A former Hillsborough circuit judge convicted of bribery and extortioncannot file an appeal arguing that he was punished twice for the same crime, the state Supreme Court said Thursday.
In 1985, former Hillsborough Chief Circuit Judge Arden Mays Merckle was sentenced to five years in prison and a $12,000 fine after being convicted of four counts of bribery, extortion, official misbehavior and receiving unlawful compensation.
Richard P. Hope offered a $25,000 bribe in the case of his nephew, David Hope III, who was accused of selling 100 pounds of marijuana to undercover Tampa police, the younger Hope testified. In exchange, David Hope was allowed to plead guilty and was given seven years of probation rather than a prison term.
Merckle had argued that all four of his convictions stemmed from the same crime and that that constitutes double jeopardy.
Double jeopardy refers to a person's constitutional right to be punished no more than once for one crime.
Merckle was released from prison in August 1988 after serving a little more than 11 months of his sentence. He had resigned in 1983 and had been disbarred in 1986 for an unrelated case in which he improperly reduced a cocaine defendant's sentence as a favor.
The Supreme Court ruled 6-0 in striking an appellate court decision allowing the appeal based on Merckle's double jeopardy argument.
Justice Stephen Grimes did not participate in the case.