Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Sansom and co-defendants seek dismissal of charges

TALLAHASSEE — In a courtroom within sight of the Capitol where he once reigned supreme, former House Speaker Ray Sansom and two co-defendants asked a judge Wednesday to drop criminal charges against them for a second time.

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis of Leon County did not indicate when he would rule on the request by Sansom, Destin developer Jay Odom and Bob Richburg, former president of Northwest Florida State College.

Their attorneys sharply criticized a decision by State Attorney Willie Meggs to file charges of grand theft and conspiracy to commit grand theft against them in connection with Sansom securing $6 million for a college building in Destin while he served as chairman of the House Budget Committee in 2007.

The new charges came from Meggs after Lewis dropped official misconduct charges against all three men in October.

In legislative documents, the project was known as the "Okaloosa Joint Use Emergency Response Workforce Center," but Meggs told the judge in court: "This was a misrepresented project from day one."

Meggs says that the three men conspired on a plan to allow the building to be used as a hangar so that Odom, a Sansom political ally and longtime campaign contributor, could store planes there.

"It's really frustrating for us, because the state just says to the press, 'It's a hangar for Jay Odom,' " said Sansom's attorney, Steve Dobson, "when in fact it is just what the Legislature said … you can't falsify a legislative appropriation."

Meggs responded that e-mails and other evidence clearly showed an intent to "use or obtain" state property for private use.

"The crime of theft occurred," Meggs said. "There was an intent to use property under false pretenses." He urged the judge to let the charges stand and allow a jury to weigh the facts and judge the three men's innocence or guilt.

Odom's attorney, Larry Simpson, attacked Meggs' allegation that the case involved a theft of "U.S. currency" and attacked Meggs' decision to file charges a second time.

"What Mr. Meggs has done is re-package an official misconduct case and present it as grand theft under the same identical facts," Simpson told the judge. "Nothing has really changed. He's just calling it something different."

Meggs mocked the notion that the building could store up to 40 sheriff's patrol cars during a hurricane, as some witnesses have asserted in pretrial statements. He said he called acting Okaloosa County Sheriff Ed Spooner, an old friend, who told him that 23 deputies are assigned to protect Destin.

"Do you give them all two cars?" Meggs said he asked Spooner, who according to the prosecutor replied: "I'm not storing any cars down there." Meggs also told the judge that Okaloosa County has an acting sheriff because the last sheriff "is in the penitentiary for theft. I just thought that was important for the court to know."

Sansom, Odom and Richburg sat in separate places during the hearing, which lasted more than an hour.

Sansom, who resigned his House seat in February to avoid a legislative ethics inquiry, referred questions to Dobson, but he seemed in good spirits, smiling and making small talk about the legislative session in its final days just across the street.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.

Sansom and co-defendants seek dismissal of charges 04/21/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 21, 2010 9:02pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Astros rout Yankees to force Game 7 of AL Championship Series


    HOUSTON — Justin Verlander pitched seven shutout innings to outduel Luis Severino for the second time, and the Astros bats came alive in their return home as Houston routed the Yankees 7-1 Friday night and forced a decisive Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

    The Astros’ Brian McCann, who has struggled during the ALCS, breaks a scoreless tie with an RBI double during the fifth inning off Yankees starter Luis Severino.
  2. Review: Faith Hill and Tim McGraw shower love, star power on Tampa's Amalie Arena


    Near the end of their potent new duet Break First, Tim McGraw stopped singing, and let Faith Hill's powerhouse voice take over.

    Faith Hill and Tim McGraw performed at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Oct. 20, 2017.
  3. Senate to take up AUMF debate as Trump defends reaction to Niger attack


    WASHINGTON — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is taking up a long-awaited debate about authorizing military force against the Islamic State as President Trump comes under unprecedented public scrutiny for his treatment of dead soldiers' families, following an ambush on troops helping to fight Islamic …

  4. In fear and vigilance, a Tampa neighborhood holds its breath


    TAMPA — There was a time, not long ago, when Wayne Capaz would go for a stroll at night and Christina Rodriguez would shop whenever she wanted. Michael Fuller would go to his night job as a line cook, not too worried about his wife at home.

    More than 50 people gathered and walked in the Southeast Seminole Heights community Friday to pay respects to the victims of three shootings. The crowd took a moment of silence at the corner of 11th Street and East New Orleans where Monica Hoffa was found dead. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  5. Fennelly: What's not to like about Lightning's start?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — No one is engraving the Stanley Cup. No one has begun stuffing the league MVP ballot box for Nikita Kucherov.

    The Lightning, with a win tonight, would match the best start in franchise history, 7-1-1 in the 2003-04 Cup season.