David Ovalle of the Miami Herald reports that opening statements in the trial of former Miami City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones began yesterday.
Ms. Spence-Jones is accused of seeking a $25,000 bribe from a developer while he awaited a commission vote in March 2006 that affected a lucrative downtown Miami hotel-office development.
It is alleged that Spence-Jones' office phoned to ask for a $25,000 "donation" for a fake charity she secretly controlled, the prosecutor said in his opening.
Spence-Jones' criminal defense attorney returned in his opening by stating that an elected city official asking for a charitable donation from a wealthy developer was only intended to help the citizens of the inner-city. Spence-Jones' district included some of Miami's poorest areas, such as Liberty City, Little Haiti, and Overtown.
Spence-Jones' defense attorney told jurors that this is not a crime because there was no intent to defraud or commit a theft.
Spence-Jones is charged with grand theft for allegedly accepting $25,000 in a bribe.
Upon learning more about this case, it seems as though Ms. Spence-Jones is on the receiving end of a policial witch hunt. It is not a crime for an elected official to fundraise for their community. Isn't that why we elect people in the first place? To bring business and prosperity to our neighborhoods?
If Ms. Spence-Jones was asking a wealthy developer to donate to a charity, then how is that a crime? Furthermore, there is very weak evidence suggesting that the developer was trying to gain a favor from Ms. Spence-Jones when his project went before the commission for approval.
It doesn't matter who you are. Anybody can find themselves accused of a crime. It's a scary thing, and the government is a powerful entity.
If you or a loved one are facing grand theft charges, call me today. I represent clients in Miami-Dade and Broward.