Last summer's crackdown on allegedly corrupt local mayors has netted prosecutors a two-out-of-three conviction rate. Former Homestead mayor Steve Bateman was found guilty by a jury this afternoon on two corruption charges. The verdict follows a guilty plea from former Sweetwater mayor Manuel Maroño and a not-guilty verdict for suspended Miami Lakes mayor Michael Pizzi.
While in office, Bateman scored a $125-an-hour consulting gig with Community Health of South Florida Inc. -- a company that wanted to open clinics in Homestead. Bateman then fast-tracked construction deals that appeared to benefit Community Health's plans, prosecutors said.
Bateman said he had done nothing wrong because he had kept his job as a political servant and a paid consultant separate. He even filed for re-election just two days after his arrest but was defeated in that bid.
His trial began last Monday, and today the jury found Bateman guilty on two charges of corruption. However, according to Miami Herald reporter David Ovalle, the judge has refused to immediately adjudicate because of concerns raised by the defense. So the conviction won't become official until the judge reviews those complaints.
Of the three mayors arrested last summer, Bateman is the only to be found guilty by a jury. Maroño pleaded guilty and is serving a 40-month prison sentence for taking kickbacks.
Pizzi was suspended from office after his own arrest, but after being found not guilty, he is fighting to have Gov. Rick Scott lift his suspension and return him to office.
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