Friday, November 17, 2017
Public safety

Judge in Jim Greer case declares potentially embarrassing witness statements public record

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There is a bit of bad news for some of the witnesses slated to testify at the trial of former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer.

A four-page report that apparently includes some embarrassing accusations against witnesses is a public record, says Orlando Circuit Judge Marc L. Lubet in an order released Monday.

The judge also refused to limit the records that Greer can subpoena from the state party saying the records are likely to be relevant and favorable to his defense. Greer will have to pay reasonable costs for the documents.

Greer faces trial in November on federal charges of money laundering and grand theft in connection with money he obtained from his secret involvement in a company that handled fundraising for the party in 2009.

Orlando attorney Richard E. Hornsby asked the court to seal the record to avoid violating the privacy of "interested persons'' who were not charged. He would not identify the client who hired him.

During a hearing earlier this month the judge read a list of potential witnesses who might be harmed by the report, including Brian Ballard, a lobbyist and GOP fundraiser; former GOP executive director Delmar Johnson; former finance chairman Harry Sargeant; and Dane Eagle, a House candidate and former aide to Gov. Charlie Crist.

Assistant Statewide Prosecutor Michael Williams said he expects to call all but possibly Eagle.

After reviewing the report, the judge said it is all hearsay and he's not sure whether it would be admissible in court, but some of it could be used to impeach the testimony or show the bias of certain witnesses. The judge said some of the things included in the report could well cause defense attorney Damon Chase to change some of his trial strategy.

Law enforcement reports released so far include comments from two witnesses who described gatherings Greer had "for men only.'' One witness said one of the gatherings took place in the Bahamas and she heard "women were involved and paid.''

"I don't know anything,'' Eagle said. As a travel aide to Crist, Eagle said he did accompany Greer, the governor and about 100 GOP donors on a fundraising trip to the Bahamas but did not see anything out of the way.

"I was on those trips, but I kept to myself unless I was needed,'' Eagle added.

Ballard said he has not seen the document in question and does not know what is in it. He says he did not hire a lawyer to block its release. He was on the trip to the Bahamas.

"I roomed with the governor of Florida and FDLE agents were in the same cottage,'' Ballard said. "I didn't see anything at all.''

In his written order, the judge said Chase cannot circumvent the public records law by "picking and choosing those records he wants the State to disclose.''

Prosecutors have seven days to release the report.

Hornsby said he is reviewing the judge's order and may appeal but he would not identify his clients.

"They are just some people who have been brought into this and they want to keep their names out of it,'' he said.

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