Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ana Alliegro pleads guilty on eve of trial

Curt Anderson, from the AP, covers it here:
Less than a week before trial, a onetime close associate of former U.S. Rep. David Rivera pleaded guilty Tuesday to four charges in a long-running campaign finance investigation that also implicates Rivera.
Attorneys for Ana Alliegro announced in a surprise that she would plead guilty rather than go to trial Monday. Prosecutor Thomas Mulvihill said there was no plea agreement requiring Alliegro to cooperate as a government witness against Rivera.
Her attorney, Richard Klugh, said there was no written deal in place.
"There is no guaranteed benefit for the plea. She's just accepted responsibility," he said.
Rivera, a Republican, has not been charged and has repeatedly denied wrongdoing. Alliegro, 44, was accused of funneling about $80,000 to an unknown Democratic candidate, Justin Sternad, in the 2012 primary for the House seat then held by Rivera. Prosecutors say the goal was to weaken Democrat Joe Garcia, who won anyway and later defeated Rivera in the general election.
Mulvihill said Tuesday for the first time publicly that Rivera was part of the conspiracy when asked for the name by U.S. District Judge Robert Scola. In the past, Rivera was identified only as "co-conspirator A" in court documents.
Rivera did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Tuesday.
Earlier this year, Rivera filed papers to run for his old 26th District House seat again, then suspended his campaign in July. Recently, however, Rivera has been participating in campaign events such as a candidates forum over the weekend, and his name will appear on next Tuesday's GOP primary ballot.
Alliegro, meanwhile, is to be sentenced Sept. 10. The four charges against her each carry potential five-year prison sentences, but she is likely to get far less because she has now pleaded guilty and may cooperate in the ongoing investigation. Sternad also pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven months in prison.

Monday, August 18, 2014

House Pizzi vs. House Slaton (UPDATED)

In addition to the mass chaos this morning because it's the first day of school, there is going to be quite a show over at Miami Lakes City Hall if Michael Pizzi follows through with his promise to appear as Mayor this morning.  Over the weekend, Ben Kuehne sent the following letter on behalf of former-now current (?) mayor Michael Pizzi:

Alex Rey, Town Manager
Town of Miami Lakes
6601 Main Street
Miami Lakes, FL 33014

Marjorie Tejeda, Town Clerk
Town of Miami Lakes
6601 Main Street
Miami Lakes, FL 33014

                             Re:   Mayor Michael Pizzi
                                      Access to Town Hall and Mayoral Office
Dear Manager Rey and Clerk Tejeda:
          In strict accordance with Florida law following Mayor Pizzi’s acquittal on all charges in United States v. Michael Pizzi, U.S.D.C. Case No. 13-Cr-20815-Cooke (S.D. Fla.), Mayor Pizzi has resumed his constitutional duties and responsibilities as the duly elected Mayor of the Town of Miami Lakes to serve the 4-year term to which he was elected in November 2012. His suspension has been automatically lifted as a matter of law as a result of his acquittal.
          Mayor Pizzi appreciates The Town’s assistance in having restored his  mayoral office to him on the evening of August 14, 2014, when he re-entered Town Hall as Mayor immediately following his acquittal. At that time, you also returned his official Town photograph as Mayor to the Town Hall wall, and removed the personal effects of temporary Town Mayor Slaton from Mayor Pizzi’s office. That same evening, Mayor Pizzi was welcomed to Town Hall to resume his official duties and held a series of constituent meetings as Town Mayor.
          I now understand there is some confusion arising from the illegal efforts of the temporary Town Mayor to attempt to exercise official power beyond the temporary term to which he was elected. That is precisely why Mayor Pizzi will be continuing to utilize his mayoral office space effective on Monday, August 18, 2014, at 9 a.m. He will also need the services of an Administrative Assistant, and will require re-issuance of appropriate access credentials.
          Mayor Pizzi also intends to call a Special Council Meeting for the purpose of providing a community update to the citizens and residents of the Town. Please provide suitable dates consistent with public  notification requirements. Thank you for your assistance.
                                                                   Respectfully submitted,
                                                                   S/ Benedict P. Kuehne
                                                                   BENEDICT P. KUEHNE

The Herald covers the City's response:
The town’s response: If he goes into any unauthorized areas including the mayor’s office “he will be deemed a trespasser and subject to arrest.”
“The town of Miami Lakes will not tolerate a breach of the peace or disorderly conduct by Mr. Pizzi or anyone else,” Miami Lakes town attorney Raul Gastesi wrote on Sunday in response to a letter by Pizzi’s attorney Ben Kuehne, sent the day before, about Pizzi’s intentions of returning to office on Monday.
Slaton said on Sunday that he hoped Pizzi would change is mind about showing up at town hall.
“I was elected to serve until 2016 and that is exactly what I am going to do,” he said.

Well, who are you rooting for -- House Pizzi or House Slaton?

UPDATE == Chuck Rabin reports on Twitter that Pizzi did indeed show up and met with numerous people behind closed doors.  He wasn't arrested but was told that he wasn't the mayor.  Pizzi said he would instruct his lawyers to take legal action. 

In response, Gastesi said that “there is no confusion.”
“The Mayor of Miami Lakes is Wayne Slaton,” he wrote.
Pizzi called Gastesi’s response “insulting and ridiculous.”
“Mr. Gastesi has never practiced municipal law in his entire life,” he said. “He was appointed by Slaton because of his friendship and political loyalty and for no other reason. Instead of taking an objective position and doing research, Mr. Gastesi is acting as a personal lawyer for Mr. Slaton and leading the city down the wrong path.”
Pizzi said it is his responsibility to Miami Lakes residents for him to go back to work.
“I have no choice,” Pizzi said. “If I was to do anything else I'd be derelict in my duties.”

So are you rooting for House Pizzi or House Slaton?


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Mayor Michael Pizzi acquitted of all counts!

Congrats to Ed Shohat and Ben Keuhne on this big win.

Pizzi jury asking weird questions... (UPDATED -- Pizzi acquitted)

...and Judge Cooke is responding in print.  According to Dave Ovalle who is tweeting about the deliberations, Judge Cooke commented that "a whole generation can't read cursive" so she had to respond in print. She also said that she was "educated by nuns" in regards to her cursive.

On to the actual notes:

1)  The jury wanted "more understanding" about whether count 1 (the conspiracy charge) had to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.  The answer was obviously yes.

2)  The jury also wanted to know whether the entrapment instruction applied to all of the counts.  Again, the answer was yes.

Ovalle says that this leads him to believe that we are in for a split verdict.  I wonder.  This leads me to think that someone is fighting for the defense, but who really knows. 

UPDATE -- Ovalle was wrong -- NOT GUILTY across the board for Pizzi.