Fourteen years after New Times chronicled her free fall out of public office and into the slammer, Vicki Lukis has won her redemption. On Monday, federal Judge John Steele of the U.S. District Court in Lee County vacated her 1997 conviction on honest services fraud. Her case was a fascinating tale of what happens when love intersects politics recounted in the breathlessly eloquent prose of the late former New Times staff writer Sean Rowe.
Then Vicki Lopez Wolfe, she was elected Lee County commissioner in November 1990. During her tenure, she dated prominent Washington D.C. lobbyist Sylvester Lukis, who represented clients before the Lee County County Commission. She resigned in 1993 and married Lukis a year later. In 1995 Sylvester and Vicki were each charged with one count of honest services mail fraud, one count of bribery and eighty counts of using a facility in interstate commerce to commit bribery.
The feds alleged the lobbyist carefully targeted the county commissioner to seduce her with money and persuade her to sell her vote. She received thousands of dollars from Lukis, whose clients got to build a $200 million garbage incinerator and help float $36 million in bonds for a regional airport in Lee County.
After a two-week trial in April 1997, jurors cleared Sylvester of all counts and found Vicki not guilty of all counts except the one for honest services mail fraud. She was sentenced to 27 months in prison and served 15 months before President Clinton commuted her sentence in 2000.
Vicki has spent the past ten years as criminal justice reform advocate, serving as vice-chairwoman of the Florida Department of Corrections' Rreentry Advisory Council and as a board member of the state's Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises. She moved to have her conviction vacated last year when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in an unrelated case that honest services fraud applies only in cases where bribery and kickbacks are involved. In Vicki's case, she was convicted of honest services fraud because she tried to conceal her love affair with Sylvester.
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Lukis and her husband have always maintained that they kept their relationship a secret based on their desire to keep the press away from her personal life. "I feel totally vindicated," she says. "It has been a long and winding road to justice."
Read the judge's order below: