Friday, March 18, 2011

The jury instructions for the Michelle Spence-Jones bribery trial and a chilling comment from one of our readers.


We left off yesterday learning that the jury in the suspended City of Miami commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones bribery trial had come back with a not guilty verdict after only 90 minutes of deliberations. State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle issued this statement regarding the verdict through her spokesman Ed Griffith...
In this case, the jury had no choice but to acquit the defendant because the judge instructed the jury that, in effect, soliciting or accepting a bribe through a charity is legal, even if done with corrupt intent. We disagree with the judge’s interpretation of the bribery law. Bribery has become very sophisticated in our community. We believe that bribery done to influence a public official, even if done through a charity, is illegal. We will continue to investigate, prosecute, and enforce our bribery law.
So according to the state attorney it was the judges jury instructions that tainted their case against Spence-Jones?  Thanks to one of our readers, we were able to obtain the jury instructions, take a look...

Michelle Spence-Jones Bribery Trial Jury Instructions

Let's break it down, in order to prove her guilt, the state was required to prove the following four elements beyond a reasonable doubt...
Ok, that's obvious.  Next...
2. MICHELLE SPENCE JONES requested, solicited, accepted, or agreed to accept from CODINA GROUP INCORPORATED the thing described in the charge in this case as $25,000.00.
No argument there.  Next...
3. The $25,000.00 was something of value, benefit, or advantage to MICHELLE SPENCE JONES not authorized by law.
This is where the state loses me.  According to everything we've seen, the money went to the Dade County Foundation which then administered the money as they saw fit, in this case the foundation gave the money to the Friends of the MLK Trust.  As far as I can tell, the state was not able to prove the Spence-Jones used this Friends of the MLK Trust as a "personal piggy bank" therefore I can't imagine that anyone on the jury could have thought that the state proved this element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.  Last but not least...

4. The request, solicitation, acceptance, agreement to accept was made with intent of corruptly being influenced in the performance of some act or omission that MICHELLE SPENCE JONES represented as being within her official discretion.
I'll leave it the attorrney that represented Spence-Jones, Peter Raben, to take care of this part...
"This case is all about a vote.  It's the first bribery case I can ever imagine where there is no money going to the elected official and there's no vote.  Think about that."
Brilliant.  Now let's move on to the specific jury instruction that the state seems to have issue with...
The Court now further instructs you that under applicable law, a benefit, advantage or thing of value solicited by a public official on behalf of a non-profit organization, for use solely by that organization, where neither the official nor her family or staff receive any compensation as a result of that solicitation, is authorized by law. Compensation is defined as any money, gift, favor, political contribution, or any thing of value or other financial benefit.
Does this part really matter?  The state hasn't been able to prove that Spence-Jones used the trust fund as her "personal piggy bank" and there was no vote in exchange for the donation so who really cares about this specific instruction that Judge Rosa Rodriguez included?  On the other hand, if these kind of donations were illegal, then all of the sitting City of Miami commissioners would be guilty!  Our friends over at Investigation Miami did a great job laying out one such case.  

I don't see the problem with the jury instructions, I think based on the facts that the state laid out, the defense won fair and square.  Although this is a tough loss for the state attorneys office, I hope that they'll look past this and see the real problem which in my opinion is the way the prosecutor elicited the false testimony from their star witness against Spence-Jones, Armando Codina.  I'm really troubled by the tactics that are being used by prosecutors to coerce witnesses into saying what they need them to say in order to achieve the most injurious testimony possible against their targets.  As our readers know, this isn't the first time we've seen prosecutors deceive and trick witnesses into getting them to say what they need them to say in order to achieve an arrest.

What really makes me wonder about this whole case is the timing, one of our readers laid it all out in our comments section from yesterdays post...

The story behind the story is bigger than the story. The state put forth a case that never satisfied the prima facie elements of a violation of any law. Everyone had to know that going in. But they did it anyway. The reason? Spence Jones sued the governor one year ago and was on the verge of winning that case and being placed back in office. Two days before an expected ruling in her favor, the SAO indicts her for bribery thus making the civil case moot. It did not matter that the bribery case was fabricated. The mere fact of the indictment ruined her. The SAO had to know this. They used the grand jury to manipulate the electoral process and prevent a duly elected official form taking office because they have a vendetta against her. Shame on them.
If there's a modicum of truth to this theory then it scares the shit out of me as it shatters my confidence in the leadership of the state attorneys office.  Once again I'm reminded of that great quote from Supreme Court Justice Brennan...
"Between the private life of the citizen and the public glare of criminal accusation stands the prosecutor. That state official has the power to employ the full machinery of the state in scrutinizing any given individual. Even if a defendant is ultimately acquitted, forced immersion in criminal investigation and adjudication is a wrenching disruption of everyday life. For this reason, we must have assurance that those who would wield this power will be guided solely by their sense of public responsibility for the attainment of justice."
I would really hate to think that the prosecution of Spence-Jones was nothing more than a vendetta, I simply have too much faith in Ms. Rundle and her office to believe that.  The facts don't look good, I guess only time will tell...


  1. Keeping poking Rundle in the eye. They have your IP's, they know who you are and they'll retaliate against you for continually embarrassing them.

  2. Here is the same threat that was on Investigation Miami. Scruggs is that you??

  3. She looks kinda hot in that photo.

  4. The jury instruction says "under applicable law." The judge didn't just make this up, so why is the State Attorney so upset? Don't they have Westlaw at the State Attorney's office? Couldn't they find this law themselves prior to trial? Now the State Attorney says they disagree with the "judges interpretation of the law?" If it wasn't law the judge would not have included it in the jury instructions. It is terrifying that the State can "disagree" with a law and prosecute you anyway. It's bad faith on their part having gone forward with this trial.

  5. What was so enethical about Scruggs??

    To start with he lied to witnesses in order to gain their cooperation and get certain statements from them. Had they known the true facts their statements would have been different. For example, he got Codina's statement based on lies, then ran to the grand jury and got MSJ indicted the NEXT DAY. He aslo lied to Barbara Carey Shuler to gt her cooperation on the other case. When attorneys got involved and began investigating what really happened, Scruggs threatened THEM with prosecution. BAD, bad, bad.

    Then we go to court. He took a major SHIT when he found out that the trial judge would be RR, not YC who he had just investigated. YC is very young, inexperienced judge, just coming off of her own problems. RR is a very experienced trial judge who knows the law, is rarely reversed by the 3rd DCA, and does not put up with bullshit. She runs her own courtroom her way and does not allow the SAO to take over, ever.

    What's are a couple of ethically challenged ASA's to do when faced with a case with no evidence which is truly a political lynching of a black woman?? Why, get rid of the judge, of course. NO legal grounds to do so?? No problem. They'll just make it up. It requires sworn affidavits. No problem for a couple of ethically challenged ASA's like Scruggs and his side-kick Christine Zahralban. Just make it up. what's a little perjury by a couple of ASA's when you're lynching a black woman?! So, the motion to recuse is filed. Attached are affidavits from Scruggs and ZAhralban. Can u say PERJURY??? That's exactly what they did, and the trial had not started.

    At trial, the state fumbles aroud, is disorganized and generally wastes a lot of the jury's time. Exhibits went missing. They were alwlays found on state's table. The exhibits only went missing when it was time for Raben to cross examine. Exhibits walked away from the courtroom and ended up at the SAO. The judge had to get involved and issue an order to counsel to return all exhibits to the clerk when finished questioning a witness.

  6. The question is: Who was behind this political prosecution of Michelle Spence-Jones and got KFR and Scruggs to file the "emergency" indictment right when it was apparent that a judge was going to reinstate her to the city of Miami commission