The fraud case against the ousted chairman of the Republican Party of Florida started to take its toll on top GOP officials this week when Jim Greer's lawyers started putting party officials and politicians under oath.
Greer's lawyer predicted his client might not even go to trial after he took the depositions of House Speaker Dean Cannon, state Sen. John Thrasher, a party lawyer and a legal consultant.
"I don't think this'll get that far. This case should be dismissed," said Greer's lawyer, Cheney Mason, who added a trial — if it happens — won't take place until next year.
Greer was arrested in June 2010 on six felony fraud and money-laundering charges for allegedly setting up what prosecutors say was a straw company, "Victory Strategies," which became the party's sole fundraising company when Greer was chairman. But Mason said the arrangement was legal and saved the party money, "so no one was defrauded."
At the center of the depositions and Greer's defense is a Jan. 4, 2010, $123,750 severance agreement with Greer that was signed by Cannon, Thrasher and party lawyer Jason Gonzalez and other Republican honchos. One draft of the document, written partly by Gonzalez, specifically mentioned Victory Strategies. The final draft didn't mention the company.
But the final document's wording supports Greer's defense.
"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.
Gonzalez didn't comment about his testimony and, Mason said, refused to answer more than half his questions, citing attorney-client privilege.
Coupled with the severance agreement, Mason said, Gonzalez's testimony would doom the prosecution's case.
"It was cute because Dean Cannon did defer some questions saying, 'you'll have to ask Mr. Gonzalez.' And Thrasher sometimes said, 'you'll have to ask Mr. Gonzalez.' And when we asked Mr. Gonzalez, he said 'Well, it's attorney-client privilege. It's protected. We can't disclose it,' " Mason said.
"You know what, thank you very much," Mason said he felt like telling Gonzalez. "Wait till I get your behind in front of a jury."
Mason knows a thing or two about juries. He successfully helped defend Casey Anthony.
Mason said Cannon agreed Greer should've gotten paid under the severance contract they signed. But Cannon said he was unaware of Greer's involvement in Victory Strategies.
"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," Cannon spokeswoman Katie Betta said.
Sen. Thrasher, who succeeded Greer as party chairman, said he was interviewed only about the severance deal. "I don't see how the contract gets him off," he 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)."
After deposing legal consultant John Harris, Mason said the law firm that set up Victory Strategies unlawfully gave privileged information about the company and Greer to prosecutors.
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 party executive director Delmar Johnson, gave permission to disclose the documents. Greer's lawyers, though, say it was impermissible without Greer's signoff. They have asked Orange-Osceola Circuit Judge Marc Lubet to throw out aspects of the case. Mason said Greer might even take the stand.
"I know he certainly would want to testify," Mason said. "And there's a bunch of people who certainly will not want him to take the stand."