Update: Gov. Rick Scott has officially reinstated Michelle Spence-Jones as a Miami city commissioner.
Earlier this morning, Banana Republican
spoke with Michelle Spence-Jones in her first media interview since a
grand theft charge against her was dropped yesterday. Obviously she
is jubilant. "When you know you are innocent, it's a victory for
everybody," Spence-Jones says. "I don't think anybody should have
to endure what my family and I have been through."
The decision of the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office to drop its case against Spence-Jones comes five months after a jury acquitted her of bribery in a separate, unrelated public corruption probe. Spence-Jones was arrested in November 2009, just days after she won her second term on the City of Miami Commission. Then-Gov. Charlie Crist removed her from office, but a defiant Spence-Jones ran in a special election in January 2011. She won convincingly, but Crist took her out again.
"I'm really thankful for the people who supported me and were there for me," Spence-Jones says. "It's funny, I've been getting calls from people who I haven't heard from in two years acting like we just spoke yesterday."
In fighting the charges against her, Spence-Jones also had the disadvantage of going up against a prosecutor who allegedly misled witnesses and withheld exculpatory information in his quest to convict her. And he's upset about losing. In his close-out memo, Assistant State Attorney Richard Scruggs accuses Spence-Jones and her defense lawyer of evidence tampering.
"I think it is absolutely ridiculous that anyone would accuse someone's attorney of being part of criminal behavior," Spence-Jones fumes. "It was totally wrong for the State Attorney's Office to even make that accusation."
Spence-Jones says she is simply waiting for Gov. Rick Scott to issue the executive order to return her to her commission seat, which represents parts of Little Haiti, Liberty City, and Overtown. "I'm ready to go back to work and serve the people who elected me," she says. "I had an eight-year plan that went off track. My number one priority is to get a full assessment from city administrators so I can figure out where my district is."
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Meanwhile, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle does not look good on this one. Blogger Al Crespo wrote today that our top law enforcer was stalling on dropping the charge against Spence-Jones in order to buy time for Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado and City Manager Johnny Martinez to call an emergency city commission meeting to fire police Chief Miguel Exposito.
Banana Republican heard from a city hall source that Regalado is afraid Spence-Jones will cast the swing vote to keep Exposito as retaliation for setting her up two years ago.
"He was calling up her people congratulating them," the source said. "How did he know before anybody else?" Spence-Jones declined to comment about the Regalado-Rundle connection. Gutierrez could not be reached immediately for comment.