The J.T Burnette trial resumed in the federal court on Tuesday after a delay due to COVID precautions.
Paige Carte-Smith, business associate of Scott Maddox, finished her testimony Tuesday morning and was followed by the infamous “Mike Miller.”
Carter-Smith testified that she bought burner phones for herself, Maddox, and Maddox aide Allie Merzer Fleming. She also provided a burner phone to then -Tallahassee City Manager Rick Fernandez.
She was asked by Greg Kehoe, J.T. Burnette’s attorney, why she purchased the burner cell phones. “I didn’t want everyone in the world listening to conversations about my personal life, with my kids, my sister, my father,” she said.
Kehoe went after Carter-Smith’s credibility by getting her to confirm that she had lied under oath to the Florida Ethics Commission in 2014 about Maddox ethics investigation.
Under cross-examination Carter-Smith confirmed that she believed her testimony could help reduce her sentence for her role in the bribery scheme.
She was asked, are you aware that the Government can ask Judge Hinkle to reduce your sentence?
Carter-Smith replied, “Yes, sir.”
Kehoe followed up with, “It is your hope that when you finish testifying here, (prosecutors) will use their discretion and their discretion alone to ask Judge Hinkle to reduce your sentence? “Isn’t that right?”
“Yes, sir,” she replied.
Governance Financial Troubles
Attorney Kehoe introduced text messages from April of 2014 between Scott Maddox and Gary Yordon, detailing financial troubles for Governance. Maddox texted Yordon that he had borrowed $100,000 from his mother.
“If we are shutting down I need to know that,” Yordon replied. “Don’t want to shut down but we will definitely be skipping paychecks unless something comes in,” Maddox texted back.
FBI Agent “Mike Miller” testified in the afternoon. Miller has been at the FBI since 2009, became a certified undercover agent in 2012, and he has been involved in more than 25 undercover investigations.
Miller says he was contacted about the case in summer of 2015 to pose as a real estate developer. He testified that he met Burnette for the first time at the Chamber Conference that August, 2015.
Miller described how he built a relationship with Burnette.
Miller testified that Burnette was “very nice, but very busy” and “not very interested in what I had to offer.” However, when Miller introduced undercover agent Mike Sweets to Burnette in December 2015 to talk about the cannabis industry, he says Burnette became significantly more interested.
In the fall of 2016, Burnette traveled to Nashville with the 3 undercover agents posing as developers. The undercover agents were hoping the trip would enable them to get closer to Burnette.
In one of the recordings from the trip, Burnette discussed the impact of the proposed Mckibbon hotel project on his purchase of the DoubleTree. In the recording Burnette said the project would have devalued the Double Tree by $7 million.
Referring to the Mckibbon project, Burnette boasted to the undercover agent, “I knew I could kill that hotel.”
When asked how he could kill the deal, Burnette responded, “Politically, I knew I had it. I had 2 votes, and I knew one guy would not vote, and a tie looses.”
This summary article is based on reporting from WTXL, WCTV, the Tallahassee Democrat, and Tallahassee Reports.