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Florida Supreme Court rejects Crist's petition for grand jury to investigate corruption

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Charlie Crist's call for a statewide grand jury to investigate political corruption was rejected Monday by the Florida Supreme Court as too vague, so the governor's office quickly refiled its request.

By a 6-1 vote, the court issued a terse two-paragraph order dismissing Crist's petition on the ground that "the minimum requirements to impanel a statewide grand jury have not been established."

The court cited a requirement that the petition state the general crimes to be investigated "and shall state that said crimes or wrongs are of a multi-circuit nature."

Florida has 20 judicial circuits, most of which are composed of more than one county.

Three of the four justices appointed by Crist were in the majority. The fourth, Justice Charles Canady, was the lone dissenter.

Crist's amended petition included a lengthy list of specific crimes to be investigated and adds the following: "These crimes are of a multi-circuit nature, occurring in two or more judicial circuits."

The Republican governor, a candidate for U.S. Senate, called for the statewide grand jury on Oct. 14, citing a "rash of crimes" by public officials in Florida.

His action quickly followed a series of explosive public corruption cases, all in South Florida, including the indictments of prominent GOP fundraiser Alan Mendelsohn; Broward County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion; Broward School Board member Beverly Gallagher; and former Miramar City Commissioner Fitzroy Salesman.

Monday's court order may prove to be short-lived, but it marks the third time the state's highest court has handed Crist an unfavorable decision. The court previously rejected Crist's gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida and told the governor he had to pick an appeals court judge from a list of finalists submitted to him by a nominating panel.

The grand jury corruption probe would be led by Statewide Prosecutor Bill Shepherd, who reports to Attorney General Bill McCollum.

"Florida has seen too many cases of political corruption and our statewide prosecutor stands ready to act if a statewide grand jury is convened," McCollum said in a statement.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at bousquet@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.

Florida Supreme Court rejects Crist's petition for grand jury to investigate corruption 11/30/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 30, 2009 11:25pm]
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