Make us your home page

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 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

  1. Philippines forces make gains in city under siege by ISIS-linked militants

    MARAWI, Philippines — Philippine forces say they now control most of a southern city where militants linked to the Islamic State group launched a bloody siege nearly a week ago.

  2. Rays exhausted but happy after 15-inning win over Twins (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — Before the Rays eventually won Sunday's 6½-hour, 15-inning marathon against the Twins 8-6, they did plenty to lose it. And we need to get that out of the way first.

    The Rays’ Evan Longoria enjoys a laugh after scoring, barely, to tie it in the ninth on Steven Souza Jr.’s two-out single.
  3. Tom Jones' Two Cents: ABC's Indy 500 coverage is stellar again

    TV and Radio

    Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

    Best coverage

    Takuma Sato left, celebrates after winning the Indianapolis 500 as Helio Castroneves is a little late passing him. ABC’s coverage of the race is stellar throughout, with plenty of extras but no fake drama.
  4. Takuma Sato surprise winner of wreck-filled Indy 500

    Auto racing

    INDIANAPOLIS — Takuma Sato, a journeyman driver, became the first Japanese winner of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday when he held off three-time champion Helio Castroneves in a 230-mph wheel-rubbing duel to the finish.

    Scott Dixon’s car goes over the top of Jay Howard, soaring so high that Helio Castroneves drove under it while it was airborne. Stunningly, there were no serious injuries.
  5. South Korea military: North Korea fires unidentified projectile


    SEOUL — North Korea launched a ballistic missile early today that flew 280 miles and landed in Japan's exclusive economic zone, the South Korean military and the Japanese government said.

    S. Korean President Moon Jae-in is assessing the launch.