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Corruption in City Hall: JT Burnette Trial Day 12

Posted at 11:03 AM, Aug 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-09 18:23:34-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — After a 12 day hiatus, the JT Burnette trial is back.

The trial was halted on July 28 following a case of COVID-19 among the jury pool. Judge Robert Hinkle said he used CDC guidelines, giving the juror 10 days.

"This juror poses no risk," Hinkle said. "In fact, he's probably the safest out of all of us right now."

After the brief health update, Burnette resumed questioning from his attorney, Tim Jansen.

Returning to surreptitious recordings by the undercover FBI agents, Burnette gave his side of those conversations.

Business on South Monroe

While the government argues Burnette bribed the FBI agents to pay $40,000 in exchange for Scott Maddox's influence on the City Commission, the defense painted a different story.

"You need somebody local like me," Burnette is heard telling the agents in one of the recordings.

Burnette says he was offering his advice on the growth and development of a city the agents were all new to.

"From day one, Mike Sweets wants to pay someone," Burnette said on the stand.

Multiple clips from early 2016 played by the defense involve Burnette attempting to get those future developers to buy the Mayco building, now Proof Brewing, over any available South Monroe Street land connecting to FAMU Way.

Burnette says although he constantly brought the Mayco building up to the agents, he never once mentioned it to his alleged co-conspirator, then-commissioner Maddox.

Burnette said he also looked outside Tallahassee to help Mike Miller, Brian Butler and Mike Sweets.

Through their fake development company "Southern Pines" the undercover agents expressed interest in developing multi-family housing.

The defense played calls as well as texts showing Burnette helped them with land in Jacksonville.

Burnette and Miller eventually met in Jacksonville to scope out land.

Between the Florida Blue property in Jacksonville and the Mayco property in Tallahassee, Burnette maintains his intentions were always to give them good advice, saying he eventually bought the Mayco building after their discontinued interest.

In a recording, Burnette asks if Miller made most of his money from medical marijuana. He said he wanted medical marijuana money for investments, not "cartel money."

Burnette said he was interested in learning more about medical marijuana from Sweets because he thought he had "national-scale" knowledge. Sweets had said he knew the head of the largest medical marijuana company in the U.S.

Burnette said in early March, there was one of two times where he initiated a call to Sweets.

"I called the one person I knew with experience," he said.

According to Burnette, Sweets' advice was key to making Trulieve what it is today. He claimed he wanted to give real estate advice to Miller in exchange for medical marijuana advice from Sweets.

In Jacksonville with Miller, Burnette asked about legal drugs and Sweets again.

Florida Blue had a five-acre parcel on the water and wanted to see the river developed for alternative parking solutions.

"I was trying [to help] Miller make a decent investment so Mike Sweets didn't lose all his money," said Burnette.

In May, Burnette texted Miller, "buy the Mayco building on South Monroe and just wait two years. Best deal in Tallahassee."

Miller texted back, "Just trying to navigate the politics side [of the Fregly property].

"Who in the world is worried about the politics of a piece of property no one has agreed to sell," Burnette asked.

JT BURNETTE TRIAL: DAY ONE

JT BURNETTE TRIAL: DAY TWO

JT BURNETT TRIAL: DAY THREE

JT BURNETTE TRIAL: DAY FOUR

JT BURNETTE TRIAL: DAY FIVE

JT BURNETTE TRIAL: DAY SIX

JT BURNETTE TRIAL: DAY SEVEN

JT BURNETTE TRIAL: DAY EIGHT

JT BURNETTE TRIAL: DAY NINE

JT BURNETTE: TRIAL DAY 10

TRIAL PAUSED ON 11th DAY

BACKGROUND
Corruption at city hall, it's the scandal the FBI released on February 5 of 2018.

That's when Scott Maddox, who was serving as a Tallahassee City Commissioner and Paige Carter-Smith, who was serving as the Downtown Improvement Authority Director, was named in search warrant affidavits.

Those documents say through a consulting company named Governance, they were paid to vote in favor of various groups lobbying to move into Tallahassee.

Maddox called the claims untrue a week later.

In December of that year, federal prosecutors found enough to charge him with 44 counts including bribery, extortion, bank fraud, and racketeering.

Just one day later, Former Governor Rick Scott suspended Maddox. Carter Smith stepped down from her role as well.

Not done with the players at hand, prosecutors indicted Tallahassee businessman J.T. Burnette on May 9, 2019.

In August of that year, Maddox and Carter Smith entered guilty pleas. The plea agreement only dealt with three charges: two for extortion and one for tax fraud. Thirty-nine of the charges were dropped because of that plea deal.

That same day, the US Attorney's Office launched a new statewide division made up of the US Attorney's Office, FBI agents, the IRS, and the Department of Justice to crack down on any form of corruption in government.

After three delays, JT Burnette is now on trial.