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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Sansom taking 'The Fifth', so House lawyer wants grand jury testimony



Ray Sansom will refuse to speak at his House disciplinary hearing later this month, so the special prosecutor is going to court this morning to seek his grand jury testimony. But Sansom's lawyer said he will file a motion to block the release.

"I'd be pleased for anybody to read it but it's more important to protect our system of justice," said lawyer Steve Dobson, citing protections under the grand jury system and the ongoing criminal case.

Sansom, though, has long maintained his innocence and refusing to talk to his House colleagues or reveal what he told the grand jury could raise issues. House prosecutor Melanie Hines said she needs something to go on.

"Very simply, the grand jury testimony is the only sworn statement offered to date by Sansom," she wrote in a court motion to be heard at 10 a.m. "Undersigned counsel is precluded from obtaining Sansom's sworn testimony in discovery in the disciplinary proceeding based on Sansom's counsel's assertion that he will invoke the Fifth Amendment."

Hines noted that the circuit court already directed release of the transcript for trial purposes and said none of the secrecy rules set out  by the Florida Supreme Court applies to the Sansom case. Dobson disagrees.

"The grand jury investigation is over and the fact that Sansom testified before the grand jury has been made public by virtue of his perjury charges," Hines wrote. "There are no compelling public interests to be served by continuing to protect Sansom's testimony from disclosure, especially when balanced against the compelling public interest in utilizing his sworn grand jury testimony for discovery of the facts and as an admission of a party as authorized in the House proceedings."

Parts of Sansom's testimony has been released in court motions related to a perjury charge against him.

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis will have to decide whether to grant Hines' request.

Sansom's House hearing is to scheduled to begin Jan. 25. A previous investigator found probable cause he violated House rules through his dealings with Northwest Florida State College.

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 1:12pm]


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