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Jim Greer's lawyer says he'll put Florida's most powerful GOP politicos on the stand

ORLANDO — A criminal defense attorney for ousted Florida GOP chairman Jim Greer on Monday promised to make defense witnesses of some of the most powerful men in Florida politics — Gov. Charlie Crist, Attorney General Bill McCollum and state Republican chief John Thrasher.

J. Cheney Mason also said he'll depose prospective Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, and soon-to-be Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolis, R-Merritt Island. Greer, his lawyer said, was the victim of right-wing conservatives who turned against Crist, the man who picked Greer to head the state party, and decided to punish the governor by ruining Greer.

"I believe we'll be able to prove Jim Greer is not guilty whatsoever," Mason said.

Greer, 48, of Oviedo, was indicted in May by a statewide grand jury that charged him with six felonies, including theft, organized fraud and money laundering. Records released by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Office of Statewide Prosecution accuse Greer of funneling $125,000 from the state party into his personal bank accounts.

Greer was not at Monday's Orlando news conference, and Mason would not discuss the evidence against Greer, much of which splashed into the news last week as prosecutors released to the public hundreds of pages of documents — the nuts and bolts of their case.

Instead, Mason denounced state GOP officials and their motives, especially McCollum, whose Office of Statewide Prosecution handled the grand jury investigation and is now trying to convict Greer.

In the next 10 days, Mason said, he would ask Orange Circuit Judge Marc Lubet to disqualify the Office of Statewide Prosecution. Mason said McCollum, a candidate for governor, has "severe conflicts of interest."

McCollum was a Greer favorite and recipient of state party money, but shortly after the first of the year, when party leaders learned that a Greer-owned company was getting part of every major contribution to the Republican Party of Florida, McCollum, Cannon and Haridopolis helped force him out.

McCollum then called for a criminal investigation.

On June 2, the day Greer was arrested, William Shepherd, head of the Office of Statewide Prosecution, told reporters that McCollum had no conflict.

"We are a separate, independent constitutional entity," Shepherd said of the Office of Statewide Prosecution. "I have not spoken to the attorney general since this case began."

Gerald Bailey, head of the FDLE, the agency that did the investigative legwork, said that same day that McCollum wasn't his boss, that the governor and Cabinet are.

Former state GOP executive director Delmar Johnson III of Winter Garden has agreed to testify against Greer in exchange for immunity. According to state records, he pocketed $65,000, money he has agreed to repay.

Mason today called Johnson "a little marionette for the prosecution. His deal calls for him to say what they want him to say, when they want him to say it."

Jim Greer's lawyer says he'll put Florida's most powerful GOP politicos on the stand 07/05/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 6, 2010 10:56am]
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