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Judge orders state to pay Ray Sansom $810K for legal defense

Published Apr. 6, 2015

From our friends at News Service of Florida:

A Leon County circuit judge has ordered the state to pay more than $800,000 in legal fees and interest charges in the defense of former House Speaker Ray Sansom, who was cleared in a criminal case four years ago, according to a judgment entered in Leon County circuit court. Judge Angela Dempsey ruled in February that taxpayers should cover the legal costs of Sansom, who was driven out of office by allegations of wrongdoing that involved a 2007 budget item that was supposed to pay for an emergency-operations center in Sansom's Northwest Florida district.

The criminal case was dropped in 2011. Dempsey followed up her February ruling by filing a judgment last month that said the state should pay $692,797.50 in Sansom's legal fees and $117,677.98 in prejudgment interest, for a total of $810,475.48. The largest chunk of the legal fees, $436,440, was for the work of Tallahassee attorney Stephen Dobson, according to the judgment. Dempsey found that Sansom and his attorneys should recover the money based on a common-law principle that public officials who successfully defend themselves against charges related to public duties are entitled to have their costs covered.

"The court finds that all criminal charges against Mr. Sansom were successfully defended, and plaintiffs (Sansom and his legal team) are entitled to recover from defendant (the state) the reasonable legal expenses incurred by Mr. Sansom in defending the charges,'' Dempsey wrote in the judgment.