MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A jury found suspended Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi not guilty on seven corruption counts against him on Thursday.
Pizzi smiled and cried tears of joy after the not guilty verdicts came it at his bribery and corruption trial.
“This has been an incredibly difficult journey for myself, my family. This has been a really, really hard road,” said Pizzi. “I never lost faith in God and I never lost faith in my family and I never lost faith in the system of justice. I always said that I was innocent. From day 1, I said that I was innocent…at times when that was a lonely cry.”
The federal prosecutor said he accepted the jury’s verdict but the U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said he was disappointed issuing a statement saying, “While we are disappointed with the outcome in this case, we respect the jury’s verdict.”
Attorneys for Pizzi said they would petition Florida Governor Rick Scott to reinstate him to office as mayor of Miami Lakes.
Late Thursday evening, Pizzi issued a statement asking Governor Rick Scott to revoke his suspension order. The statement says “On behalf of the citizens, electors, and residents of Miami Lakes, we call on Governor Scott to immediately exercise his constitutional duty to “forthwith” revoke his Executive Order of Suspension 13-217 done within minutes of Mayor Pizzi’s arrest on August 6, 2014. The jury verdict and the judicial declaration by U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke that Michael Pizzi was adjudged NOT GUILTY demands the same immediacy in revoking the suspension order.”
The statement concluded with, “According to the Town Charter, Article II, Section 2.3(a), Mayor Pizzi was elected in 2012 to serve a 4-year term. The 2013 special election of a temporary Mayor was only to serve during the time of Mayor Pizzi’s suspension. Now that Mayor Pizzi has been acquitted, the Town’s citizens are entitled by law to see that their rightfully elected Mayor’s suspension is immediately revoked. The letter of the law is clear. Governor Scott has no other discretion.”
Scott’s camp released a statement regarding his reinstatement saying, “This is a local issue. A new mayor has been elected by the voters of Miami Lakes.”
Wayne Slaton was elected in a special election last October.
But when Pizzi returned to Miami Lakes Townhall Thursday, it was his photo on the wall and his name on the dais.
A supporter and Miami Lakes resident said he belonged back in office.
“I’m overjoyed. I’m so happy. I’m so happy for the town as well as for Michael,” Maggie Suazo said.
Earlier in the day, the jurors had asked two questions about one of the counts he was facing and entrapment.
The jury started deliberating on Tuesday afternoon.
The same day closing arguments took place.
Attorney Ed Shohat said the government’s case had “overwhelming investigative failings.”
Pizzi was arrested in August 2013 on public corruption charges. The outspoken two-term mayor was accused of accepting nearly $7,000 in cash kickbacks during a FBI sting.
Also snared in the sting were former Sweetwater Mayor Manny Marono and two lobbyists who have since pleaded guilty.
According to the their criminal complaints, the two mayors and two lobbyists accepted thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for championing purported federal grant applications for their towns.
However, the men reportedly intended to line their pockets with the grant money, according to FBI affidavits filed with the complaints.
Pizzi, who has maintained his innocence, claimed he was set up by questionable FBI tactics and untrustworthy informants.