United States District Judge Robert Hinkle sentenced local businessman, J.T Burnette, 44, to three years in federal prison for his role in a local corruption scheme. Burnette was also fined $1.25 million.
Burnette’s defense team said they would appeal.
On August 13th after a fifteen-day trial, a federal jury in Tallahassee found Burnette guilty of one count of extortion, two counts of mail fraud, one violation of the Travel Act and lying to the government. He was found not guilty on several other counts.
In December 2018, a federal grand jury charged Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox and Paige Carter-Smith in a forty-four count indictment. In May 2019, a grand jury returned a superseding indictment adding Burnette as a defendant. Maddox and Carter-Smith subsequently pleaded guilty to two counts of Honest Services Fraud by Bribery and one count of Conspiring to Interfere with the Lawful Function of the IRS. In October 2019, a grand jury returned a second superseding indictment against Burnette.
At trial, the government presented evidence that Burnette engaged in a multi-year scheme with Maddox and Carter-Smith to commit extortion, fraud, and bribery. During the scheme, Burnette and Maddox extorted bribe payments from FBI undercover agents (“UCs”) who were posing as real estate developers and entrepreneurs. Burnette instructed the UCs that to obtain preferential treatment, they must pay bribes to Maddox through Governance Services. Burnette, Maddox, Carter-Smith, and the UCs agreed that the UCs would pay Governance Services $10,000 per month in exchange for Maddox agreeing to perform official acts meant to benefit the UCs’ sham development company.
In 2017, FBI agents approached Burnette, identified themselves as FBI agents, and asked Burnette about his involvement in the bribe payments to Maddox. During the interview, Burnette repeatedly lied about his knowledge of the UCs’ payments to and involvement with Maddox.
On September 9th, former Mayor and Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox was sentenced to five years in prison after he pleaded guilty to charges related to public corruption.
Maddox business associate, Paige Carte-Smith, was sentenced to two years for her role in the illegal acts.