As jury selection continues in the bribery and grand theft trial of suspended Miami City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones, the prosecution's main witness, prominent developer Armando Codina, gave new testimony that pokes holes in the state's case. Trial is set to begin next week.
In a deposition taken this past February 16, Codina -- a former business partner of Jeb Bush -- implies that Miami-Dade State Attorney Richard Scruggs misled him into believing Spence-Jones stole $12,500 he had donated for an event honoring former County Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler.
Scruggs brought Codina in for a second interview because he had heard the developer was "angry" or "upset" with the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office. Codina informed Scruggs he was "disappointed" not angry with Scruggs' comportment when he initially brought criminal charges against Spence-Jones early last year.
"You told me there had not been an event," Codina told Scruggs. "You told me that the charity was a fake and that she had used the money as her own piggybank...that no event had taken place and that she had pocketed the money."
To recap, prosecutors allege that Spence-Jones asked Codina for a $25,000 contribution to her nonprofit agency, Friends of MLK Trust, that was hosting an event for Carey-Shuler, Spence-Jones' mentor and the star witness in another separate public corruption case against the indicted city official.
She asked for the donation around the time Codina and a business partner, Ricardo Glas, were seeking a city commission vote to rename part
of SE 2nd Ave as ``Brickell Avenue" to help boost an office-hotel complex with which the developers were involved. Both men cut $12,500 checks for the Carey-Shuler gala.
When he was initially interviewed by Scruggs, and again on February 16, Codina emphatically said he did not expect a quid pro quo from Spence-Jones. And since the first interview Codina told Scruggs on February 16: "I know there was an event."
Under questioning by Spence-Jones' attorney Peter Raben, Codina said he did not believe he was a victim of theft. "I did think I had been defrauded at one time," Codina testified, referring to his first meeting with Scruggs. Now, he said, "I don't think I have been defrauded." Based on Codina's statement, Raben is filing a motion to dismiss the grand theft charges against Spence-Jones.