state attorney, trying or handling more than 100 jury trials, including a con artist during the 1980 Mariel boatlift who bilked Cuban-American families of their life savings by promising to bring their relatives from Havana to the U.S. One of her last cases was the trial of a husband for raping his wife while they were married. “The trial judge threw the case out, but we won on appeal and as a result made new law in Florida,” Weintraub says. “At that point, I knew it was time to move on.”
Into Private Practice
In 1986, Weintraub opened her own practice with a partner who had also worked in the State Attorney’s Office. Within six weeks, she was in trial in a complex federal drug case that involved multiple drug conspiracies with 11 other attorneys and 12 clients and spanned several years. “This was my very first acquittal,” says Weintraub. “My client was a 24-year-old young man whose wife had just given birth in the middle of the trial requiring a recess for the day. He was accused of several different cocaine-related charges, but able to walk out of court a free man, and later became an air ambulance pilot, while that baby I watched being born is now married.”
As a defense lawyer, Weintraub found herself representing clients in trials that were covered by Court TV. She also starred for two years in “Power of Attorney,” a daily syndicated Fox television show, before leaving in 2001 to help care for her mother, diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
A decade ago, talk show host Rosie O’Donnell called Weintraub about two young boys on trial for killing their abusive father in Pensacola. Ten-year-old Alex King, and his older brother Derrick had been convicted as adults of murdering their father. “They were being held in an adult jail and I was aghast at the circumstances of this case,”
Weintraub says. “We were successful in having the verdict set aside and the judge granted our motion for a new trial.” The court ordered the parties to mediation, which resulted in Alex serving eight years in a juvenile facility until his 21st birthday, rather than being sentenced to life in prison with no parole for 25 years. Derrick received the same sentence and benefitted from our motions, also. “Rosie was responsible for giving these boys a new life, free of abuse and to make their own way,” Weintraub says.
In a complex mortgage fraud case in Fort Lauderdale, Weintraub was able to win an acquittal for her client, while the majority of the other defendants were convicted. It was a complicated mortgage fraud case requiring knowledge of the intricacies of the banking procedures utilized at the time. The U.S. Attorney’s Office had its most senior and experienced trial counsel litigate the case. “This was a very hard-fought battle, but the jurors came back with the right verdict, as my client was the good guy who had gotten entangled with the bad guys in the case,” she says. “He is the one client that a defense lawyer will say, ‘defending an innocent man is much harder than defending a guilty one.’ Watching a family and community come together for one person is really something. The shame in this case was that my client was ever indicted and charged in the first place.”
Weintraub also represented Yahweh ben Yahweh, founder of the Nation of Yahweh movement, who had been convicted in federal court in 1991 of conspiracy to murder white people. “The state then charged Yahweh with multiple murders sought the death penalty against him,” says Weintraub, who with her partner was able to win an acquittal on the state charges. After serving 10 years in federal prison, Yahweh was released on strict parole. When he later became ill with prostate cancer, Weintraub was successful in her petition to release him from parole, and he died in his home in 2007.
A Passionate Attorney
Throughout her career, Weintraub has been active in community and professional organizations. She was awarded a prestigious award (the Rodney Thaxton Award , Liberty’s Last Champions ) given by the Florida Association of Criminal Lawyers for her vigorous and successful defense in the “Boulder Boys “ case, the first federal death penalty case in the Southern District of Miami. Recently, she spoke at the American Bar Association’s 2012 Spring CLE Conference on “Criminal Law in an Un-Civil Case, A Lawyer’s Guide to Handling the Intersection of Criminal and Family Law.”
She’s also dedicated to her family, including husband Jon and their children, Michael, 21 and Jordan, 14. “As you might guess, we are big fans of basketball, especially the Miami Heat, Weintraub says. “I also enjoy photography and have been taking photos of our kids and sports for many years.”
Noting that every trial presents its own challenges, Weintraub says she enjoys learning on the job. “I’ve had some phenomenal experiences in and outside the courtroom,” she says. “I’m passionate about my work, and feel privileged to be a defense attorney.”
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