HALLANDALE BEACH (CBSMiami) – Just before Thanksgiving, in a Broward courtroom, we watched as Joy Cooper was found not guilty on a series of state corruption charges.
That moment came two years after Cooper had been arrested, which she told CBS4’s Jim DeFede, in her first Sunday interview, was her lowest point in the entire ordeal.READ MORE: 'Thinking On Our Feet': Coral Gables Art Cinema Pivoted In Pandemic To Survive
“Well, the lowest part was actually being arrested and going through that process. Being incarcerated for the day and waiting to be released,” she said. “And then after that, it was just basically awaiting time. It was a very difficult trial because we ended up having to go back to the judge almost six times to compel evidence from the state prosecutor, as well as the FBI. So that process took quite a long time and was extremely frustrating.”
Prosecutors alleged she received $5,000 in illegal campaign contributions for a 2012 campaign to be mayor of Hallandale Beach. It turned out those campaign contributions were part of an FBI sting operation.
With jail time in the cards, Cooper said she prepared for the worst.
“I had to prepare for the worst, but I did not do what they had said and obviously that came out during the court trial,” she said. “I’m just glad the facts came out. That the jury understood the facts, because it was an extremely complex trial. If somebody was never involved in the political process or understood elections or understood campaign contributions, it was a learning process for many of the jurors.”
Jurors found the state’s key witness, Alan Koslow, a disgrace, disbarred, drug-addicted lobbyist, was not reliable, and the undercover video was not sufficient.
DeFede asked her about the FBI video and why she didn’t just walk away.
“It is part of being an elected mayor, I have to meet with people. I might not necessarily meet them, but if they want to do business in the city I certainly need to be hospitable. I rarely turn down a meeting,” she said. “Now, this was the third time and I just finally said I am in the middle of the campaign. As a matter of fact, I had gotten up. I had gotten a call a personal call and I got up. And at that point I was like enough is enough.”READ MORE: COVID In Florida: 1,976 New Cases, 59 Additional Deaths Reported Monday
Cooper said her biggest mistake in this whole process was keeping in contact with Koslow after her very first meeting with him.
“Actually, and it’ll go by a sidebar, years ago when I was first elected official, I actually had a meeting with Mr. Koslow and one of his other associates on a different project. And his boss at the time, I told his boss I would never want to meet with him again,” she said. “So I think the lesson learned is you stick with your gut and if you know that’s kind of the character of the individual, no.”
Cooper was removed from office after her 2017 arrest, leading to an arduous battle in and out of court.
“It’s taught me a lot of patience and understanding the process, the court process. And in addition to being suspended, I actually had personal some personal issues. My father regretfully passed away,” she said.
So, over the two years, Cooper relied on her faith and focused on her family.
“I’m very spiritual and I said, ‘Well, God put you where you want to be.’ So I had a chance to spend time with my father’s last nine days with him,” she said. “Taking care of my family, of course – my husband, my kids and my 91- year-old mother… and, actually, I did care for my husband’s other mother as well.”
In the end, Cooper got her old job back after Gov. Ron DeSantis reinstated her as mayor of Hallandale Beach on Thursday.MORE NEWS: Mega Millions Jackpot Increases To $468 Million For Tuesday Night's Draw On CBS4
She has her first meeting Wednesday night and she is undoubtedly “looking very forward to it.”