Even in South Florida, where years of mayhem and madness had many residents believing they could no longer be shocked, the Willets sex scandal trial is off the charts.
Kathy and Jeff are no ordinary couple.
On the one hand, if they are convicted, there may be nothing unusual about a hard-working hooker and her protective pimp trying to make a few bucks off the local citizenry. So they got caught. Another day, another routine arrest, from a region where the summer blockbuster criminal news is about a Kennedy family member accused of rape and a former Panamanian dictator awaiting trial in a cushy jail.
Still, the Willetses' tale seems like no other. It is a sensational story of a police officer who says he suffers from spells of impotence and can't satisfy his wife, who claims she is a nymphomaniac. Allegedly to cope with their sexual mismatch, the two say they established a $2,000-a-week brothel in their suburban home. She found the customers through classifieds; he spied on her sexual encounters from the bedroom closet and kept notes.
Their flamboyant lawyer is making the novel argument that the voyeurism was central to the "therapy" the husband chose to save his marriage.
And there's more.
There is the list, rather, The List. The Willetses allegedly kept careful records of about 50 John Does, known locally as "John Doughs" because so many are supposedly so rich.
A half dozen of Kathy's alleged clients have hired lawyers to keep The List out of the hands of the media.
Already enmeshed in the scandal is former Fort Lauderdale Vice Mayor John Danziger, a moral crusader who was so anti-vice that he once persuaded the city to shut its nude bars. After police sources leaked to reporters that Danziger's business card was in Kathy Willets' bedroom, he resigned for "personal reasons."
Jeff was a 6-foot-6 hunk of a sheriff's deputy with a lackluster record and a sad personal life that saw him lose a young daughter to leukemia. Kathy was a self-proclaimed sexpot, divorced, with two young children.
They met one Thursday evening in 1985 when he pulled her over to issue a traffic ticket. Within a week, he had paid her fines and left his wife for the woman with the broken tail lights.
They married and were living in Tamarac, a suburb of Fort Lauderdale, until May 1990, when Kathy began taking the anti-depressant Prozac. Although physicians familiar with the drug say sexual frenzies are not a known side effect, Kathy's lawyer says the drug jump-started her sex drive to the point where she had to have sex seven or eight times a day. Her husband couldn't keep up.
To quench her appetite and deal with Jeff's bout of impotence, the Willetses say they decided to recruit, well, a little help.
She began taking out personal ads in a local paper.
At $50 to $150 an encounter, the Willetses' "therapy" apparently was going along just fine until a 54-year-old businessman became emotionally involved with Kathy. He called police after a tryst with her because he heard snoring from the closet and became concerned that she was turning tricks under duress. He also told police that Jeffrey Willets, 41, left him a threatening message on his answering machine.
On July 23, a team of Jeffrey's colleagues from the Broward County Sheriff's Department raided the Willets home and discovered Kathy with a client who admitted to paying her $150 for sex. Deputies found an appointment book with his name inked in for that hour, business cards and a Rolodex with names and numbers.
Later, deputies searched Jeffrey Willets' patrol car and found a tablet with his notes about his wife's sex partners.
Jeff immediately was arrested and charged with the third-degree felony of living off the earnings of a prostitute; he also immediately was suspended from the Broward force without pay. A few days later Kathy was arrested on four counts of prostitution, a misdemeanor.
After that, authorities brought additional charges against the couple -- this time for wire tapping. The Willetses illegally taped five hours of her conversations with clients over the bedroom phone, authorities say.
While being booked at the sheriff's department, officers confiscated Kathy's underwire bra and nipple ring, claiming they could be used as weapons. She later complained they failed to return the nipple ring.
The couple has as their counsel a master at orchestrating publicity., His specialty is the novel defense, from "television intoxication" to autoeroticism.
For Kathy Willets, Ellis Rubin came up with the "nymphomania defense."
Last week, just when it seemed the saga would be waning because Rubin and prosecutors had reached a plea bargain agreement, the drama reignited.
Steve Wilson, a reporter for the syndicated television show "Inside Edition," asserted that two attorneys in Mr. Rubin's office, including his son, Guy, tried to peddle a videotape of Kathy Willets having sex with former Vice Mayor Danziger. The price: $100,000.
As prosecutors backed away from the plea bargain deal, Ellis Rubin hotly denied the "Inside Edition" charges, calling Mr. Wilson's accusation a "diabolical attempt to separate me, and remove me, from my clients."
But Tuesday, "Inside Edition" aired a secret videotape of the meeting in Mr. Rubin's office, where Guy Rubin appears to be offering Mr. Wilson a package deal for the videotape.
Now, prosecutors want that videotape as part of a blackmail investigation.