Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Kevin White's defense suggests money was for campaign, not bribes

TAMPA — Attorneys defending former Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin White at his public corruption trial spent the day Monday planting seeds.

Jurors heard testimony about his late father's failing health, struggles just to pay the rent and willingness to ask others for money. They heard about White helping constituents without asking for anything in return. And they were told of the practice of politicians doling out hundreds of dollars in cash — street money — to campaign workers.

The testimony was aimed at reinforcing the narrative lead defense attorney Grady Irvin Jr. laid out during opening statement last week: that his client's father, Gerald White Sr., instigated the events leading to his son's federal trial on bribery and fraud charges.

"The evidence is going to show Kevin White is a politician," Irvin said then. "That's all the evidence is going to show."

Irvin will attempt to assemble those nuggets into reasonable doubt when both sides make closing arguments today.

White, 46, faces 10 criminal counts. The federal government has accused him and his father of conspiring to accept $8,000 and a used Lincoln Navigator for helping tow truck drivers win licenses and a spot on rotating lists police use when they need a car impounded.

At the time, White served as chairman of the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, which regulates cars for hire and wreckers.

Nathan Hondrellis, whose father, George Hondrellis, is separately charged with attempting to bribe White through payments to Gerald White, said his father and Gerald White knew each other for years. The younger Hondrellis said he saw his father give Gerald White $2,000.

But he said the money was to help Gerald White cover mounting medical bills. Nathan Hondrellis said his father commonly gave others money and did so this time because the two were working toward opening a restaurant.

"He wasn't worried about getting repaid," he said.

Joseph Robinson, an engineer and friend of White's who has known his family, said the commissioner and his father were estranged for years. But that was the extent to which Irvin reinforced claims made in his opening statement that the elder White showed no interest in his illegitimate son until he became an elected official.

Robinson said he worked on Kevin White's campaign. He said White engaged in a common practice of handing out "street" or "pocket money" — cash to people who do things like wave signs outside polling sites.

"You carry cash with you and pay for those services," he said.

Irvin has suggested that some $6,000 White personally received from an undercover agent was given as campaign money. The prosecution has pointed out that the money was never reported.

White lost the Democratic primary last year.

U.S. District Judge James D. Whittemore rejected Irvin's request that jurors consider whether White was entrapped.

Irvin argued that White got involved after receiving repeated overtures from towing operator Peter Rockefeller, who was an informer, and an undercover FBI agent. He said the agent called White repeatedly, posing as a tow truck company investor offering campaign money for White's help with a license.

U.S. Attorney Robert O'Neill countered, and the judge agreed, that the defense failed to show White resisted the offer. Whittemore said recorded conversations suggest White was receptive.

The judge also rejected Irvin's request to have the four bribery counts tossed on grounds that the Public Transportation Commission does not receive federal money the law was meant to protect. The judge noted White was appointed by virtue of serving on the County Commission, and the county gets federal money.

Kevin White's defense suggests money was for campaign, not bribes 11/07/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 8, 2011 12:06am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Hillsborough approves miniscule cut to property tax rate, give $2 million to bus system


    TAMPA — Hillsborough County Commissioners on Thursday approved a decrease in the property tax rate for next year that will save most homeowners a little pocket change.

    Passengers are seen near a bus at Westfield-Brandon Transit Center Thursday, July 13 in Brandon. On Thursday, commissioners approved a $2 million one-time payment for the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority. ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times
  2. 5 things to know before Tampa Bay Comic Con this weekend


    Tampa Bay Comic Con returns to the Tampa Convention Center this weekend, expected to attract more than 55,000 like-minded nerds mingling with cosplayers, celebrities, artists and sellers of comic books and collectibles.

    Surrounded by the bridesmaids dressed as Disney princesses and groomsmen dressed as Marvel superheroes, Gwen Walter of Venice, Fla., kisses her husband, Shawn Walter, also of Venice, after their wedding ceremony on day two of the 2016 Tampa Bay Comic Con in the Tampa Convention Center on August 6, 2016. The pair got engaged at Megacon 2015 and were married wearing "Nightmare Before Christmas"-themed costumes. Two different couples were married in Room 24 on the second day of the Tampa Bay Comic Con 2016. ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times
  3. Baker releases endorsement of 40 Midtown pastors


    Rick Baker announced Thursday that he has the support of 40 Midtown pastors and religious leaders, evidence he says of his "overwhelming support" in a crucial part of the city.

  4. A Taste of Tampa Bay: Noble Crust in St. Petersburg

    Food & Dining

    Noble Crust opened on north 4th Street in St. Petersburg, an area light on ambitious restaurants, in 2015. Chef Rob Reinsmith and his team are serving up a blend of southern cuisine and Italian-style cooking, including the restaurant's signature fried chicken. The Noble Crust brand recently expanded beyond its St. …

    Pizza at Noble Crust. [Photo by MONICA HERNDON | TIMES]
  5. HomeTeam 100: Players 11-20


     Rising senior DE/TE Judge Culpepper (right) tackles OL Bryce Love during practice at Plant High School in Tampa, on Tuesday May 2, 2017.