Remember the lawsuit that disgraced former House Speaker Ray Sansom filed against the state to recover more than $800,000 in legal fees?
Sansom, if you recall, was charged with manipulating the state budget process in order to obtain $6 million in state money to pay for a hangar at the Destin airport that was really intended to be used by a businessman and major Republican donor.
His trial in 2011 ended when State Attorney Willie Meggs dropped the charges after a judge refused to let a key witness testify.
Sansom filed a civil lawsuit asking for payment of his legal fees. He asserts that his legal fees should be paid by taxpayers because it was connected to his legal duties.
The state, however, has fought this request, saying that despite the charges being dropped that Sansom's action were still "tainted" because he was seeking to do something on behalf of private interests not the public.
Well the trial is coming up soon and the office of Attorney General Pam Bondi has subpoenaed Tampa Tribune reporter James Rosica to testify in the case.
Rosica covered the trial for The Associated Press at the time.
Why is Bondi's office seeking to compel a reporter to appear at the trial? That's not really clear.
A spokesman for the attorney general refused to comment citing the pending litigation.
The subpoena given to Rosica last Friday does instruct him to bring a copy of the March 25, 2011 article he did on the criminal case. That story does note that both Sansom and businessman Jay Odom had agreed to pay restitution to Northwest Florida State College for costs related to the hangar.
During a court hearing in 2013 it was pointed out that Odom wound up paying Sansom's share of the restitution. Sansom's lawyer argued that Sansom never really consented to the payment and that it should not have been viewed as an admission of guilt.
Speaking of the Sansom civil trial....
One interesting tidbit from the legal battle. According to one court filing, Sansom in a deposition has defended his actions as House budget chairman by comparing himself to....John Thrasher.
Sansom noted that while he was speaker Thrasher helped obtain funding for a Florida State University medical school.
For their part attorneys for Bondi's office don't agree with the comparison.
"The difference in the two situations is stark,'' states the filing from last fall. "Mr. Thrasher put an appropriation in for a medical school building, and a medical school building was built. Mr. Sansom placed into the appropriations bill an appropriation for the 'Okaloose Jt Use Emergency Response Workforce Center" for building a hanger at the Destin airport for his campaign contributor, Jay Odom. A finding that this act was within the public interest essentially condones political corruption."
Odom by the way also appears to be a key person for the upcoming trial.
He has been fighting attempts to get him to answer questions related to the entire Sansom incident and the payment he made to the college. The state has also wanted to delve into his friendship with Sansom as well as ask him questions about his businesses.
Filings show that Odom, who was sentenced in 2013 to six months in jail and ordered to pay fines in connection with money he donated to the presidential campaign of Mike Huckabee, has been citing his Fifth Amendment privilege in order to rebuff these questions from the state. His attorneys say the threat of continued prosecution _ including potential racketeering charges_remain real.
From one of the court filings:
"The scope of the federal investigation is broad.
The federal authorities have gone to extreme efforts to seize virtually all of Mr. Odom's business and personal records and interview, or compel testimony, from a vast number of his friends, family members, employees and associates. Search warrants have been served on him, his businesses and his properties. With those search warrants, the federal authorities seized over 18 boxes (and other containers) of documents, copied the hard drives of eleven computers, and seized financial records relating to virtually every receipt and expenditure by Mr. Odom, or his companies."
The court filing adds that federal investigators have not only focused on the appropriation but the relationship between Odom and Sansom as well as "campaign contributions made by Mr. Odom's businesses to political candidates and causes."
In November, Judge Angela Dempsey ruled that Odom does have a right to assert his Fifth Amendment privilege, but she did say he needed to order two questions related to his decision to pay the restitution on behalf of Sansom.