Combative Joe Carollo takes stand in civil trial, accuses witnesses of lying

Judge reminds commissioner several times to avoid going off on tangents

MIAMI – After weeks of sitting through testimony, Joe Carollo took the stand Monday during his ongoing federal civil trial.

The Miami city commissioner displayed some of the behavior previously talked about during past portions of the trial. At times, Carollo raised his voice and yelling over the attorney questioning him.

But he maintains he did nothing wrong and accused almost all of the witnesses that came before him of lying.

The commissioner is being sued by Little Havana businessmen Bill Fuller and Martin Pinilla, who allege Carollo repeatedly abused his power by harassing them and hurting their companies, all because they supported his political opponent in 2017.

During the trial, witness after witness took the stand, testifying Carollo was obsessed with Fuller and his business partners, saying the commissioner would have them do vast amounts of research on their properties.

Several of his former employees also brought up a mural located right off Calle Ocho.

Each individually said Carollo complained repeatedly about the mural, specifically that it had too many Black people on it, and he was worried visitors would think Little Havana was a Black neighborhood.

And, on Wednesday, Carollo’s relative and former secretary Tanjha Quintana took the stand, testifying in front of the jury that she was coerced by the commissioner and his wife Marjorie to falsely accuse other former Carollo staff of sexual harassment, not once but twice.

But on the stand Monday, Carollo denied all of it, saying the witnesses were all lying, including former City Manager Emilio Gonzalez, who testified that Carollo “targeted” business owners.

“You know what targeting was? What Emilio Gonzalez did to me. That’s targeting,” Carollo said on the stand, claiming Gonzalez sent code enforcement to his Coconut Grove home.

Carollo was called as a witness by the plaintiffs’ attorneys.

He claimed he never ordered employees to do research on Fuller except for when his attorneys asked for it, that he never complained about the mural, and that Quintana made the coercion up completely.

Carollo said there was no racial element to any concerns about the mural.

“I thought they were trying to de-Cubanize, de-Latinize Little Havana in the sense that they wanted to make it more like your area here, you know, Wynwood,” Carollo said. “With all these scary looking murals that you find.”

Several times during questioning, the judge had to remind Carollo to answer the questions and refrain from going off on tangential narratives.

Throughout the trial, the defense team has been trying to tell jurors that Carollo was not acting out of spite and was instead trying to protect the city.

They are set to question Carollo after the plaintiffs’ attorneys finish questioning him, which they were unable to do before the end of the day Monday.

Direct examination is set to continue Tuesday morning.

About the Author:

Ian Margol joined the Local 10 News team in July 2016 as a general assignment reporter. Born in Miami Beach and raised in Broward County, Ian is thrilled to be back home in South Florida.