Is the case against Jim Greer falling apart?
A lawyer for former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer predicts he'll prevail in the criminal fraud case against him after the defense team today deposed Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon, Sen. John Thrasher, former party attorney Jason Gonzalez and consultant John Harris.
Greer's lawyer Damon Chase says his client didn't steal money through what prosecutors say was a shell company, Victory Strategies. Instead, the company was a legitimate fundraising entity that saved the party money, Chase said.
At the center of the depositions and Greer's defense is a Jan. 4, 2010 severance agreement signed by Cannon, Thrasher, Gonzalez, then-incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos and others. One draft of the document specifically mentioned Victory Strategies. The final didn't mention the company. But it was pretty exonerating in its wording.
"RPOF stipulates and agrees that all RPOF expenditures made during Greer's term as RPOF Chairman were proper, lawful, appropriate, and served the interests of RPOF, and RPOF specifically acknowledges that all expense reimbursements of any kind, American Express account expenditures, consultant fees, fundraising fees, agreements, service fees, travel and dining expenses were proper and authorized and otherwise ratified by RPOF," the document said.
Republicans later argued that they didn't know Greer was behind Victory Strategies. Chase said that's tough to believe, and the agreement speaks for itself. He said the contract disproves the fraud charges Greer faces, and that his client is owed his $123,750 severance.
"Cannon said Greer should've been paid, that he tried to get RPOF to pay but they wouldn’t do it," Chase said. "The headline is: Dean Cannon admits Jim Greer did nothing wrong."
Cannon disputed that characterization by Chase, who is Greer's civil attorney and didn't attend the deposition conducted by Cheney Mason.
“Mr. Chase did not even attend the deposition,” Cannon’s spokeswoman Katie Betta said. “Speaker Cannon's testimony certainly did not absolve Mr. Greer of the six criminal counts against him, and was primarily about the factual circumstances surrounding Mr. Greer's resignation as RPOF chairman.”
Sen. Thrasher, who succeeded Greer, said he was interviewed only about the severance deal, not the particulars of Victory Strategies.
"I don't see how the contract gets him off," Thrasher said. "The criminal charges are the criminal charges. He's the one who executed the contract. He's the one who didn't tell the board about his involvement (in Victory Strategies)."
But Chase said the Victory Strategies fundraising contract actually saved the party money, so it's tough to argue the party was defrauded.
He also said that the testimony of John Harris, a GrayRobinson consultant connected to the formation of Victory Strategies, acknowledged that the law firm disclosed attorney-client privileged communications to Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigators -- something that jeopardizes aspects of the case being pushed by the statewide prosecutor's office.
But one of the lead lawyers for GrayRobinson, Pete Antonacci, said the firm gave prosecutors the documentation after Greer's associate in Victory Strategies, former RPOF executive director Delmar Johnson, gave permission to disclose the documents.
Greer's lawyers, though, say it was impermissible without Greer's sign-off. They have asked Orange-Osceola Circuit Judge Marc Lubet to throw out aspects of the case.
"The prosecution's case is falling apart faster than Humpty Dumpty," Chase said. "The prosecution isn't going to be able to put it all together again."
-- Marc Caputo, Miami Herald