Steve Cozzi was one of those rare people you meet in life that made you want to get to know them well, all with a handshake and a few minutes of conversation. He radiated kindness, sincerity, empathy, and genuine nature, and he believed steadfastly in justice and that the law was a positive force in the world if utilized and implemented as it was originally intended.
I met Steve soon after moving my practice and my life from New York City to the magical city of St. Petersburg, Florida, known as the “Sunshine City,” where the clouds never last for long, and people from all walks of life can be themselves, situated on Tampa Bay and close to the beautiful Gulf of Mexico. We were at the first post-Covid networking event sponsored by the St. Pete Bar Association, and I was refreshed by how passionate Steve was about the law and his mission to advocate for those who didn’t have a voice. It reminded me of why I also dedicated my life to the law: to help others who might otherwise not reach their goals or achieve their dreams.
Fast forward and year and a half, and I received an email from the Bar Association saying that Steve was missing. I checked my emails and was reminded that Steve had not responded to my last email, which was very unlike him. He had asked me to join the diversity committee, and I had responded by saying I would be honored to, and I never got a response. I, as well as many other lawyers who knew him, felt scared and paralyzed by the news, and I knew that hope was fleeting. My fears were soon confirmed when the Bar contacted us all again a few days later to announce a vigil in his honor. He was gone, murdered by a doctor who had sued one of Steve’s clients and had made Steve the target of his rage, brutally murdering him and dumping his body into a landfill on the Tamiami Trail, ensuring it would never be recovered.
I was interviewed by the journalist Ashleigh Banfield on her show “Banfield” on News Nation. It was surreal for several reasons: I had studied to be a TV anchor and had always respected her work, and suddenly she was interviewing me on national TV, but most importantly, it was because of the reason she was interviewing me – not to talk about immigration, but to talk about Steve’s shocking murder and the incredible impact he had on others and the massive loss so many of us had suffered.
There is a saying that life is a zero-sum game, but the loss of Steve Cozzi was massive and tipped the scales in the wrong direction. It took one of the best people, a pure, kind soul, and removed him from our present and put him into our past, leaving a cold-blooded killer alive. I was relieved to see that bail was denied so that the killer cannot do any more damage in society, but no matter what the final outcome, there is no bringing Steve back and the concept of justice that he and I believed in so much can’t be served fully, because he is gone forever. All I can do, and we can do as a collective, is strive to carry on his legacy and work every day to make the world a better place, to help those who can’t help themselves, and to not lose faith in the goodness of others, follow the letter of the law, and strive for justice, whatever that is.
We miss you Steve, every day.