Ex-Judge Phil Davis Convicted on Fraud Charges

Looks like Phil Davis is finally heading to the pen.

The ex-Miami judge, who wriggled out of jail time in a federal sting operation in the early '90s by admitting a raging cocaine habit, was found guilty of fraud today.

Prosecutors built a case against Davis involving a non-profit he founded in 1997, called the Miami-Dade Resident College. They convinced a jury that Davis used a sham employment corporation to funnel grant money into his pockets to the tune of more than $80,000.

Davis, 55, faces sentencing in January.

On the stand earlier this week, Davis raised questions about a meeting in 2003 with the state attorney's office in which he testified that Katharine Fernandez Rundle personally endorsed his program. If his program was fraudulent, he asked, why did the state attorney herself give it her blessing?

Click through to read SAO spokesman Ed Griffith's responses to those questions.

Griffith confirmed that Davis did meet with SAO staff, including Rundle, in 2003, but denied that he presented them with any detailed financial information about his non-profit. Here's Griffith's response:

 I have checked with everyone who had any contact with Phil Davis and it is clear, we never received nor did we seek financial records on such an existing Dade County funded program. Having attended the 2003 meeting, I never saw any financial records being supplied or being referred to.

What I've found is that there is a very thick volume of material (maybe 300 pages) supplied by Phil Davis about the Miami Dade Residential College with a section dealing with monitoring which could be purported to deal with finances. 

Riptide also asked Griffith about the purpose of Davis's meeting and the outcome. Here's his response:

My recall was that Phil Davis & Hershel Haynes were seeking support to create a diversion program in county court aimed at turning young defendants away from criminal activity. I believe Davis indicated that this diversion program was already in existence in the Juvenile Courts & he may have indicated that the Miami Dade Residential College was already doing some diversion clients in the felony courts.

All of this was unknown to anyone from the SAO since we had not been informed by the county of any such diversion programs coming into existence at either the juvenile court level or in the felony courts. My recall is that the State Attorney was surprised by this, as was Chief Assistant State Attorney Don Horn.

Ms. Fernandez Rundle raised concerns about Davis' past but he responded that he had been acquitted but even so "I've come through sin, I've been reborn, and I can help others." We indicated that we would look into the prospect of our cooperating at the county court level.

Since the State Attorney has long been an advocate of second chances for non-violent offenders (see our ongoing Sealing & Expungement efforts), efforts to provide young offenders with more resources and opportunities to avoid falling back into crime would certainly seem attractive on the local level. The Federal Government clearly sought to fund such efforts nationwide, hence the availability of federal grants for such projects. Of course, you are aware that letters of support from a number of prominent Dade individuals were an eventual part of the Miami-Dade Resident College package, including (if my memory serves me well) then U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis, Assistant Chief James Chambliss for then Miami Police Chief Raul Martinez, and former Congresswoman Carrie Meek. Additionally, there was grant support that came through the state legislature from State Representative Philip Brutus and from then State Senator Kendrick Meek.

When Davis presented his perspective on the stand, Riptide was skeptical that the prosecutor's office could pull out a guilty verdict without looking like they'd missed a major opportunity to sniff out Davis's fraud in 2003.

But now that we have the verdict, perhaps the truth is closer to this: Davis was a crook all along, and he took advantage of Rundle's willingness to give him a second chance.

If you've been following Davis's travails, you should check out Justice Building's great take on why this case matters.