Sunday, December 17, 2017
News Roundup

Lawyer suggests Charlie Crist's memory foggy because of too much wine

TALLAHASSEE — Perhaps it was the wine that made some Republicans forget details of events involving former party chairman Jim Greer. Or maybe it was Greer who drank the wine and was mis-remembering.

Those suggestions were tossed around among lawyers as they put former Gov. Charlie Crist under oath last year to ask him about a series of conversations he had with Greer and others as Greer took over party fundraising in 2009.

Crist, a lawyer, former legislator, education commissioner, attorney general and governor, said it was his first time to be questioned under oath in a deposition, a remarkable thing for a man who has spent most of his adult life in politics.

Many of the other witnesses that have been questioned under oath also suffered from a failure to recall details of Greer's fundraising activity.

The issue is a critical one as Greer faces trial in Orlando on Monday for secretly creating Victory Strategies, a company that collected about $200,000 from the GOP in 2009. He is accused of multiple counts of theft and fraud and faces a maximum of 75 years in prison if convicted.

The questions to Crist on June 26, 2012, were posed by Greer's lawyer, Damon Chase. Greer and Chase insist Crist and others knew Greer had created Victory Strategies. A transcript of the deposition was made public this week after it was placed in Greer's court file.

Crist said he had never heard of Victory Strategies until he read it in a newspaper. And he didn't know that Greer had collected money over and above his $130,000 a year salary until a criminal investigation began in 2010.

One by one, Chase confronted Crist with statements he says were made by Greer and others who say the governor knew about the additional payments to Greer and approved of them.

Asked if lobbyist Brian Ballard was telling the truth when he said that Crist knew about the extra compensation for Greer and Delmar Johnson, the party's executive director: "I don't believe that is truthful,'' Crist responded.

Asked about similar claims made by GOP finance chair Harry Sargeant III and party consultant Jay Burmer, Crist again disagreed: "It did not happen."

Over and over, when asked about individual conversations with Greer, Crist said he could not recall the discussion Chase was suggesting. Crist didn't recall asking Greer to make Jason Gonzalez the party's general counsel, he did not recall suggesting that former fundraiser Meredith O'Rourke be kept off planes he was on, or any one of a number of other things Chase suggested Crist should know.

At one point, Chase suggested that Crist couldn't recall conversations he had with Greer several years ago "because he was drinking too much wine'' at events where Greer was charging the food and drink to the party.

Chase wanted to know how much wine the former governor consumes on any given evening.

"Well it sounds like if your client (Greer) was buying all the wine, he was drunk and doesn't remember what happened," suggested Crist's attorney, John Morgan. Morgan is the founder of Morgan & Morgan, the firm where Crist now works.

Morgan also accused Chase of "character assassination by inference.''

In the end the lawyers agreed to leave the wine drinking issue for a later discussion so a judge could decide whether Crist needs to itemize his wine drinking habits.

Crist rejected suggestions that he had asked his former chief of staff to deliver copies of Sen. Marco Rubio's Republican Party credit card receipts to a Miami Herald reporter and said he couldn't recall instructing Greer to deliver them to the Tampa Bay Times and Tampa Tribune.

"Is it possible that you did?'' Chase asked.

"It's possible,'' Crist responded.

Crist also didn't recall telling Tony Carbonetti, a New York visitor to South Florida, that he would endorse Rudy Guiliani in the 2008 presidential campaign. He did recall interviewing his former chief of staff, George LeMieux before appointing him to the U.S. Senate and admitted they discussed whether LeMieux would run for a full term because Crist planned to run. Crist did run and lost to Rubio.

Morgan and assistant statewide prosecutor Michael Williams repeatedly objected to the political questions, suggesting they have nothing to do with the charges against Greer.

Another statement taken in August 2010 from Travis Lawson, a Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent assigned to the investigation, was released Thursday.

Lawson noted that most GOP officials and employees he interviewed in March 2010 did not know that Greer had any ownership interest in Victory Strategies. Several GOP employees had begun asking questions about the corporation in mid-2009 and Johnson and Greer denied having any interest in it, Lawson said.

In another deposition released Thursday, party CFO Richard Swarttz described Greer as "a crook,'' a "bully,'' "egotistical'' and a big spending chairman despite the fact that party finances were "poor'' in the fall of 2009 after Greer and Johnson took over fundraising.

Swarttz said party fundraising dropped from $5.9 million in 2007 and $4.7 million in 2008 when O'Rourke was the chief fundraiser to about $1.3 million in 2009.

Correction: Former Gov. Charlie Crist had never been questioned in a deposition. An earlier version of this story was incorrect.

Comments
Why Jon Gruden was the best mistake the Bucs ever made

Why Jon Gruden was the best mistake the Bucs ever made

Warren Sapp pointed to the sky. And then he dropped Kurt Warner to the ground.The Bucs had just intercepted Warner for the fourth time. Sapp’s block cleared the way for Derrick Brooks to cross the goal line and clinch the win.Before Tampa Bay p...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Crash closes Lutz Lake Fern Road at Cypress Green Drive

LUTZ — Lutz Lake Fern Road is closed in both directions at Cypress Green Drive after a crash Sunday morning, deputies reported.The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the crash, said HCSO spokesman Danny Alvarez.Stay with tampabay.c...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Woman, 24, hit by Land Rover, in critical condition

LARGO — A 24-year-old woman is in critical condition after she was struck by a vehicle Saturday night, police said.Khadijah Wood was walking through the parking lot of the Sandy Lane Apartment Homes on Belcher Road about 7:30 p.m.At the same time, Ju...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Warm, sunny Sunday in Tampa Bay

ST. PETERSBURG — It’s another bright, sunny day in Tampa Bay. 10News WTSPThe latest Tampa Bay-area radar 10News WTSPFeels-like temperatures around the Tampa Bay areaHigh temperatures should reach about 80 d...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Murder suspect is on the run after fatally shooting a father, cops say

Murder suspect is on the run after fatally shooting a father, cops say

A first-degree murder suspect remains at large almost a week after the fatal shooting of a Winter Haven father.The Polk County Sheriff’s Office says Johnny Ray Owsley’s murder of 35-year-old Adam Thrower, called "Cook" by friends, involved Owsley’s e...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Lightning wins at Avalanche with four-goal second period

Lightning wins at Avalanche with four-goal second period

DENVER — The Lightning left for Las Vegas Saturday for the first of four nights in Sin City.But Tampa Bay’s first regret came before it boarded the charter flight; the Lighting lamented making Saturday’s 6-5 win over the Avalanche much more thrilling...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Bucs’ Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David out for Monday’s game vs. Falcons

TAMPA — As if containing All-Pro Julio Jones and the Falcons offense isn’t challenging enough, the Bucs will try to do so Monday night without perhaps their top defensive players, tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David.On Saturday, Bucs coa...
Published: 12/16/17
Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’

Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’

WASHINGTON — Closing in on the first major legislative achievement of his term, President Donald Trump on Saturday defended the Republican tax cut as a good deal for the middle class while boldly suggesting it could lead to explosive economic growth....
Published: 12/16/17
Aquarium reopens to divers

Aquarium reopens to divers

Florida Keys News BureauVisitors to Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters dive with among indigenous Keys fish Friday in Marathon. The attraction reopened Friday after closing just before Hurricane Irma hit the Florida Keys on Sept. 10. Although tourism f...
Published: 12/16/17
Florida moves to control booming, invasive iguanas

Florida moves to control booming, invasive iguanas

MIAMI — With burrowing iguanas showing up in people’s toilets and damaging expensive sewer lines, Florida wildlife managers are stepping up efforts to control the state’s booming population of the wild, invasive reptiles. The Florida Fish and Wildlif...
Published: 12/16/17