1. Opinion

Guilty plea leaves GOP saying, 'Whew!'

Jim Greer, former Florida GOP chairman, and his wife, Lisa, leave an Orange County courtroom Monday after his surprise guilty plea to five felony charges including theft and money laundering.
Jim Greer, former Florida GOP chairman, and his wife, Lisa, leave an Orange County courtroom Monday after his surprise guilty plea to five felony charges including theft and money laundering.
Published Feb. 14, 2013

To paraphrase Humphrey Bogart's lament to Ingrid Bergman about Paris, at least we'll always have the trollops in golf carts.

This was going to be oh so much more than a trial. The promised courtroom drama surrounding disgraced former Republican Party of Florida chairman Jim Greer held out the salacious allure of big shots behaving badly.

Then Greer, who was facing charges of fraud, money laundering and theft, had to go spoil all the fun by pleading guilty to everything.

And yes, that Category 5 rush of wind that just blew the roof off your house was the collective sigh of relief of past and current Florida Republican politicians who were dreading what Greer's trial might have exposed about what claims to be the party of family values, which is true if you're thinking the Addams Family meets the Borgias.

Greer was accused of being a silent partner and cat-stroking Blofeldesque force behind Victory Strategies, a company formed to handle fundraising for the state party while he was still chairman.

In all, Greer was supposed to have ripped off the party for about $125,000, a tidy sum to be sure. But when you think how much money the Republicans lavish on themselves and their cronies, that looks like chump change from the office couches.

Knowing what Greer knew about the inner bacchanalia of the Republican Party of Florida, might it not have been better to regard the ex-chairman's sticky fingers as simply the cost of doing business?

Instead Greer finds himself looking at the big house. And in the run-up to his trial, Greer's lawyer, Damon Chase, dropped not too subtle hints that evidence and testimony would reveal the party's potentates were a bunch of wild and crazy guys.

It doesn't bode well when a defense attorney compares his client's upcoming trial to a Shakespearean play where everyone dies in the end. It turned out only Greer was left standing in a puddle of something before the judge.

So it was that the potential witnesses — including former Gov. Charlie Crist, former Attorney General Bill McCollum, former House Speaker Dean Cannon, former Senate President Mike Haridopolos, former U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney, current state House Speaker Will Weatherford and former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux — were spared of being associated with a trial that was sure to get to all those alleged floozies in golf carts.

During a deposition, Delmar Johnson, a former Greer associate, recounted a men-only soiree in the Bahamas to fete fancy-pants contributors, where he suggested at some point he noticed what he thought were golf carts filled with strumpets cavorting among the guests.

Oh please, don't be shy. Tell us more.

Alas, in the absence of a trial, the courtesans in golf carts will be lost to history and the imagination.

Greer steadfastly had insisted on going to trial, but he also had been very public in pleading his destitution.

Enter Jacksonville's Hank Coxe, one of the state's more high profile criminal defense lawyers, who negotiated the last-minute guilty plea for Greer, which calls for a sentence of no more than 36 months in the slammer.

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Case closed. Chippies in golf carts but a faint dream.

It's rather doubtful Coxe stepped into the case to satisfy his pro bono commitment. Someone had to pay for his services. And if it's true Greer is broker than a Joad to be named later, who ponied up the silk stocking lawyer's legal fees?

And since Greer's post-hoosegow job prospects are rather dim, did anyone offer any assurances that the branded ex-chairman and his family would be taken care of in return for falling on his bamboo Mai Tai umbrella?

The closest anyone would wink-wink and/or nod-nod that perhaps Greer had received some financial inducement to plead guilty was Chase, who offered unequivocally he could neither "confirm nor deny" a deal had been cooked up.

Greer, who never met an expense account he didn't like, will soon head off to prison. And in a sense, Chase was right. This was a Shakespearean tale all along — "The Taming of the Hubris."


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