Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Judge may allow questioning of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll in secret taping case

TALLAHASSEE — A Leon County judge ruled Thursday that attorneys for a former aide of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll could investigate the governor's office if they can prove the information they seek is relevant to a case that has spiraled into allegations of illegal taping, a sex scandal and an arson at the state Capitol.

The defense team for Carletha Cole, a criminally charged one-time aide to Carroll, has been trying to question Carroll and members of her staff after claiming that the governor's office was plagued by sexual improprieties, illegal audio recording and infighting.

Lawyers for Gov. Rick Scott's office got involved in Cole's illegal taping case, asking a judge to enter an order barring Cole's defense team from "harassing" Carroll, or using the legal system to smear her in the media.

Circuit court Judge Frank Sheffield reached for a compromise Thursday, saying he would allow the questioning, but only if Cole's defense team convinced him that it was relevant and not a "fishing expedition."

"If he can give me a reason to depose the lieutenant governor, I'm going to let him depose her," Sheffield said of Cole's defense attorney, Stephen Webster. "I'm not going to let people hide behind their office if they're involved in a case. On the other hand, just because she's the lieutenant governor, I'm not going to allow him to depose her if it's just a fishing expedition."

Lawyers from the Leon County state attorney's office and Scott's office say Cole's probe — which includes subpoenas for surveillance videos, hotel records and text messages — is an attempt to slander Carroll.

Cole, 49, is fighting a third degree felony charge that she distributed an illegally taped recording to a Florida Times-Union reporter. She was fired last year from her role as Carroll's aide, and faces up to five years in prison if convicted.

Cole's lawyers have fought back against the charges by saying that Carroll's office had a culture of covert audio taping, and the lieutenant governor has been gunning for Cole ever since Cole walked in on her in a sexually "compromising position" with a travel aide. Carroll has denied the allegations.

Cole's attorneys also allege that the travel aide, Beatriz Ramos, set a trash can ablaze near Cole's desk in the state Capitol, and Carroll used her position to smother an investigation into the fire.

In August, Cole's defense team demanded that the governor's office turn over loads of information — hotel records, surveillance tapes from Carroll's office, a "smart pen" allegedly used by Carroll's chief of staff to secretly record conversations and audio tapes. It also called Carroll, her chief of staff John Konkus, Ramos and other staff members in for depositions.

The state attorney and the governor's office, in court filings, each objected to the probes, painting Cole as a disgruntled employee using salacious allegations to carry out a bitter grudge.

"Litigation of a criminal case is not license to wage a personal vendetta, as appears to be the case here," Leon County state attorney Willie Meggs wrote in a motion to quash Cole's inquiries.

Webster denied the charge, saying Carroll interjected herself into the case.

"She is directly involved in this case, whether she likes in or not," he said.

Sheffield urged Cole's attorneys not to try the case in the media, but said both parties needed to move the "simple" third degree felony case along without additional delays.

"This case is getting way out of hand," Sheffield said, before deciding not to quash the subpoenas.

Judge may allow questioning of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll in secret taping case 10/11/12 [Last modified: Friday, October 12, 2012 8:46am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pasco delays Irma food distribution after problems elsewhere

    Local Government

    DADE CITY — Pasco County has pulled the plug on a planned Food for Florida distribution at the Land O'Lakes Recreation Center that had been scheduled to open to the public on Sunday.

    Pasco County has postponed a planned Food for Florida distribution at the Land O' Lakes Recreation Center on Collier Parkway and is seeking an alternative site. Last week, commissioners said they feared a repeat of the long lines of traffic that appeared outside Plant City Stadium on Oct. 9. The nutrition program for people affected by Hurricane Irma had been scheduled to come to Land O' Lakes Oct. 18 to 27.  [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  2. Editorial: UF can set example for free speech

    Editorials

    White nationalist Richard Spencer is bringing his racist message Thursday to the University of Florida in a legitimate, if utterly repugnant, display of the First Amendment at work. As a public university, UF has little choice but to allow Spencer's speech to take place. Now the university and the broader community has …

    By responding with peaceful protests and refusing to be provoked into violence, UF and the Gainesville community can provide a powerful repudiation of Richard Spencer’s hateful message.
  3. Percussionist rocks out with a blazing triangle solo during Florida Orchestra performance (w/video)

    Blogs

    Oh, the poor triangle. It's the orchestra equivalent of a rock band's tamborine, and such easy fodder for jokes.

    John Shaw performs a triangle solo.
  4. Amazon expands in Tampa with Pop-Up shop in International Plaza

    Retail

    TAMPA — A new retailer known largely for its online presence has popped up at International Plaza and Bay Street.

    Shoppers walk past the new Amazon kiosk Tuesday at the International Plaza in Tampa. The kiosk, which opened last month, offers shoppers an opportunity to touch and play with some of the products that Amazon offers.
[CHRIS URSO   |   Times]

  5. Andy Serkis' directing debut 'Breathe' is not so inspiring

    Movies

    After such a revolutionary acting career, Andy Serkis should be expected to make an equally inventive directing debut. Breathe is anything but that.

    Clare Foy and Andrew Garfield star in Breathe as Robin and Diana Cavendish, an English polio victim and his devoted wife, who pioneered disability rights and wheelchairs with ventilators. [Imaginarium]