Michelle Spence-Jones Trial Begins Today
|Michelle Spence-Jones gets her day in court.|
Since her initial arrest in November 2009, days following her reelection to the Miami City Commission, Spence-Jones has maintained she will be exonerated. By the end of the week, we'll find out if a jury believes state prosecutors' claims that Spence-Jones that she shook down a prominent developer for $12,500.
Whatever the conclusion, her case represents a cautionary tale about Miami politics: Never trust anyone, even those who call themselves your mentor.
Assistant State Attorney Richard Scruggs relied on the testimony of Barbara Carey-Shuler, a former county commissioner who mentored Spence-Jones, to build a case against the suspended Miami elected official. Under oath, Carey-Shuler informed the prosecutor that her signature was forged on letters authorizing a company controlled by Spence-Jones and her family to receive the grants. Months later, Carey-Shuler recanted part of her testimony while being deposed by Spence-Jones' attorneys.
Carey-Shuler, it should be noted, escaped prosecution on unrelated public corruption charges when a former ally, Antonio Junior, ratted her out. He claimed to have delivered kickbacks to Carey-Shuler in the 1990s, but the information was worthless because the statute of limitations had run out. So credibility is not her strongest suit. We'll see if jurors buy Carey-Shuler's performance on the stand.
Follow Miami New Times on Facebook and Twitter @MiamiNewTimes.