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Ex-Hollywood official: Jail inmates are nice

Ex-Hollywood City Commissioner Keith Wasserstrom was released from jail Wednesday after a 6-week stay after he was convicted of not fully disclosing conflicts related to a city contract.

The suspended lawyer who has sworn off political involvement says jail was not as bad as he expected. Wasserstrom had his own cell but spent time with about seven other inmates during meals and recreation. Everyone knew that he was a former politician upon his arrival, he said.

"You are obviously at someone else's beck and call. You eat, wake up, go to sleep at their demand. You have no control over those kinds of things,'' he said. However, "it wasn't the scary environment I was anticipating. I wasn't afraid for my life. Because they were able to accommodate my religious needs -- eating kosher food and praying every morning -- in that way it was a good experience. ... The truth of the matter was everyone was very nice, very helpful to the new guy. They told you want to expect and do and things to watch out for. Everyone was very nice. It was funny -- in the elevator a huge big scary guy stepped on my toe and he was immediately 'sorry, sorry." 

Wasserstrom, an orthodox Jew, said he spent much of his time in jail reading the bible and other religious texts. Upon his release, he said he met with Broward's day reporting staff who he will report to for the next six months before he starts about three and a half years on state probation. For dinner, he ate a skirt steak at home.

In 2007, jurors convicted Wasserstrom of two felonies. Prosecutors argued that although he filled out conflict of interest forms related to a sludge processing contract and didn't vote on it he failed to disclose that his firm would earn money if other cities piggybacked on the contract.

Wasserstrom, who lost his appeal, maintains his innocence.

"I have a conflict of interest, I disclosed it at a public meeting, I filled out the forms, I will tell you today the forms are true,'' he said. "The prosecutors said I didn't disclose enough which is ridiculous."

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