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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Live blogging the Sansom trial -- Day 3

23

March

It's Wednesday, Day 3 of the Ray Sansom-Jay Odom trial. Tuesday's recap here. Live video here.

schembera2.jpg5:41 p.m.: The jury has been released for the day but the fight over the admissibility of the e-mails described below continue. It's a fascinating test of legal principles. In the photo, lawyers surround Schembera as the e-mails are examined. Judge Lewis seems inclined to let the e-mails be introduced in at least some fashion. Schembera said he has no recollection of conversations and that the e-mails are his only memory.

4:56: p.m.: The jury is out and defense lawyers are arguing against the inclusion of e-mails that circulated between lobbyist Jeff Schembera (pictured) and college president Bob Richburg about coming up with language for the Destin project to avoid a veto.

Why is this a big deal to both sides? Background here.

Schembera had told Richburg the two paragraphs justifying an emergency operations and training center looked good and added, "If the political will is there, this provides programmatic cover." He advised Richburg against using Destin in the description.

"Need to copy Ray and get strategy coordinated prior to sending," Schembera wrote in the May 7, 2007, e-mail. "He should be able to intervene politically."

timesheraldsansomemail.jpg3:50 p.m.: Meggs is questioning Fahs again. Showed him this e-mail (pictured) that indicates Richburg and Sansom talked about the airport deal with Odom before Sansom got the money.

“Jay and I agreed that the project is to be held close until after your actions and until after we receive guidance from you,” Richburg wrote to Sansom's official House e-mail account.

"Throughout our meeting, Jay and I both reminded each other that the program and
building need to be instructionally sound and that project needed to be
carefully developed so that the Speaker and House would be proud of the work and
that the city of Destin would be pleased with the emergency response capability that was being added to the Destin area."

It's a key piece of evidence in Meggs' case but for apparently tactical reasons, he has not yet entered it into the record, or "published" it. He simply had Fahs read it to himself and Fahs acknowledged that it seemed Richburg and Sansom knew about the deal before Sansom got the money.

The e-mail was not released by Northwest Florida State College when asked by the Times/Herald, but later surfaced when the state attorney's office got involved. The college said it found "archival" materials and handed them to prosecutors.

3:30 p.m.: A 10 minute break called. Defense wrapped up cross examination of Fahs by showing a series of e-mails in which the college was more fully engaged in the process. Sansom attorney Steve Dobson asked if at that point Sansom was no longer involved. "That's correct," he said.

fahs.jpg2:04 p.m.: Court has resumed. Former DOE official Ron Fahs on the stand. He said there were seven PECO projects not on the DOE list that were put into 2007 budget and "jumped out" at him. Fahs got a call from the governor's office asking about the project. He then called Northwest Florida State College for more info.

Fahs, pictured, got two paragraphs, which said there was need for emergency training and a response center if bridges are washed out. It made no mention of Jay Odom or Destin Jet.

Under cross examination, Fahs agreed community colleges have increasingly added "workforce" training, such what Sansom and the college said would occur at the airport. He also said that budget line items are limited in what they can say. “We put in a very small representation of the major things that a particular project is supposed to do," Fahs said.

Here's what Fahs had to say in 2009.

11:57 a.m.: Court takes lunch break. Back at 2 p.m.

10:53 a.m.: Lisa Cook, a Department of Education official, is on the stand. She is describing how colleges typically get PECO funding. It's a long process, taking several years. Sansom's project sidestepped that. Meggs asked if DOE knew anything about the project before it appeared in budget. "No," she replied.

But Sansom attorney Steve Dobson asked her if the Legislature can fund things not on a DOE list of recommendations? "Yes," Cook said.

10:37 a.m.: A 10 minute break has been called. Former Sen. Lisa Carlton took the stand and described the budget process. The defense appeared pleased when a juror asked how far in advance of the budget conference did it become clear that there was more education funding money (PECO). Carlton said it was probably after the House and Senate passed their initial budgets.

10 a.m.: Former Gov. Charlie Crist is on the witness stand. State Attorney Willie Meggs asked him what he knew about the $6 million airport building. Crist said it was a building for emergency operations and some training. Meggs then asked if Crist would have vetoed the project had he known it could have been leased to Odom's private jet business.

"Yes I would have," Crist said.

Meggs: "Once you became aware of that information, not previously provided to you, what action did you take?"

Crist: "I requested that the money be returned."

[Last modified: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 6:46pm]

    

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