MIAMI (CBSMiami) — A veteran Broward County prosecutor is facing theft charges after Aventura police say she hid beauty products inside her purse at a Publix supermarket.
Police say surveillance tape caught Broward County Assistant State Attorney Stacey Honowitz, 56 at a local Publix supermarket Saturday putting nearly $43 worth of beauty products into her purse while shopping for groceries.
Honowitz is known as a long time prosecutor of sex crimes and child abuse.
She was the lead attorney in the prosecution of swim instructor Francisco de Aragon who was accused of molesting little girls.
The charges against her are drawing a swift reaction.
“I am shocked, this is so out of character for her. She’s been a prosecutor for more than 30 years. She is a nationally known expert on sex crimes as they relate to children. She has been on several national shows throughout the US and always speaks about the issues which have become so prevalent and relevant. I am totally shocked,” said former prosecutor, Glenn Roderman.
This was the first offense for Honowitz.
“I was surprised. I always had great respect for Stacey. She was always very fair and reasonable. I was totally shocked about this,” said Andrew Coffey, former assistant public defender.
A spokeswoman for the Broward state attorney said, “We have been made aware of the incident by the prosecutor. She has been suspended pending an administrative review.”
“I would be very surprised if these allegations were true. A lot o times innocent people get arrested because there is a mistake. I have known Stacey Honowitz for over twenty years and have tried cases with her. She is beyond reproach. This is all a surprise to me and I would be shocked if that would be proven true. I believe she will be proven innocent,” said Eric Schwartzreich, defense attorney.
“She inadvertently did not pay for the cosmetics when she checked out and paid for her $130 groceries. She did not even leave the store after she paid. She then purchased lottery tickets and was chatting with another customer. There was no intent to commit a crime at all,” said attorney Jayne Weintraub.
Attorney Glenn Roderman says he looks forward to the evidence and the surveillance tape from the Publix store, which Aventura police have and may release.
Honowitz was released on a promise to appear in court.
Legal experts tell CBS 4 News that if — and this is a big if — Honowitz is convicted or pleads guilty to the charge the fallout could be problematic for her career as a prosecutor even though the charge a misdemeanor.
Experts say that because the charge involves an allegation of dishonesty it could bring into question her ethics and credibility.
Honowitz’s attorney, however, maintains that this simply was an honest mistake and that Honowitz did not knowingly steal these items.
We reached out to her for comment but did not get a response.