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Prosecutor plans revamped Sansom criminal case

A state prosecutor said Monday that he is convinced Rep. Ray Sansom misused tax dollars and will continue to press the criminal case against him.

"I think sometimes we need to get back down to basic fundamentals of life," Leon County State Attorney Willie Meggs said. "This is not his stinking money. It's our money. It's not his to give away; it's his to manage. I believe he mismanaged it."

A grand jury indicted Sansom, R-Destin, for allegedly directing $6 million for an airplane building that developer Jay Odom wanted to use for his corporate jet business.

The ousted House speaker denies wrongdoing and said the building at Destin Airport was solely for an emergency management and training facility to be operated by a local college where Sansom would later take an unadvertised $110,000 job.

As the House's top budget writer, Sansom directed about $35 million in extra or accelerated funding to Northwest Florida State College.

Part of the felony official misconduct charge against Sansom was dismissed by a judge who said it was unconstitutional and overly broad when applied to lawmakers.

Defense attorneys argued it would have a chilling effect on the Legislature and asserted there was a separation of powers.

Meggs appealed but last week the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee dismissed the plea. The court agreed with defense attorneys who argued an appeal could not be heard while part of the case remained in circuit court.

Meggs sounded dispirited last week, saying the matter remaining in circuit court was only part of the larger picture of alleged corruption. But on Monday, he met with his legal team and said he was planning a revamped approach.

"I still believe it is wrong to take taxpayer money, run it through the college program, and build a hangar for a major political supporter and contributor," he said. "There's just something within me that says that's wrong,"

Sansom and his attorney have said they are confident he will be exonerated.

Also charged with official misconduct were Odom and former college president Bob Richburg. Sansom has also been indicted on a perjury charge that was left intact by the circuit court judge.

Alex Leary can be reached at leary@sptimes.com.

Prosecutor plans revamped Sansom criminal case 01/04/10 [Last modified: Monday, January 4, 2010 11:09pm]
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