Early this morning, in front of the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building at 1351 NW 12th Street, after reading from a prepared statement asserting her innocence, Michelle Spence-Jones grew testy with some of the Miami media horde chronicling her surrender to law enforcement officials.
When WPLG's political reporter Michael Putney asked her if she believed racism played a factor in her being criminally charged with one count of second degree grand theft, Spence-Jones answered tersely: "This is not about being a black woman."
When CBS4's Jim Defede pressed her to comment about her mentor Barbara Carey-Shuler being the main witness against her, she snapped back: "That's not true."
She ended the news conference and, surrounded by her husband, her criminal defense lawyer, and other supporters, Spence-Jones extended a fist into the air. As her contigent chanted "We shall overcome," a couple of young black men heckled her: "Give us twenty thousand!"
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katharine Fernandez-Rundle's office claims Spence-Jones used $22,687 in county grant money on herself and her family's personal expenses. And just like that, two Miami city commissioners are gone.
Gov. Charlie Crist suspended Spence-Jones from office. Angel Gonzalez
announced he is resigning as part of a plea deal with prosecutors who
on Monday will formally charge him with a second degree misdemeanor for
exploiting his public position because he got his daughter a no-show
job with a construction firm that does business with the city.
After posting bail, Spence-Jones gathered with supporters in the living room of her Liberty City home. Those in attendance included Miami architect Neil Hall, her brothers Rick and Kenneth, her mother Yvonne Lowe, and Billy and Barbara Hardemon.
Still dressed in the red-and-black print dress with black stockings she wore for her trip through county jail, Spence-Jones lashed out at the state attorney's public corruption unit, specifically Assistant State Attorney Richard Scruggs.
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Scruggs could have brought her in before she was re-elected to a second term this past November 3 or sometime before her swearing-in ceremony yesterday, Spence-Jones noted. "Instead I get a call after 5 p.m. yesterday to turn myself in today," she said. "That's how wicked this politics game is."
Fernandez-Rundle, during her own press conference this afternoon, defended the timing of the arrest, even if her response seemed rather contrived. "This case came together so close to the election," Miami-Dade's top prosecutor rhapsodized. "We struggled with it a great deal. We agonized over how painful it would be. But we didn't want to mess with that [electoral] process."
As far as Gonzalez, Fernandez-Rundle explained that investigators weren't able to prove he did anything that warranted more than a misdemeanor. "After extensive review of contracts and records, we could not find any evidence of corruptable intent to support a felony charge," she said.