Opening Statements Underway In Spence-Jones Trial

MIAMI (CBS4) – Opening statements are underway in the trial of former Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones on bribery and grand theft charges.

But before the attorneys could start their opening statements could get started, there was an attempt by prosecutors to have CBS4’s Jawan Strader testify.

Strader conducted an exclusive interview with Spence-Jones shortly after her arrest, in which she vehemently denied soliciting a bribe. She said the $25,000 in question was simply a donation to a charity she was heading.

Prosecutors wanted the judge in the case to order Strader to testify and that his testimony and story could help prove Spence-Jones was lying.

“What the state wants to do, they want to use the CBS interview and Mr. Strader to win a conviction in this case,” said CBS4 attorney Alan Rosenthal. “That is directly contrary to the policy embodied in the Florida statute.”

Judge Rosa Rodriguez ruled that Strader would not have to testify in the trial, but portions of his reporting in the Spence-Jones case will be admitted.

Once that piece of business was out of the way, opening statements in the case began.

Prosecutors say Miami developer Armando Codina and another chief developer, Richard Glas, had made a $12,5000 donation to the Friends of MLK Trust, which Spence-Jones ran from her office.

At the time, Codina was awaiting a vote from city commissioners on a downtown development project. Prosecutors said Codina thought the money would be going to an event honoring former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler.

Investigators said they found that the money never went to the Carey-Shuler event and the Trust wasn’t established until months later.

“I submit to you if it were legitimate, it would have been spent for those purposes and spent for good reason and that would have been absolutely fine,” said prosecutor Richard Scruggs.

In sworn statements, Spence-Jones later admitted that she solicited Codina for the money. Her attorney said she was in her legal rights to ask for the money which he said went to benefit the residents of her district.

Prosecutors said that everything Spence-Jones said was supposed to happen with the money, never came to fruition.

“What happens is nothing,” said Scruggs.

Spence-Jones’ defense attorney Peter Raben was not moved by the prosecution’s charges.

“Evidence is going to show Michelle Spence-Jones is innocent,” Raben said in his opening statements. “There was no bribe, there was not theft. That’s what Mr. Codina is going to tell you.”

Raben focused in on the fact that both the prosecutors and defense agree that Spence-Jones didn’t receive the money.

‘The state will agree that she did not receive a penny,” Raben said. “The state claims it was a theft because Michelle misled the person who gave the donation. The person who received this email Armando Codina will tell you they are wrong.”

Last week, prosecutors tried to have the judge presiding over the trial, Judge Rosa Rodriguez, removed from the proceeding because she herself had been charged in a corruption case in 1998. Back then, Rodriguez had been charged with two misdemeanors over improper campaign contributions – however, both charges were eventually dropped.

In their filing, prosecutors wrote that Judge Rodriguez’s “past personal judicial problems” could cause her to side against the state.

A state appeals court sided with the defense and ruled that Rodriguez would preside over the case.

More from Gary Nelson
Comments

One Comment

  1. GAIN AND AGEIN says:

    HOPING THAT THE COMMUNITY (all of it) CAN HANDLE THE DECISIONS MADE BY JUDGE RODRIGUEZ; I am never surprised when an ELECTED OFFICIAL is CHARGE WITH A CORRUPTION CHARGE. Miami-Dade has been full of CORRUPTION, in EVERY ELECTED OFFICE.
    I for ONE will be leaving the area soon. For I could no longer STAND THE HEAT: FRIENDS USE EACH OTHER IN MIAM, CHILDREN ARE ABUSED, NOW WE HAVE THE GUBERNATOR, whom is CORRUPT. I will be voting in DADE, BUT NOT STAYING IN DADE.
    TO REPORT A CRIME THAT IS BEING COMMITTED: Which I did, at HENRY FLAGLER ELEMENTARY, I had to address the SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS, they are still HARBORING A PARENT, FOR A ADHD KINDERGARTENER, whom helps in the CAFETERIA, so that she could eat and OVERFEED HER ABUSED DAUGHTER…Oh, WELL!!!

    1. GAIN AND AGEIN says:

      “AN” We also had to QUICK HER OUT OF OUR CHURCH, because she staged A CRIME, and I for ONE WANT NOTHING TO DO WITH NEITHER THE MOTHER OR THE DAUGHTER, for THEY STEAL, DO DRUGS, AND CONSUME ALCOHOL in your HOME, as well AS SPEAK ILL OF PEOPLE WHOM DO NOT COOPERATE WITH THEIR ABUSE. The mother, BSG, is a self-PROCLAIMED “COUGAR” , she hangs out in CHURCHES…

  2. J Roberts says:

    Why is it that the local news in Miami is so poor? The New times published Codina’s 2nd depostion last week and it was clear that he had been misled by prosecutors. Does CBS just copy the news from the Herald? Does anyone actually investigate a story anymore or do they just act as mouthpieces for the prosecutor. This prosecutor has misled a witness and no one reports it but the New Times?????? Strong evidence has come out in favor of Michelle Spence Jones and the major new outlet stay silent. Why????

  3. Luis Bonilla says:

    fry this hoe, what a miracle a cuban official isnt in the news.

  4. rich1 says:

    Make her pay back ALL the graft that she accepted !!!

  5. Sarah Connor says:

    Thank you CBS Miami for your balanced reporting of this case. The Miami Herald could learn a thing or two from you. I look forward to future news reports!

  6. MARCOS says:

    INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY…..THAT IS THE LAW OF THE LAND.
    PROSECUTOR SCRUGGS IS MAKING UP CHARGES AND CONCEALING
    EVIDENCE. HE IS THE ONE THAT SHOULD BE ON TRIAL

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