Cox, History in Crowded Race for State Attorney

Palm Beach State Attorney Deputy Chief Assistant Alexcia Cox

West Palm Beach – Six candidates are running to replace Palm Beach State Attorney Dave Aronberg, who has decided not to seek another term and pursuing other endeavors.

Among the candidates is Palm Beach State Attorney Deputy Chief Assistant Alexcia Cox, who is seeking to become the county’s first woman and first African American state attorney.

Cox faces fellow state attorney Craig Williams, longtime criminal defense attorney Gregg Lerman and former county sheriff’s Captain Rolando Silva for the Democratic nomination in August.

The winner will face Republican candidates Sam Stern, a former assistant state attorney who has his own practice, and Boca Raton lawyer Forrest Freedman, in the November general election.

Defense lawyer Adam Farkas, a former prosecutor and government public defender, is also running but without a party affiliation.

Cox, who’s been a prosecutor for 16 years and oversees the State Attorney Office’s Domestic Violence unit, the county courts and the conviction review unit, said she’s not running to make history but to make a bigger impact on the community in which she was born and raised.

Cox, who earned her law degree from Florida State University’s College of Law, said she sees herself as a role model for women who are seeking a similar journey in their careers. “I have been a leader in the community for years, this is my home, where I grew up, and raised my son,” she said. “Being a prosecutor in my hometown and demonstrating community leadership, I always mentor young women. When I learned my boss was stepping down, I said why not me? It’s telling other women to take the opportunity to take on a leadership role.”

Cox, 44, began her career with the State Attorney’s Office as a domesticviolence prosecutor and some high profile cases.

One was successfully prosecuting former Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja, who was found guilty of manslaughter and attempted murder in the 2015 killing of 31-yearold Black church musician Corey Jones.

A judge handed down a 25-year prison sentence, as Raja became the first Florida police officer in 30 years in the state to be convicted and go to prison for a line-of-duty shooting.

The incident occurred when Jones’ car broke down and he was waiting for roadside service when he was killed by Raja. The case garnered national attention as a racially motivated police-involved shooting.

“The case was so memorable because it made history in the state of Florida,” Cox said. “No police officer has ever been convicted in 30 years for an onduty shooting in the state.”

Another case for Cox was convincing a young pregnant woman to testify against her boyfriend who shot her in the stomach.

The baby miraculously survived and the injured woman has since recovered.

Cox said three weeks before the start of the trial, the woman couldn’t be found and prosecutors were on the verge of dropping the charges. Cox, however, was poised to find the woman herself.

Cox said the boyfriend was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

“She was reluctant to press charges, but I poured my entire body, soul, heart and spirit in that case,” Cox said. “That case was really close to my heart, fighting for justice for victims and their family members.”

Cox initially wrestled with her ambivalence over being a lawyer and working in professional sports.

After she earned her bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Central Florida, Cox had her sights set on being a sports agent even while enrolled in law school.

Cox said after interning at the state attorney office in Tallahassee, she realized law was her career path because she wanted to be an advocate for people who were victimized and secure justice for them.

Since she was outspoken as an adolescent, law seemed to be a perfect fit for arguing court cases.

“My parents said I always had a point to make that got me into trouble,” Cox said with laughter. “So, why not use it to get my point across in the courtroom?” Cox currently serves on the board of directors for the Palm Beach County Chapter of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers, the National Black Prosecutors Association, the National Bar Association, and the Palm Beach County Bar Association’s Professionalism, Criminal Law and Judicial Relations Committees.

In 2017 she was appointed chair of the Florida Bar Professional Ethics Committee and served on the Florida Bar’s newest standing committee, the Committee on Mental Health and Wellness of Florida Lawyers.

In 2019, Cox was awarded the Justice Barbara Pariente Award, which recognizes people in the legal profession for their commitment to promoting women in the Palm Beach County legal community.

Cox was also named “Trailblazer of the Year” by Legacy South Florida Magazine.

Her campaign has garnered support from a roster of current and former public servants including U.S. Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, state Sens. Shervin Jones and Tina Polsky, former state Sen. Bobby Powell, who stepped down to run for Palm Beach County Commissioner, and former West Palm Beach city commissioners Kelly Shoaf and Cory Neering.

Cox also has support from the AFLCIO group.

According to his profile, Williams is one of Aronberg’s chief assistants, supervising the State Attorney Office’s felony trial, intake, organized crime, traffic homicide and mental health units, as well as its offices at the Criminal Justice Complex on Gun Club Road near West Palm Beach and in Belle Glade.

Lerman has been practicing law for the past 40 years, handling cases includiing DIU/DWI, drug trafficking, sexual assault, child pornography, money laundering and murder.

Born in Queens, NY, Lerman graduated from Piper High School in Broward County, earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Florida and law degree from Nova Southeastern University.

He unsuccessfully ran for Circuit Court Judge in Palm Beach County in 2016.

The Democratic candidates are not far behind each other in fundraising.

According to the Palm Beach Elections Department, Cox has raised more than $200,000, Williams about $137,350, $50,000 of it his own money, and Silva has $134,285 including loaning himself $75,000.

On the Republican side, Stern currently works in the Palm Beach office of the New Jersey law firm Stern Kilcullen and Rugolo, of which his father was a founding member.

Stern was an assistant U.S. attorney in New Jersey who earned his law degree from Fordham University Law School.

He worked for the Miami law firm of Kobre and Kim in which the office represented Juno Beach area retinologist Dr. Salomon Melgen, who in 2017 was convicted of 67 charges of health care fraud, sentenced to 17 years in prison and in 2020 was pardoned by thenPresident Donald Trump.

Stern is also an adjunct professor at the University of Miami Law School.

According to his profile, Freedman was a district attorney in Boston for four years and moved to Palm Beach County in 1991. He currently handles mostly traffic and misdemeanor cases.


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