A federal appeals court Tuesday upheld the conviction of developer J.T. Burnette in a case that also led to former Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox pleading guilty to bribery-related charges.
A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a series of arguments raised by Burnette, who was convicted in 2021 on five charges and sentenced to three years in prison. The case involved undercover FBI agents posing as a developer and an investor and Burnette telling them to pay bribes to Maddox to help move forward with two projects.
In the appeal, Burnette focused, in part, on the U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretation of a bribery law in a 2016 decision that vacated a conviction of former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell, according to Tuesday’s ruling. The Supreme Court interpretation narrowed the definition of an “official act” in the bribery law, effectively making it harder to gain convictions.
But the appeals court, in a 45-page main opinion written by Judge Kevin Newsom and joined by Judges Robin Rosenbaum and Adalberto Jordan, said “evidence presented at trial was sufficient to permit the jury to conclude that Burnette assisted in bribing Maddox in connection” with a qualifying official act.