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The Daily Dish

Lea Black Lends a Legal Hand to Miami Chef

How a cooking lesson led to a crusade.

By Jordan Upmalis

Lea Black thought she was getting a cooking lesson on last night's episode of The Real Housewives of Miami, but it turns out she got a crusade as well.

Chef Steve Martorano hosted the ladies at his restaurant, Café Martorano, and Lea took interest in more than just his cooking. South Florida's Sun-Sentinel reports that Lea took particular interest in the chef's t-shirt, which referenced a creative writing class that his cousin conducts in federal prison, where he's serving a life sentence. After learning that the chef's family and number of supporters have spent 25 years working to get George Martorano released, Lea decided she wanted to help, and asked her hubby -- defense attorney Roy Black -- to take on the case.

The Sun-Sentinel reports that in 1983, George Martorano plead guilty to 19 counts related to running a drug ring in Philadelphia, offenses that often carry sentences of 3-5 years. However, Martorano was sentenced to life without parole, which his supporters say is an effort to force him to cooperate in the a federal investigation of his father, a suspected mobster. The Housewife's husband is now arguing on Martorano's behalf, saying he was illegally sentenced, and asking a new judge to reconsider the sentence.

Lea, husband Roy, and chef Martorano have all declined to discuss the case at length in the press, and Lea only briefly touched on the matter in her blog this week, writing, "Not only was that lunch interesting for many reasons, but it led me to someone who really needed help, and my husband and I are doing everything in our power to help him. Stay tuned for (hopefully) a miracle in the making!"

While behind bars, George Martorano discovered creative writing, and has gone on to write screenplays, books, poems, short stories, and at least one published work -- 1997's "Pain Grows a Platinum Rose." Roy has tried to use that transformation to argue on his client's behalf, writing to the court, "Rather than becoming embittered, Mr. Martorano has spent the 27 years that he has been imprisoned as a model prisoner who helps others in extraordinary ways. In short, a radical transformation has occurred in George Martorano which is evident to all who come in contact with him and will also be evident to this [judge] at a resentencing."

Martorano is reportedly being held in Philadelphia, where he faces a hearing on his appeal in January.

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