Spence-Jones Bribery Trial Resumes
MIAMI (CBS4) – The trial of former Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones on bribery charges resumed Tuesday with prosecutors calling Spence-Jones’ former Administrative Assistant Jonelle Adderley to the stand.
To prove the bribery case against Spence-Jones the state will have to weave together a complex group of people and documents to prove their case, CBS4’s Gary Nelson reported. So far, only two witnesses have taken the stand.
“Did you ever solicit money or funds from anybody?,” state prosecutor Richard Scruggs asked Adderley.
“No,” she said.
“It was mostly the commissioner herself or sometimes the chief of staff,” she said. “The commissioner was the one who made the first contact.”
Adderley said she was Spence-Jones’ “right hand person.”
“If you really wanted to get to Michelle you kind of had to go through me,” she explained.
Adderley said she helped Spence-Jones with creating a Web site for the Martin Luther King Trust, a charity to benefit Liberty City. She also said that a variety of people and organizations, including Codina, were solicited for donations by Spence-Jones.
On Monday, the six-member jury heard opening statements in the case regarding the allegation that Spence Jones sought a bribe from a prominent developer while he awaited a commission vote in March 2006 that affected a lucrative downtown Miami hotel-office development.
Prosecutors said Miami developer Armando Codina and another chief developer, Richard Glas, made a $25,000 donation to the Friends of MLK Trust, the non-profit organization which prosecutors allege Spence-Jones ran from her City Hall 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 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.”
The trial is expected to last about a month.
Spence-Jones is also facing a separate 2009 grand theft charge for allegedly steering $50,000 in county grant money to a family-run business, before her elected tenure in office. She’s pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial. Then-Gov. Charlie Crist suspended Spence-Jones, but she ran in a special election to fill the seat and won. Crist suspended her again. She challenged him in civil court and lost.