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Florida Rep. Ray Sansom lobs misconduct charge at state prosecutor, seeks to get charges dropped

State Rep. Ray Sansom accused a state prosecutor of misconduct Tuesday and asked that charges of misusing $6 million in taxpayer money be dismissed.

In a motion filed nearly three weeks after Sansom, R-Destin, and his co-defendants were charged with grand theft and conspiracy to commit grand theft, defense attorneys say a "disturbing pattern" emerged as the high-profile case has worked through the legal system.

The motion in Leon County Circuit Court accuses Leon County State Attorney Willie Meggs of illegally publishing a grand jury presentment; releasing grand jury testimony transcripts; "mishandling" witnesses and testimony; discouraging witnesses from cooperating with the defense; and "endangering the constitutional rights of the defendants by making unethical public comments about the case and defendants."

Meggs acknowledged that he released the grand jury testimony. But he said it was done by accident when he was away from the office and he took immediate steps to rectify the situation.

Three news organizations, including the St. Petersburg Times, got the transcripts. The Times placed the transcripts on its Web site but removed them once Meggs requested.

"I had no intent to violate this statute," Meggs said.

He disagreed with the other allegations and said he was confident that if the case goes to trial, he will prevail.

"My resolve is very strong. That's what our office does. We prosecute crimes."

Sansom originally had been charged with official misconduct over securing $6 million in state funding for a building at Destin Airport that a private developer had wanted to use for his corporate jet business.

Sansom said the building was an emergency training and response center to be operated by Northwest Florida State College. The former college president, Bob Richburg, and developer Jay Odom also have been charged.

When the official misconduct charges encountered legal snags in an appeals court, Meggs on Jan. 6 added grand theft and conspiracy to commit grand theft to the mix.

Tuesday, the defense filed the motion against Meggs, asking for the charges to be dismissed and that Meggs be taken off the case. It argues, among other things, that the grand jury presentment outlining the first charges should not have been released before Odom, who was not charged at first, had time to ask a court to review it "before suffering the public humiliation of its release."

The motion also accuses Meggs of improper conduct before the grand jury, stating that, rather than examining Richburg, Meggs "repeatedly argued to the grand jury that the building was obviously an aircraft hangar."

Statements Meggs made to the news media are also called "inflammatory and prejudicial." For example, Meggs said of Sansom's actions: "This is not his stinking money. It's our money."

A date has not been set to hear the motion.

The motion

To read Rep. Ray Sansom's request to have charges dismissed, go to links.tampabay.com.

Florida Rep. Ray Sansom lobs misconduct charge at state prosecutor, seeks to get charges dropped 01/26/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 26, 2010 9:28pm]
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