Thursday, August 25, 2011

Who's ultimately accountable for the failed prosecution of City of Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones?

Yesterday afternoon Florida governor Rick Scott officially gave Michelle Spence-Jones her job as a City of Miami Commissioner back after the state dropped the remaining grand theft charges against her.  Today we're hearing from our colleagues over at Investigation Miami that the prosecutor from the Spence-Jones case, Richard Scruggs, knew about the exculpatory evidence that exonerated Spence-Jones for over ONE YEAR!  Yet somehow it still took a year for the state to drop the charges against her?  From the states closeout memo that we posted yesterday, Prosecutor Scruggs says...
“Without Dr. Carey-Shuler's cooperative testimony, and without her explanation of why she appears to have drafted the letter which was provided to MMAP, the State does not believe that it can meet its burden of proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Ok, but there's a problem with all this.  Prosecutor Scruggs and his supervisors at the state attorneys office were morally and ethically bound to drop the charges against the defendant once their case fell apart, as one of our favorite bloggers so eloquently put it...
"Trying a defendant that a prosecutor knows is innocent, or even bringing to trial a person that the prosecutor knows there is not sufficient evidence to justify a conviction is an offense so odious to the American system of justice that prosecutors who engage in such abuse should be referred to the bar for disbarment. The supervisors who approve of such conduct should be disbarred as well."
As you know, there's been plenty of allegations of prosecutorial misconduct swirling around the Spence-Jones case, illegal wiretaps, witness coercion, hiding of exculpatory evidence, etc.  In my opinion though, the reluctance of the prosecutor to drop the charges is the most egregious offense.  Think of the millions of dollars that this whole debacle has now cost the people involved, everything from the costs of the investigation, prosecution, defense and ultimately the cost for running the numerous elections that had to be conducted as a result of Spence-Jones' departure from the commission.  Not to mention the costs involved with the city reimbursing Spence-Jones legal bills, back pay and now possibly some sort of severance package for the whack job, Reverend Dunn, that replaced her.  

All of this could have been avoided if there had been a proper review of Prosecutor Scruggs's actions.  Was the case properly vetted by his supervisors before the charges were filed?  Did anyone consider the consequences of arresting a public figure from an embattled district of the city of Miami with evidence as shaky as what had been presented?  Not to mention, who the hell was responsible for letting Scruggs run amok and cross upstanding pillars of the community like Armando Codina?  

Let's not forget that this is the same prosecutor who was prosecuting former commissioner Art Teele who before the trial leaked unfounded allegations drug abuse and relations with a transsexual prostitute by jail house snitch to the local media which in my opinion ultimately caused Mr. Teele to commit suicide.  What was the point of leaking the interviews of the jailhouse snitch to the media before trial?  How could an ethical attorney let alone a prosecutor be allowed to irreversibly smear the reputation of a public figure like that with unfounded allegations of a convicted drug abusing prostitute?  Plus, why the hell is the state attorneys office so eager to give the media copies of witness interviews while they fight tooth and nail to deny people they charge with crimes the same information?  I know defense attorneys that have been asking for copies of witness interviews and statements regarding the Bernardo Barrera mortgage fraud case for nearly three years, after numerous motions before the court and at least four court orders to this day the state still wont turn over the information requested yet they gave away the damaging interview transcripts from the Teele case to the media so gratuitously?  WTF?

Ultimately these actions disgraced our state attorney Kathy Rundle.  Long after people like Scruggs are gone and forgotten, it's going to be Rundle's legacy that's harmed by these idiotic prosecutions and despite what the negative public perception of Rundle might be right now, I don't think it's fair.  At this point considering everything that's happened not only with the allegations of prosecutorial misconduct during the case but with the way prosecutor Scruggs has behaved after the case was dismissed with attacks against defense attorney Peter Raben which ultimately further humiliated the state attorneys office, I can only hope their will be a full investigation into his actions both by the State Attorneys Office and the Florida Bar.  Can the Bar and the SAO stand by and do nothing after hearing something like this...
"they both said they were lied to and defrauded and tricked by the prosecutor"
I should hope not.  Let's not forget though, the overwhelming majority of prosecutors in the SAO are hard working, fair and underpaid people that are actually there working to see that justice is done, but there are a few who are blinded by their need to "win at any cost" who have resorted to breaking the law themselves, these people need to be dealt with.  The actions of Prosecutor Scruggs are not unique, in fact they closely mimic the M.O. of another prosecutor that we've written about at length, Bill Kostrzewski, illegal wiretaps at attorneys offices, coercing witnesses, fabricating evidence, hiding exculpatory evidence, cutting immunity deals with cooperating witnesses without disclosure, etc.  Way too much misconduct and illegal activity to quietly shove under the rug.  The question is, once all these allegations come to light and are proven, will their be any consequences?


  1. Strawbuyer,

    In your list of what could have been avoided had Scruggs and Rundle done the right things you failed to mention the human toll on Michelle and her family. Her name and reputation has been dragged through the mud and some will never believe that she is innocent. What Scruggs and Rundle did is beyond outrageous it is also illegal. They need to pay for what they did.

  2. Agreed. My family lost three years of our lives under similar circumstances. Nothing is ever the same, no matter how egregious the misconduct of the police and prosecutors, you'll never get out from under the cloud of impropriety. This might not seem like a big deal to most, that is until you become the target of one of these senseless prosecutions.

    So what do we do? The only thing we can do is file complaints with the bar and the state attorneys office. Lame, but that's all we got.

  3. $50,000? Spence still arranged to get the $50,000 while she was a full-time employee of the City.

    Where is the taxpayers $50,000?

  4. The $50k? Don't you think that if there was the slightest chance of prosecuting her for the misuse of the $50k that the state attorneys office would have gone ahead and done so?

    I've never been a Spence-Jones fan, rumors alone won't get her convicted.


  6. What did Spence do with the $50,000 she took from Miami Action Plan?

    What happened to the $150,000 Jorge Perez paid to Spence 2 best friends prior to the Mercy Hospital re-zoning vote?

  7. 50k went to rehab a former crack house which is exactly what the money was given for. Sorry to disappoint all you rumor mongers not interested in the truth

  8. The former "crack house" is still a crack house.
    Another waste of the taxpayers money. Predictable.

  9. This is NOT a first. Someone ought to investigate how the SAO handled the criminal investigation against many City of Coral Gables officers, how it filed many of the culpatory evidence away, and simply ignored the recommendations of the Anti Corruption Unit.