Suspended Commissioner Acquitted Of Bribery, Theft

Jury Reaches Verdict In Michelle Spence-Jones' Trial

Published On: Dec 14 2011 01:17:42 PM EST   Updated On: Mar 17 2011 11:17:34 AM EDT
MIAMI -

A jury reached a verdict Wednesday afternoon in the trial of suspended Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones on bribery and grand theft charges.

The jury found Spence-Jones not guilty on both counts. The trial took nearly a month to try, but the jury came back with a verdict within an hour.

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The trial stemmed from accusations that Spence-Jones took a bribe in 2006 from a businessman looking for her vote to get a better street address for his high-rise.

"To God be the glory," Spence-Jones said. "From day one, I said I was innocent. From day one, I said I would never betray the public trust, and I didn't."

"This is a political prosecution from the very beginning," said Peter Raben, Spence-Jones' attorney. "My client was about to be reinstated into her position, and just before a judge was about to do that, this indictment came down."

Prosecutors brought bribery and grand theft charges against Spence-Jones, who was suspended and then re-elected as commissioner last year, even after their star witness, developer Armando Codina, contradicted their theory about his payment to Spence-Jones in 2006. Codina insisted he and his partner gave Spence-Jones $25,000 as a legitimate charitable contribution, not as a bribe for an upcoming vote that could favor their downtown development.

Prosecutor Richard Scruggs spoke of Codina in his closing argument Wednesday morning.

"Mr. Codina was a very interesting witness. The fact that he said he didn't pay a bribe is interesting, but it's not the determining factor. It's the defendant's corrupt intent that's on trial," Scruggs said.

But the six jurors, who took copious notes, decided in Spence-Jones' favor.

"The most important thing is to be back with my family, be back with my children, and live my life, and not having to worry about having this cloud over my head knowing that I didn't do anything wrong," Spence-Jones said.

Spence-Jones still faces grand theft charges unrelated to the charges in this case but related to the same charity. The trial for that is not scheduled.

If acquitted on all charges before her commission term is over, Spence-Jones could resume her seat.