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Phone calls center of closing arguments during Stephanie Kraft corruption trial

Prosecution alleges former Broward County school board member used office to help push construction project

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Juror deliberations will begin Thursday morning in the public corruption trial involving former Broward County school board member Stephanie Kraft, who is accused of using her office to help wealthy developers avoid a hefty impact fee. 

"Mrs. Kraft knew what was going on and Mrs. Kraft agreed to help," prosecutor Catherine Maus told jurors during Thursday's closing arguments.

She urged jurors to remember that Kraft's husband, Mitch, worked as a consultant for developers Bruce and Shawn Chait, who were facing a half-million dollars in school district impact fees to build a massive housing development in Tamarac. She said Bruce Chaits agreed to pay Mitch Kraft $10,000 if he could persuade his wife to place an item to waive those fees on the school board agenda.

"In no uncertain terms, he told Mitch Kraft, 'Get me on that agenda,'" Maus said. "And Mr. Kraft said, 'Let me call my wife.' In front of Mr. Chait, Mr. Kraft picked up the phone, made a phone call and got off it in a short period of time. He then said to Mr. Chait, 'You're on.' And indeed they were on that agenda."

Defense attorney Ken Padowitz countered during his closing arguments, saying prosecutors have no evidence of what those telephone conversations were about.

Padowitz claimed there was no conspiracy and said Kraft had no authority to put anything on the agenda. The superintendent at the time, Jim Notter, testified to that during the trial. Padowitz told jurors the whole case is bogus because it's built upon the testimony of two dirty developers who avoided jail time by admitting they paid off several elected officials in Broward County to push their housing development through.

"This is who they got into bed with," Padowitz said. "This is the foundation of their house of cards."

Stephanie Kraft faces up to five years in prison if she's convicted. Her husband is also facing criminal charges but will be tried separately.

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