Spence-Jones Confident Of 2nd Acquittal
Suspended Commissioner Calls Charges 'Political Persecution'
Suspended Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones told Local 10 she would like for her grand theft trial to start tomorrow, her confidence high after her bribery trial ended with not guilty verdicts.
Spence-Jones had an emotional outburst soon after six jurors returned with not guilty verdicts on charges that stemmed from accusations that she had tried to bribe a developer. Outside the courtroom, her tears flowed even more as family and friends surrounded her.
When Spence-Jones sat down with Local 10's Calvin Hughes several days later, looking back was emotional.
"Definitely tears of joy," Spence-Jones said. "To hear all these things being said about you and you know they're not true, to finally have six people sit for 90 minutes and come back and say, 'Not guilty, not guilty,' twice, it's a satisfaction that I don't think you could ever imagine."
The testimony of Armando Codina, the developer, hurt the government's case against Spence-Jones. Codina said he expected nothing in return after he wrote a $12,500 check to a charity run by Spence-Jones.
"This was the turning point in the trial," said Peter Raben, Spence-Jones' defense attorney. "This completely refuted the government's case. And, it was no small part of the case when Mr. Codina turned to the prosecutor and said, 'You lied to me.'"
Spence-Jones called the charges against her "political persecution."
"What is the motivation behind it? Why? That's a big question for us as well," Spence-Jones said.
The suspended commissioner said it is her outspoken brand of politics on big issues that makes her a big target.
"Marlins Stadium being one -- I demanded that the monies went back into the communities, Overtown, the areas in which money was taken out of. Maybe some people didn't like that," Spence-Jones said.
Like her lawyer, Spence-Jones sounded confident about her chances of acquittal in her upcoming grand theft trial and reclaiming a seat on the Miami City Commission.
"Once I am acquitted of any charges, I will be reinstated. If the people elected me, then I should have the right to serve them," Spence-Jones said. "I'm looking forward to justice prevailing once again."
The State Attorney's Office sent a lengthy response to Spence-Jones' allegation of "political persecution." It said, in part:
"Ms. Spence-Jones' characterization of the entire political corruption investigative process as 'not persuaded by gossip, rumor or innuendo or influenced by political agendas' is as true today, March 29, 2011, as it was when she wrote her letter almost two years ago. Only her particular needs seem to have changed."
The statement refers to a letter Spence-Jones wrote to The Miami Herald in which she praised the State Attorney's Office for doing excellent work.
Spence-Jones is set to appear in court at a status hearing Wednesday.
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