Ever since she beat two separate criminal cases against her last year, Miami City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones has been quietly preparing for an epic take down of Mayor Tomas Regalado and Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle -- the two politicians she blames for almost destroying her.
Today, Spence-Jones launched the first salvo. She is suing Regalado and Rundle in Miami federal court, claiming they violated her civil rights by fabricating and concealing evidence, falsely arresting her, and malicious prosecuting her. Spence-Jones' lawsuit accuses Rundle as serving as an investigatory and prosecutorial arm of the mayor. She is also suing assistant state prosecutor Richard Scruggs and State Attorney's Office investigator Robert Fielder, the two men who built both cases against her.
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Spence-Jones claims Rundle aided Regalado for political reasons. The lawsuit claims the state attorney waited until after Spence-Jones' swearing-in ceremony to file charges in order to allow Regalado and his commission allies to pick her replacement, who ended up being Richard Dunn II.
The commissioner is being represented by Emery Celli Brincherhoff & Abady, the New York City law firm representing one of three former Duke University lacrosse players who were wrongfully accused of raping a stripper in 2006 and who are now suing cops in Durham, N.C. "For nearly two long, lonely years, Michelle fought to defend her liberty and her good name," says Emery attorney Ilan M. Maazel. "Now we can finally begin the road to accountability and justice."
- Rundle never recused herself from criminal investigations into Regalado because they are close allies and friends, including an FDLE probe last year in which the mayor and his daughter Raquelita were investigated for "blatant and criminal campaign violations that included forging campaign finance reports." Despite opinions from Miami-Dade Ethics Commission Executive Director Joe Centorino and assistant state attorney Howard Rosen that the Regalados had acted "in apparent willfull disregard for the rule of law," Rundle did not criminally charge the mayor or his daughter, who is a Miami-Dade School Board Member. Instead, they only paid a civil fine of $5,000 each.
- The lawsuit cites three cases in which Scruggs was slapped for prosecutorial misconduct and unprofessionalism. The most damning example is when Scruggs authored an October 1993 report on the botched FBI raid of the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas. In his report and in front of a Congressional committee, Scruggs insisted that no pyrotechnic devices were used in the raid. But in 2000, the Department of Justice Office of Special Counsel rebuked Scruggs for "the failure to discover and report that the FBI used pyrotechnic tear gas rounds" and that his report "was inconsistent with the responsibility to conduct a thorough and complete investigation."
- Days before the commissioner was arrested on Nov. 10, 2009, Rundle notified then-Gov. Charlie Crist and Regalado that Spence-Jones was going to be charged. Spence-Jones' attorneys tracked down a file in the governor's office that had a photo of the commissioner and a document listing three charges against her. Regalado was also aware of the pending arrest via "secret communications" with Rundle.
- Regalado tried to destroy a photograph of him, Crist, and Spence-Jones taken the day he was sworn in on Nov. 11, 2009. Regalado allegedly ordered the city photographer to delete the image, which would have been a violation of Florida's public records law. The photographer did not destroy the photo.
- When the state attorney's office was preparing to file a bribery charge against Spence-Jones alleging she took $12,500 from developer Armando Codina in exchange for her vote on a street renaming, Fiedler allegedly lied to Codina. Fiedler called Codina on Jan. 6, 2010 and told the developer: "We have you on tape on a bribery case." No such tape exists.