Friday, January 6, 2012

Prosecutorial misconduct, the gift that keeps on giving...


Just when you think you've run out of crap to write about comes another instance of flagrant prosecutorial misconduct, the icing on the cake here is that we're already familiar with some of the key players yet somehow the Miami Herald forgot to mention their names.  From the Herald article...

Two MIA “fuel farm” defendants get new trial
Two defendants in the Miami International Airport fuel-farm corruption case deserve new trials because a judge failed to give proper instructions to the jury, an appeals court ruled Wednesday.
Cliff Berry Inc., and the company’s former environmental director, Jeffrey Clint Smith, were convicted at trial in December 2008 of first-degree grand theft. The accusations: They pilfered huge amounts of fuel from the airport’s storage depot.
Smith had been free on bond while awaiting the decision. “This news in the new year is extremely welcome from him and his family,” Smith’s attorney, Michael S. Pasano, said. “He had always insisted on his innocence.”
The Third District Court of Appeal also ruled Wednesday that Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jacqueline Hogan Scola failed to quickly hold a hearing to question prosecutors about a key witness who changed his testimony.
The indictments were part of a far-reaching probe that uncovered several racketeering schemes at MIA. In all, more than 20 defendants pleaded guilty.
As for the company and Smith, investigators alleged that company trucks were supposed to haul away wastewater but drove off with jet fuel instead, and later sold it to yacht owners.
At trial, defense attorneys insisted their clients believed they had the “good faith” right to haul away the contents of a fuel-farm tank.
Scola refused defense attorneys’ request that the jury be given instructions outlining the “good faith” defense.
The Third DCA ruled Wednesday she should have allowed the jury instruction because “the evidence at trial was sufficient to suggest the good faith theory.”
Smith was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The company was ordered to pay $1.23 million and was barred from having any government contracts. The company’s former president, Cliff Berry II, was acquitted.
Another legal issue revolved around defendant Brian Schneir, a former supervisor at ASIG Fueling, another company that prosecutors said aided in the theft of the jet fuel.
Schneir pleaded guilty to organized fraud and agreed to spend two years in prison in return for testifying against Smith and Cliff Berry Inc. However, at trial, Schneir changed testimony he gave in a deposition about the dollar amount of fuel stolen and the date the scheme began.
Appellate lawyers argued that Miami-Dade prosecutors failed to quickly inform the defense of the change in Schneir’s testimony. Third DCA Judges Richard J. Suarez and Barbara Lagoa said Scola should have automatically conducted a hearing to see if prosecutors violated rules regarding turning over evidence to the defense.
A third appeals judge, Leslie Rothenberg, disagreed, saying the two defendants were convicted “by overwhelming evidence.”
Scola later ruled that prosecutors did not violate any rules. After prosecutors moved to revoke Schneir’s plea deal, saying he lied before testifying at trial, Scola gave him 12 years in prison.
Ok, so besides the judge screwing up and not allowing the jury instructions to outline the "good faith" defense, there's one other critical problem, the states main cooperating witness changed his testimony before the trial, problem is that the prosecutor knew that the witness had changed his critical testimony yet decided not to tell the defense attorneys about it!  From the article...
Appellate lawyers argued that Miami-Dade prosecutors failed to quickly inform the defense of the change in Schneir’s testimony. Third DCA Judges Richard J. Suarez and Barbara Lagoa said Scola should have automatically conducted a hearing to see if prosecutors violated rules regarding turning over evidence to the defense.
RUT RO!  So the prosecutor knew after his key witness was deposed that his testimony had changed before trial yet he forgot to let the defendants know and in essence covered this critical fact up?  Who could this unnamed prosecutor be?  Why would the Herald write this story accusing the prosecutor of misconduct yet leave out the guys name?  Any guesses as to who this guy is?  Perhaps this photo will help jar your memory...

Richard Scruggs
That would be none other than our favorite ex public corruption prosecutor Richard Scruggs!  You all remember Mr. Scruggs from his stellar performance during the Michelle Spence-Jones mess don't you?  Throughout that debacle Mr. Scruggs hid evidence, coerced witnesses and downright lied to witnesses about evidence he had in his possession in order to get them to say what he wanted.  So the question that begs to be asked is why the hell did the Herald not name Scruggs in the article?  We were able to identify the mysterious prosecutor in this case only after reading the actual appeal, if you have the time, check it out...

Prosecutorial Misconduct Cliff Berry Inc and Jeffrey Clint Smith vs the State of Florida

Now, who's this other player in this fuel farm corruption case that goes unnamed in the Herald article?  That would be none other than former county Commissioner Barbara Carey-Schuler, the same ex commissioner that played a key role in both getting City of Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones indicted then through changing her testimony also helped get her case dismissed.  For those of you with a good memory, you might remember Carey-Schuler as the commissioner that was buddy buddy with that crook Oscar Rivero, who was practically a fixture in her office, that was responsible for stealing millions of dollars that were meant for public housing only to build himself a mansion in South Miami.  Funny how her name keeps coming up in this high profile public corruption cases yet somehow she never gets charged?

Regardless, just another instance of a dirty prosecutor who's resorted to obtaining convictions by any means necessary even if it means breaking the very laws he swore to uphold and another black eye for our local state attorneys office.  Oh well...

1 comment:

  1. "The record demonstrates that on November 26, 2008 – the day Schneir began testifying and before the State concluded its direct examination – defense counsel alerted the trial court to a possible discovery violation after it became clear that Schneir’s trial testimony was a significant departure from his pre-trial statements and deposition. "

    Is anyone surprised?