Sunday, December 17, 2017
News Roundup

Panhandle developer pleads guilty over Mike Huckabee's false campaign reports

TALLAHASSEE — Panhandle developer Jay Odom pleaded guilty Tuesday to causing presidential candidate Mike Huckabee to file false campaign reports in 2007.

A second charge of laundering $23,000 in contributions to Huckabee will be dropped by prosecutors. Odom was charged with reimbursing 10 donors who each gave the $2,300 maximum contribution to the candidate.

The longtime contributor to the Republican Party of Florida and many GOP candidates appeared before U.S. District Judge Lacey Collier in Pensacola. His sentencing was scheduled for April 23. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.

Odom, 56, is being prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice's Public Integrity Section, a situation that generally means it is part of a broader public corruption investigation but prosecutors will not comment on what else they may be investigating.

The plea, offered just weeks after he was indicted, brings Odom's prosecution to an unusually quick finish and included a decision by prosecutors to drop a second charge. A written plea agreement between Odom, his lawyers and prosecutors does not block the IRS or other agencies from seeking civil penalties and does not mention cooperation in any future investigation.

Odom of Destin frequently provided his private jet to public officials and candidates. Former House Speaker Ray Sansom was a frequent flier on Odom's airplanes and was indicted along with Odom and former Northwest Florida College president Bob Richburg on charges that arose from a $6 million budget appropriation made by Sansom in 2007.

The charges were dropped by Leon County State Attorney Willie Meggs after a judge limited some of the evidence that could be used against them. Sansom resigned his speakership in the midst of the investigation.

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