Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Michelle Spence-Jones charged again!

We've discussed former city of Miami commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones several times over the last year or so, things were looking up for here recently when the states star main witness against her, Barbara Carey-Shuler recanted the most damaging testimony against her, that is till now.  According to the court docket it looks like the state filed new charges against Spence-Jones on November 11, 2010...

From the Miami Herald article...

Miami official Spence-Jones faces another charge

Miami-Dade prosecutors added a grand theft charge to the bribery case of suspended Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones.

Prosecutors on Monday added an additional grand theft charge to the bribery case against suspended Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones.
A grand jury originally indicted Spence-Jones in March after prosecutors said she illegally solicited a $25,000 bribe from mega-developer Armando Codina, who was awaiting a vote from the commission on an issue affecting a lucrative downtown development project.
Codina paid $12,500, and asked the project's chief developer, Ricardo Glas, to kick in another $12,500 to the Friends of MLK Trust, which Spence-Jones ran from her office, prosecutors allege.
In a statement to prosecutors, Codina claimed he paid the money because he did not want to ``poke her in the eye'' before the vote.
He said he paid the donation he believed was sponsoring an event honoring former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler.
In earlier court hearings, Miami-Dade prosecutor Richard Scruggs said Codina was duped because the money never went to the Carey-Shuler event -- and the Friends of MLK Trust didn't even exist until months later. That amounts to the theft of Codina's money, leading to the latest charge in addition to the bribery count, prosecutors said.
Spence-Jones, 43, who represented Liberty City and Overtown, is facing a Jan. 18 trial for soliciting the bribe from Codina. The additional charge was added after she admitted, in sworn court documents, that she solicited the money.
Her defense lawyer, Peter Raben, insists the solicitation was lawful and went to benefit the citizens of her district.
``There is no evidence that the purpose of the donation was to influence her vote,'' Raben wrote in earlier court documents. ``The donation was made to the Trust, and neither Commissioner Spence-Jones nor any member of her family received a private financial benefit, either directly or indirectly.''
A judge last month declined to dismiss the bribery charges against her, saying the issue was for a jury to decide.
On Monday, Raben would say only of the grand theft charge: ``I get to hear a jury say `not guilty' twice.''
She also faces an unrelated grand-theft charge stemming from 2005, before she became a commissioner. Prosecutors allege she illegally steered $50,000 in grants to a family-run business while a Miami mayoral aide.

What a mess.  Anyone notice line item #1 on the docket?

Despite the fact that Spence-Jones had several other criminal cases pending, she was still given the courtesy of surrendering herself.  For those of you following our blog, you know how we feel about that subject, even our very own State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle shares our views on the subject of surrendering...
 "She's going to be offered an opportunity, like everyone else, to surrender. Her lawyer has been contacted by our office to see if they want to make that surrender,"
Of course, that makes perfect sense unless you're a morally and ethically challenged assistant state attorney... 
Stay tuned folks, next week is going to get very interesting.

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