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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Sansom and Co. seek dismissal of theft charges



Former House Speaker Ray Sansom and two co-defendants tried Wednesday to persuade a judge for a second time to dismiss criminal charges against the trio. Circuit Judge Terry Lewis did not immediately render a decision on the motions by attorneys for Sansom, Destin developer Jay Odom and Dr. Bob Richburg, former president of Northwest Florida State College.

Lewis earlier dropped official misconduct charges against all three men in connection with Sansom's efforts to secure additional and accelerated funding for a college building project that was to have doubled as an airplane hangar for use by Odom's company. Prosecutor Willie Meggs has refiled charged of grand theft and conspiracy to commit grand theft. 

Richburg's attorney, Hank Cox, said Meggs has failed to show that the facts in the case point to grand theft. "You can't criminalize conduct that happens every day in the Capitol over there," Cox told the judge. 

Meggs reviewed the history of the Legislature changing the legal definition of stealing, from "larceny" to "theft," and replied: "These three folks got together and said, 'Let's get this funded. Let's get it in the budget.' " By "endeavoring to use the property of the state of Florida," Meggs told the judge, the trio committed grand theft.

Sansom, in a courtroom directly across the street from where he once held one of the most powerful levers in state government, seemed relaxed and in good spirits, shaking reporters' hands. He referred questions to his attorney, Steve Dobson, who did not speculate as to whether the judge would once again dismiss the charges.

If Lewis does not drop the charges, the trial seems a long way off -- the judge set the next case management conference for May 19.


[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 11:30am]


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