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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Live blogging from the Ray Sansom trial -- Day 1

21

March

kisela.jpg4:20 p.m. Court has adjourned for day. Defense will cross examine Kisela tomorrow.

3:43 p.m.: Destin City Manager Greg Kisela (pictured left) has been called to the witness stand by the prosecution. He's recounting how the city commission denied Odom's request for a private airport business, due to noise and other concerns, but then Odom sued and city relented as part of a settlement.

Kisela testified that while he was with city, the city never sought funding for an emergency operations building at the airport. Moreover, Kisela said that he ran into Odom and asked about a legislative funding request for the $6 million airport building and that Odom told him it had been "repackaged" as an educational facility. Sansom has said he never knew about the original funding request.

3:25 p.m.: A recess has been called.

3:12 p.m.: An FDLE computer expert is testifying how she reviewed Bob Richburg's computer sansomtrial4.jpg(pictured at right) for e-mail and documents containing various key words including "hangar."

2:03 p.m.: Trial has resumed. A series of records are being entered into the record, with records officials in Okaloosa County and Destin taking the stand to verify the documents. Among them state campaign finance records showing money Odom gave to Sansom, a political committee Sansom controlled and the Republican Party of Florida.

Defense attorneys got the witness, from the state Division of Elections, to say that the records are online and available to anyone -- the implication being that there was nothing untoward with the money Odom contributed (nearly $1 million over multiple years).

12:30 p.m. Judkins has finished. A lunch break has been called, and the trial will resume at 2 p.m. Today will end about 4:30 p.m.

11:38 a.m. Judkins has begun his opening argument. He said Odom has a right as an American and a Floridian to seek help from the government. Judkins invoked the string of hurricanes that began in the middle part of the last decade. "Hurricane preparedness was on the tip of everybody's tongue."

11:22 a.m. Dobson just finished his opening argument. A 10-minute recess has been called. Next up: Odom attorney Jimmy Judkins.

10:35 a.m.: Sansom attorney Steve Dobson has begun his opening statement. He started by giving a biographical sketch of Sansom, at one point asking him to stand, and noting the presence of his wife, Tricia, and two of his three daughters.

Dobson said that has an Okaloosa County Commissioner Sansom saw firsthand the damage of Hurricane Opal, and that sparked his idea for an emergency operations facility in Destin. Dobson said he would present witnesses from Destin who say the facility was needed.

He argued Sansom broke no rules in getting the $6 million for an airport building. "In fact, it was his responsibility to do this." Dobson acknowledged, "Jay Odom want to lease part of this building, there’s no question about it." But he said any lease would be up to the college board of trustees, not Sansom.

9:38 a.m.: The trial of former Florida House speaker Ray Sansom has begun. The jury has been seated in Leon County Courtroom 3G. Leon County State Attorney Willie Meggs has begun his opening statement.

Meggs is recounting the genesis of the $6 million airport building, saying how developer Jay Odom wanted a fixed-base operation, or FBO, for his executive jet business and got the city of Destin to apply for state money. The building would be used as an emergency operation center in a storm. But the request never went through in a lean budget year, Meggs said. Instead Sansom put the money in the budget using state education money, but it did not follow normal procedure.

Meggs said that "when all the dust settles" the building will be shown that it was primarily an "aircraft hangar" for Odom. He said he would prove not only an attempt on Sansom and Odom to defraud taxpayers but also a "cover-up" once questions were asked.

 

sansomtrial3.jpg9:12 a.m.: Sansom attorney Steve Dobson is trying to restrict as evidence the fact that Sansom got a job (and later resigned) at Northwest Florida State College and resigned as speaker. He said it's irrelevant to whether Sansom misappropriated the $6 million. Meggs says it's "highly relevant." This time, Lewis seems inclined to side with the defense, saying it could put the focus on the job rather than the airport building.

9 a.m.: Pretrial motions continue to be argued. Judge Terry Lewis seems inclined to permit the evidence. Sansom's wife and two of his daughters just entered the courtroom.

sansomtrial2.jpg8:23 a.m. The trial of former House Speaker Ray Sansom will begin this morning in Tallahassee, but first defense attorneys are arguing motions to limit certain evidence, including testimony of Gary Paulzak, a Fort Walton Beach man who gave Sansom a $7,000-a-month job at his insurance business in 2009 as a favor to Sansom's co-defendant Jay Odom.

He said that he owed Odom money and expected the debt would be "lessened" by giving Sansom the job in which he did not practice insurance because he could not get a license. Defense attorneys said it was after the alleged crime was committed and is not relevant, suggesting Leon County State Attorney Willie Meggs was trying to create the perception of wrongdoing. Meggs said it was an "ongoing conspiracy" by the defendants.

The defense is also trying to block jurors from hearing that Gov. Charlie Crist asked Northwest Florida State College to return the $6 million Sansom got for the college in 2007 for an airplane building that Odom wanted to use for his private jet business. Crist is expected to testify for the prosecution.

You can see a live stream of the trial on WCTV.com.

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[Last modified: Monday, March 21, 2011 5:25pm]

    

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