Sunday, December 17, 2017
Public safety

Trial of former state GOP chair Jim Greer postponed until mid November

ORLANDO — A judge on Thursday delayed the criminal trial for former state GOP chairman Jim Greer until mid November, sparing Florida Republicans the embarrassment of intense scrutiny of the party's inner-workings just weeks before Tampa hosts the Republican National Convention.

Orlando Circuit Judge Marc Lubet ordered a continuance so Greer's lawyer, Damon Chase, can review documents he is subpoenaing from the Republican Party of Florida.

Chase said he wants to be sure he can review any emails, notes, memos and reports that mention Victory Strategies LLC, the company Greer is accused of using to get almost $200,000 out of the party. The party's attorney, Stephen Dobson, said emails for Delmar Johnson, the party's former executive director, alone numbered around 70,000.

Greer had been scheduled to face trial on July 30.

A request of that size should have been made two years ago, Lubet said, when Greer was arrested in his home on charges of money laundering and multiple counts of fraud. Chase agreed but argued he should get the extension because he took over as Greer's lead attorney in June.

"I do not want to try this case more than once," Lubet repeated. "It's getting way too long for Mr. Greer and the state."

Lawyers groaned about the new trial date — the week of Nov. 12, which will straddle Thanksgiving — but acknowledged they too want to bring the ordeal to a finite close.

"Jim has been absolutely adamant, 'Let's get this thing done, let's get this thing done,' " Chase told reporters. "It's certainly a setback ... but it's the way things had to be."

Lubet agreed with Dobson that the party needs time to inspect the documents for privileged information, and that Greer should pay for the costs of his request.

"I hope your client is well-funded," Lubet said.

"He is not," Chase said.

Judge Lubet delayed a decision on two more requests in Chase's subpoena. He is asking for a slew of party fundraising and consulting contracts over 10 years.

Lubet also will decide whether the public and the media should have access to a salacious-sounding four-page interview taken from a witness. Richard Hornsby, an Orlando defense lawyer representing two unnamed witnesses, tried Thursday to prevent it from being shared with the defense. Lubet took a break to read over the document and decided the state must release it to Greer. He said he will examine case law as to whether it should be shielded from public view because of, in Hornsby's words, its defamatory nature.

An attorney representing the Associated Press argued it should not.

Greer had no comment. He left his seat at the defense table during breaks to confer with and comfort his wife, who is eight months pregnant with the couple's daughter.

They plan to name her Hope.

Katie Sanders can be reached at [email protected]

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