MIAMI (CBS4) – The jury seated for the bribery trial of former Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones could begin their deliberations Wednesday.
That’s because a juror had to be excused Tuesday to work the polls in the Miami-Dade recall election. The defense could wrap its case Wednesday and then it would be up to the jury to decide if Spence-Jones solicited bribes in the form of charitable donations from two developers who had business pending before the commission.
On Monday the state wrapped up their case and Miami-Dade County Circuit Court Judge Rosa Rodriguez appeared somewhat skeptical of the prosecution’s claims.
“I’m finding it difficult to understand the state’s theory in all this. What was the corrupt intent? I want to know that,” said Judge Rodriguez. “Ultimately, the money, whether her fingerprints are there or not, the money did not go to her personally.
Rodriguez also withheld a decision after Spence-Jones’ attorney submitted a motion to throw out the charges. Last week, prominent Miami developer Armando Codina took the stand to answer questions about his donation.
Prosecutors claim that at the request of the former commission’s office Codina made a $12,5000 donation to the Friends of MLK Trust, which Spence-Jones ran from her office. The money was reportedly to be used for 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.
Codina said that after he looked into the Spence-Jones charity and was convinced the money wasn’t going “in her own pocket” he called a partner in the Brickell project, Richard Glas, and suggested he might want to make a matching contribution as well.
Codina said he didn’t want to “poke Michelle Spence-Jones in the eye” by refusing to contribute to her charity.
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.