Jury deliberating whether Miami commissioner targeted Little Havana businessmen

Entrepreneurs allege Joe Carollo harassed them because of their support for political oppenent

A decision in the federal civil trial looms in the case against city of Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo.

On Wednesday, jurors heard closing arguments from both the plaintiffs and the defense legal teams. Now the jury begins its deliberation.

Carollo is being sued by Miami businessmen Bill Fuller and Martin Pinilla. The grounds for the lawsuit? The plaintiffs are saying that Carollo infringed on their rights for free speech alleging that he used his office to harass them and damage their reputations, all because they supported a political opponent of his in 2017.

Attorneys for Fuller, who owns and Pinilla painted a picture throughout the trial of a commissioner who bullied anyone else who went against him.

“What’s at stake is a U.S. citizen’s right to speak out against the government,” During closing arguments, Attorney Courtney Caprio said. (“They) have been punished for opposing Joe Carollo.”

The defense has categorized the plaintiffs’ accusations as “fantasy,” maintaining that Carollo wasn’t fixated on the Little Havana entrepreneurs specifically, but was only working to improve District 3.

Carollo’s attorney, Mason Pertnoy, said that “all Commissioner Carollo did was his job,” painting the picture that the two businessmen would routinely start work on their establishments without obtaining the proper permits.

The day of closing arguments was the 51st calendar day since the federal civil trial began.

The marathon trial has lasted so long, three jurors dropped out, but now, with the jury finally in deliberations, a verdict is within reach.

Since the case was filed in 2018, taxpayers have spent nearly $2 million on Carollo’s defense.

About the Author:

Liane Morejon is an Emmy-winning reporter who joined the Local 10 News family in January 2010. Born and raised in Coral Gables, Liane has a unique perspective on covering news in her own backyard.