Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Republican Party chair in Florida avoids trial with guilty plea for theft and money laundering

Corruption in politics? Say it ain't so!

Jim Greer Pleads Guilty To Theft And Money Laundering Before Trial Begins
Huff Post

ORLANDO, Fla. — The criminal trial of former Republican Party of Florida chair Jim Greer had promised to be embarrassing for party leaders, rising Republican star Marco Rubio and former Gov. Charlie Crist, who is contemplating a new political future as a Democrat.

But Greer's guilty pleas on Monday to four counts of theft and a single count of money laundering ended the trial before it even started and ensured that some state GOP secrets will remain confidential, at least for the time-being.

"There were a number of people who did not want this trial to go forward and the trial isn't going forward," Damon Chase, Greer's attorney, said after the former chair entered his pleas in court. "Once again, Jim Greer is falling on his sword for a lot of other folks."

Greer, 50, could face a prison sentence of 3 1/2 to 35 years when he is sentenced March 27. Assistant statewide prosecutor Michael Williams wouldn't say how many years prosecutors would seek.

The trial had threatened to expose the underbelly of Florida's dominant political party and its formerly high-spending ways. Party officials took heat three years ago from revelations of excessive spending at restaurants and luxury hotels on party-issued American Express cards by Republican leaders, including Rubio. Testimony about those expenditures had been expected at the trial.

Topics also covered in pretrial depositions included allegations of prostitutes at a state GOP fundraiser in the Bahamas, the drinking habits of Crist and intraparty strife. Some of Florida's most powerful politicians were scheduled as witnesses, including Crist, former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum and several state House and state Senate leaders.

Greer's acknowledgment of guilt was what the party wanted all along, party attorney Stephen Dobson said, and they weren't worried about potentially embarrassing testimony at trial.

"There was absolutely no concern. In fact, a lot of people were looking forward to clearing a lot of these allegations that had been made up," Dobson said outside the courtroom. "Today the truth came out."

Greer was vice mayor of the small central Florida town of Oviedo when Crist surprisingly picked him to be the state party chairman after he led local efforts to help Crist get elected governor in 2006. He previously was the president and CEO of a company that provides training to the hospitality industry on how to comply with alcohol laws.

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