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Thomas D. O'Malley, impeached in 1970s, dies in Port St. Lucie

Published Sep. 13, 2005

Thomas D. O'Malley, one of Florida's most powerful politicians until he was impeached and later sent to prison on public corruption charges, has died at age 64.

Mr. O'Malley, former insurance commissioner and state treasurer, died Saturday in a Port St. Lucie hospital. The cause of death has not been determined, a spokesman for the All County Funeral Home in Stuart said Tuesday.

Mr. O'Malley, who lived in Palm City near Stuart for the past five years, had a long history of heart trouble.

Elected to the state Cabinet in 1970, Mr. O'Malley was indicted four years later on charges of extorting campaign contributions from the insurance companies he regulated. Re-elected in November 1974, he resigned the following July after being impeached by the Florida House.

He was convicted in federal court in 1978 of two counts of extortion and 18 counts of mail fraud. After years of delays and appeals, he went to prison in 1983.

He was released in 1985 from a federal prison in Kentucky and was assigned to a halfway house until he was allowed to return to his Miami home.

Mr. O'Malley once said that he was the victim of a conspiracy.

"The only thing I felt I was guilty of, if anything, was, yes, I accepted cash campaign contributions because I was running against an incumbent and no one wanted to give (reportable, check-written) contributions for fear of retributions," he told the Tampa Tribune in 1983.

"So I did break the state election code _ which needs to be revamped anyway," he said.

"Tom maintained that he was innocent until the end," said Jeffrey Tew, the lawyer who defended him. "He never wavered from that."

In the years after his release from prison, Mr. O'Malley kept a low profile.

"I know of no one who kept in touch with Tom, not a soul," said Phil Ashler, who succeeded Mr. O'Malley as treasurer and served out his term. "He disappeared, you know. With the indictment hanging over his head, people sort of shied away."

The namesake son of a U.S. representative from Milwaukee, Mr. O'Malley was a Marine Corps veteran of the Korean War. He received undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Miami and began his political career in 1964 when he was elected Dade County commissioner. He was re-elected in 1968 and served as the county's vice mayor.

His son, Thomas A. O'Malley, is a prosecutor in the U.S. attorney's office _ the same office that sent his father to jail.

Other survivors include his wife of 44 years, Mary Jo O'Malley; another son, Timothy P. O'Malley, Pembroke Pines; a daughter, Megan Brock, Chattanooga, Tenn.; a brother, Terence O'Malley, Lexington, Ky.; two sisters, Martha and Adeline O'Malley, both of Milwaukee; and six grandchildren.

Services were held Tuesday.

_ Information from Times files and the Associated Press was used in this obituary.