Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

State attorney calls Ray Sansom case one of 'theft'

Former state House Speaker Ray Sansom listens during court proceedings on Wednesday in Tallahassee.

Associated Press

Former state House Speaker Ray Sansom listens during court proceedings on Wednesday in Tallahassee.

TALLAHASSEE — Former House Speaker Ray Sansom and two co-defendants returned to state court Wednesday hoping to persuade a judge to drop felony charges of grand theft and conspiracy to commit grand theft, and avoid the spectacle of a trial.

Sansom, Destin developer Jay Odom and former Northwest Florida State College president Bob Richburg face criminal charges of misusing $6 million in taxpayer money for a proposed building on the school's campus in Destin. All three have denied wrongdoing.

In court, attorneys for the men emphasized that the project was a legitimate and routine expenditure for college classrooms as well as a staging area for emergency operations during hurricanes, not an airplane hangar for one of Odom's businesses, as the state claims. The state says Odom needed hangar space to store airplanes for his company, Destin Jet.

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis listened impassively throughout the laborious 21/2-hour hearing, during which defense lawyers read lengthy passages of statements from Destin officials defending the building as necessary to protect the isolated beachfront city.

Lewis did not indicate when he will rule on the motions.

Sansom's lawyer, Steve Dobson, said it is undisputed that the building would serve "instructional purposes and to service first responders in the city of Destin in the event of a hurricane," with room for fire trucks, Gulf Power equipment and up to 40 patrol cars from the Okaloosa County sheriff's office. Dobson ridiculed the prosecution for characterizing the building as "this stinking hangar for Jay Odom."

"I'm representing a man who I believe with all of my heart did something that was completely legal and completely good for his community," Dobson told the judge. "Mr. Sansom was trying to represent his community."

State Attorney Willie Meggs strongly defended the state's case. He cited the 2007 "smoking gun" e-mail from Richburg to Sansom and copied to Odom that said; "A lease will need to be developed for Jay to use some of the facility."

"From the start, these three people were in a conspiracy to build a building for the use of Jay Odom to do his maintenance," Meggs told the judge. "At some point in time, these motions to dismiss must stop. … We're just arguing and arguing."

"What we're talking about here is theft," Meggs told the judge, as he pleaded to let a jury determine their guilt or innocence.

Last month, Meggs dropped a perjury count against Sansom, and defense lawyers have sought sanctions against the longtime prosecutor, saying he has abused his position by leaking confidential documents to the news media.

Sansom, wearing a charcoal gray suit, chewing a stick of gum and sporting a suntan, sat in his familiar front-row bench seat in Courtroom 3A in the Leon County Courthouse, just across the street from the state Capitol where Sansom once held sway over billions in state spending. He is the only House speaker in Florida history to be ousted.

As the hearing ended he said, "Maybe soon I can talk. Not yet."

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

State attorney calls Ray Sansom case one of 'theft' 06/16/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 16, 2010 10:32pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Review: Mumford and Sons shower Amalie Arena with love in euphoric Tampa debut

    Blogs

    There are releases, and then there are releases. And minutes into their concert Wednesday at Amalie Arena, Mumford and Sons gave Tampa the latter.

    Mumford and Sons performed at Tampa's Amalie Arena on Sept. 20, 2017.
  2. FEMA to open disaster recovery center in Riverview

    Hurricanes

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it will open a disaster recovery center Thursday in Riverview for Hillsborough County residents impacted by Hurricane Irma.

  3. Life sentence for man convicted in killing of brother of Bucs' Kwon Alexander

    Bucs

    An Alabama man who shot and killed the 17-year-old brother of Bucs linebacker Kwon Alexander in 2015 was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday, the Anniston (Ala.) Star reported.

  4. Remember him? Numbers prove Ben Zobrist is one of greatest Rays of all time

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The first foray back to the Trop by the best manager the Rays have had obscured the second return visit by arguably the second-best player in franchise history.

    Figures.

    Chicago Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist (18) grounds into a double play to end the top of the third inning of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017.
  5. GOP's new repeal bill would likely leave millions more uninsured, analyses suggest

    Health

    WASHINGTON — The latest Republican bid to roll back the Affordable Care Act would likely leave millions of currently insured Americans without health coverage in the coming decades, and strip benefits and protections from millions more, a growing number of independent studies suggest.

    Vice President Mike Pence listens as President Donald Trump talks to reporters about the Graham-Cassidy health care bill during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, in New York. [Evan Vucci | Associated Press]