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Byers' Beat | Attorneys for Florissant cop, victim share connections behind this week's stories

Scott Rosenblum and Jermaine Wooten are also mentor and mentee; Family at center of newspaper cartoon controversy's ties to St. Louis
Credit: KSDK

ST. LOUIS — Scott Rosenblum is the reason why Jermaine Wooten became a lawyer.

He has said so in previous stories about their relationship.

They met almost 30 years ago when Wooten said Rosenblum represented a friend of his in a case.

Wooten never forgot Rosenblum’s performance in that case and hired him to represent him in a case of his own – which got dismissed.

And Rosenblum never forgot Wooten.

He told Wooten, then 19, that if he finished law school, he would hire him.

Both men kept up their sides of the deal.

Wooten graduated from St. Louis University School of Law in 2001 and went to work for Rosenblum’s firm.

Fast forward to the present day.

Wooten is now 38 and the president of his own firm, The Legal Solution Group.

Rosenblum remains at the helm of the Rosenblum Schwartz & Fry firm and pulling top dollar for his work in criminal defense cases.

The mentor and the mentee now sit on opposite sides of an extremely polarizing issue.

Wooten, along with attorney Jerryl Christmas, is representing a man who he says was “mowed down” by a Florissant police SUV on June 2.

Rosenblum is representing the cop, Joshua Smith, who was fired this week by Chief Timothy Fagan and will likely be criminally charged.

The prosecutor, Tim Lohmar is handling the case due to a conflict of interest for St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell. Lohmar has called video footage of the incident captured on a resident’s Ring camera “shocking.”

This isn’t the first time Rosenblum and Wooten have been on opposite sides of a cause.

Wooten represents William Don Tisaby – an investigator St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner hired to help prosecute a case against former Gov. Eric Greitens. Tisaby has been indicted on perjury and evidence tampering charges.

Rosenblum represented the governor.

That case is still pending.

And though the men won’t be facing each other in court on the Florissant case – Rosenblum will face Lohmar’s prosecutors – the pair will face each other socially.

They remain friends.

But many friendships and relationships are being tested in this country as protests against police brutality and racism continue across the country.

Rosenblum is white. Wooten is black. The officer who struck Wooten’s client is white. Wooten’s client is black.

Both men have told me this week that they plan to remain, friends, once this case is over.

“100%, this is part of the profession,” Rosenblum said. “It’s nothing personal.”

Wooten agreed, for the most part.

“He may feel he has an ethical duty to represent his client, but … I’m privy to information Rosenblum doesn’t have, but right now, he sees a version of Joshua Smith that I don’t know.”

Rosenblum issued a statement on the case to 5 On Your Side earlier this week: "I have been an advocate against police abuse and misconduct my entire career. I wouldn't touch Chauvin with a 10' pole. That was clearly murder. I believe what this detective did, was simply an accident."

Chauvin is the last name of the Minneapolis officer now charged with murder for kneeling on a man’s neck for more than eight minutes before he died.

“Joshua Smith is our version of Derek Chauvin,” Wooten said.

Wooten also takes issue with Rosenblum’s use of the word “accident” when referring to the case.

“If I accidentally run over you, I don’t think I’m going to get out of the car and start punching and kicking you,” Wooten said. “I’m going to provide aide to you.”

Rosenblum won’t comment beyond his statement on the case.

But he said he wasn’t surprised to learn Wooten was the attorney on such a high-profile case.

“I’m proud of him, that he turned his life around, and I’m glad he’s doing well,” Rosenblum said. “Obviously I saw that he had potential.”

The Millers and their small-town newspaper

This week also included controversy at a family-run newspaper: The Missourian, which covers Washington, Missouri and other parts of Franklin County.

The cartoon shows a white woman being robbed by a black man and saying, "Help!! Somebody call 911!"

With his hands on the woman's arm and her purse, the man responds, "Good luck with that, lady ... we defunded the police."

The co-owners of the newspaper, Susan Miller Warden and Jeanne Miller Wood, who are sisters, apologized for the cartoon and said their father, the newspaper’s publisher, Bill Miller Sr. selected the cartoon.

In a statement, Miller Sr. wrote that he chose the cartoon to convey the paper's editorial opposition to defunding the police, but said he "deeply" regretted doing so because of its "racial insensitivities.

Father and his two daughters have now resigned from the paper.

But the family also has ties to the St. Louis area.

Now, another Miller, Trisha Miller O’Donnell, will serve as the interim publisher/editor. She was once the editor and publisher of the St. Louis Business Journal.

Her brother, Bill Miller Jr., was disgraced St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger’s chief of staff.

He was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison for his role in Stenger’s pay-to-play political scheme.

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