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Uncle Luke, the man whose booty-shaking madness once made the U.S. Supreme Court stand up for free speech, gets as nasty as he wants to be for MiamiNew Times. This week, Luke revisits the ongoing saga of suspended Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones.
Turns out Michelle Spence-Jones was telling the truth. And the evidence clearing her of using a forged letter to obtain $50,000 in county grants was sitting inside one of 52 boxes that Assistant State Attorney Richard Scruggs reviewed before he decided to charge Spence-Jones with grand theft. This makes me believe more than ever that the suspended city commissioner was targeted for political reasons. To recap: Scruggs's star witness, Barbara Carey-Shuler, says she authorized releasing the funds to a company owned by Spence-Jones and her family. The former county commissioner previously denied doing so but changed her testimony after Spence-Jones's attorney showed her drafts of the letter. They were written by Carey-Shuler, who blames Scruggs for the foulup. She forgot writing them; then the prosecutor neglected to show her the documents during two meetings.
So how is it that a veteran prosecutor, who spent many years as an assistant U.S. attorney, overlooked the drafts? His job is to seek the truth. Instead, he presented Carey-Shuler and everyone else with only half of the facts.
Sometimes it is not about seeking the truth. Sometimes it is about destroying a person's character in the court of public opinion. Dallas Cowboys great Michael Irvin once told reporters who were covering his legal troubles to write about his vindication with the same intensity they had described accusations against him. When you are a public figure and you are accused of wrongdoing, the media puts the spotlight on you. They splash you on the front pages of newspapers and make you the top story on the evening newscast.
When Spence-Jones was arrested, every local news outlet crucified her. The Miami Herald ran a front-page story the day before she was formally arrested. Yet when Carey-Shuler's deposition was made public this past July 14, WPLG 10's Michael Putney and Miami New Times were the only ones to report it. The Herald waited two days to catch up, publishing a story this past July 16, on a Saturday, the day no one reads the paper. News stations such as Telemundo 51, Univision 23, WSVN 7, and NBC 6 didn't report it at all.
In my mind, there is no doubt the two criminal cases brought against Spence-Jones are bogus and meant to keep her out of office. That way, her enemies can capitalize on all the money that is pouring into the Overtown and Omni community redevelopment agencies. They are sitting on close to $60 million that is supposed to be used to redevelop those blighted neighborhoods. With Spence-Jones out of the way, her greatest enemy, Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, can now dictate what happens with that money. He is now chairman of the Omni CRA.
And don't expect Rev. Richard Dunn, the man appointed by the city commission to sit in Spence-Jones's seat, to oppose Sarnoff. If he wants to win the November election, Dunn has to be down with the commissioners who got rid of this lady. Or else they are going to get rid of him too.