Bad Guys Beware!
It is a Sunday morning in the middle of a crowded bagel shop in Weston when Stacey Honowitz walks in dressed in black and touting three-inch heels because she is a tiny gal (only 4'11") who not only likes to be heard, but seen as well.
She's not what you'd expect from an attorney. Rather, she looks like one of those fiber-polished women who work in uppity boutiques—pretty with a slim figure, flawless makeup and big silver hoop earrings that dangle between strands of long dark hair. She also looks familiar, and there's a reason: As a well-known prosecutor for the Broward County State Attorney's office who oversees the Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Unit, her face is often splashed across the national news channels, serving as a source for breaking news cases where often times celebrities are involved like Lindsay Lohan or the late Michael Jackson.
Even her lips are famous. In 2000, Glamour magazine named Honowitz as having the most beautiful lips in the country, because she uses them to help victims of sex crimes. Oh, and she's also an author, having penned two books about children, their private parts and the importance of reporting abuse.
Still, even with her snazzy style and myriad accomplishments, when Honowitz speaks you quickly realize she's anything but uppity. She talks to you like you're a friend she hasn't seen in years. She wants to know how you are, if you have children, do you like your job? She's got a tell-it-like-it-is attitude that serves her well in the courtroom. And that personality is even more striking outside courtroom doors, where she's not afraid to drop the occasional F-bomb. "I think people sugar-coat things," she says, tapping her purple finger-nails on the table. "I speak my mind. If I could curse on the air, I would."
Honowitz spends her days using words in public that would make most people squirm if they heard them—"vagina," "penis," "penetration," "ejaculation." She's very comfortable talking about the uncomfortable, as she should be since that's a big part of her job. She's good at it. So good that some people find her intimidating.
David Frankel, a friend and former co-worker of Honowitz's, started at the State Attorney's office the same time she did 23 years ago. What was it like the first time they met? He heard her call a defense attorney an "ass-wipe" to his face. They became fast friends after that.
"She doesn't mean it in a rude way, that's naturally the way she is. She's a pistol. You can't offend her," Frankel says. But she's also got a soft, sensitive side and that side is how she relates to the children she helps. She has a knack for talking with girls and boys who've been physically or sexually abused, and, as you can imagine, getting them to reveal what happened is no easy feat.
But somehow, 49-year-old Honowitz does it with grace. "You're not just a prosecutor, you're a therapist, a psychologist," she says between bites of a fruit salad. "People are coming to you with unimaginable crimes. You have to be a certain breed" to handle it all. Frankel compares her to Holly Hunter's character in the movie, "Broad- cast News." Hunter plays a tough, no-nonsense producer who doesn't take any crap. But every once in a while, she reveals a softer side. And that, Frankel says, is Honowitz.
"There is a part of her that is very vulnerable that only a few people get to see," he says. There are so many kids that come into her office, she sighs, and each one has a horrible, scary story to share. And, as sad as it might sound, if the story involves only touching and not much else, Honowitz finds herself relieved. "I say, 'Thank God' it was just touching."
Cases involving boys are the most challenging because boys are less likely than girls to talk about what's happened to them, she says, citing a recent one involving David Layman, the piano teacher in Tamarac accused fondling boys as young as 7. Now that those boys are close to becoming teenagers, they decided not to testify because they didn't want to take the stand and discuss the sexual abuse in public. So Layman, who at one time was facing a life sentence, only received seven years in prison. Then there are cases where the children don't even know that what's happening to them is wrong.back