Richard Scruggs, Miami-Dade's Top Corruption Fighter, Got Served
|Richard Scruggs has lost his mojo.|
But right now, the veteran prosecutor has lost his shine. While trying to prove -- unsuccessfully -- that Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones solicited a bribe in one public corruption case and committed grand theft in another probe, Scruggs has been accused of improper behavior by witnesses, opposing counsel, and a judge.
During the trial of Spence-Jones's pastor, Rev. Gaston Smith, Judge Beatrice Butchko admonished Scruggs after he admitted under oath that he withheld key information from Smith's defense attorney; he also failed to provide public documents requested by a New Times staff writer.
The assistant state attorney failed to immediately disclose that a police detective had secretly recorded investigative interviews with Smith before the pastor was arrested. Butchko called Scruggs's actions "very unprofessional."
Jeb Bush's best pal, Armando Codina, the main witness in the bribery case against Spence-Jones, claimed in a deposition that Scruggs suckered him into believing she stole $25,000 he and one of his business partners (not Jeb) had donated at her request for a gala honoring Barbara Carey-Shuler. Scruggs alleged Spence-Jones solicited the money from the real estate developers in exchange for her vote on the renaming of a street.
When he took the stand at the trial, Codina claimed he "was purposely misled" by Scruggs, who was described as the "greatest ass kicker of all time" when he was named Best Lawyer by Miami New Times in 2005. The real estate developer also emphatically denied Spence-Jones shook him down, which helped convince a jury to acquit her.
Scruggs's other star witness, Carey-Shuler, also turned on him when she recanted her initial sworn statement that led to Spence-Jones's first arrest for allegedly stealing $50,000 in county funds. Carey-Shuler changed her tune after seeing drafts of a letter containing her handwriting on her commission letterhead. Scruggs had claimed Spence-Jones forged it.
The former county commissioner's about-face and the pieces of paper bearing her handwriting essentially derailed Scruggs's case, forcing him to drop it. His close-out memo makes him seem pretty sore about losing.
He accuses Spence-Jones and her lawyer, Peter Raben, of planting the "smoking gun" evidence that exonerated her. When he first inventoried the documents in 2009, Scruggs claimed Carey-Shuler's office file referencing the $50,000 was empty except for the final letter with the county commissioner's stamped signature.
When Spence-Jones and Raben reviewed the same file a year later, Scruggs alleges her lawyer -- citing attorney-client privilege -- demanded that the custodian for Carey-Shuler's county records leave the room while they rifled through the documents.
Scruggs wrote, "A short while later, the two drafts... along with other documents... surfaced in the previously empty file." Talk about petty.
He should focus more on regaining his top form before he pursues his next public corruption target.
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