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Legislator pays fine, avoids jail time

A Miami legislator escaped a threatened jail term Friday by paying a $200 fine and answering questions about his finances.

Rep. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, 30, had faced fines and penalties totaling $7,500 from an Elections Commission case for failing to file his campaign finance report. The commission ordered the legislator to pay $3,872 in fines in April 1994. When Diaz de la Portilla didn't pay, the commission went to Leon Circuit Court for a judgment.

The commission had ordered Diaz de la Portilla to answer questions that would enable the commission to seize his assets and recover the fines. He refused, and Judge L. Ralph Smith Jr. ordered him to comply. After Diaz de la Portilla and his attorney failed to show up for a court hearing May 24, Smith Jr. found Diaz de la Portilla in contempt and ordered the fines. Counting the elections commission fine, court costs and interest, he owed more than $7,500.

Diaz de la Portilla's lawyer, Anibal J. Duarte-Viera, said Smith revised his order Thursday and allowed the legislator to purge a bench warrant for his arrest with a $200 fine. The rest of the elections law case is pending at the Elections Commission.

Diaz de la Portilla, who is attending a conference in Austin, Texas, could not be reached for comment.

"I think this is all politically based," Duarte-Viera said. "I think we've been handpicked."