TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — The ninth day of JT Burnette's trial began with Scott Maddox taking the stand. Maddox is one third of the people the federal government indicted in is probe into corruption at City Hall.
Burnette is accused of giving Maddox a $100,000 bribe to kill plans for a rivalling downtown hotel project. He’s also accused of facilitating $40,000 in bribes from the fake development company Southern Pines Development.
Shortly after Maddox’s testimony, the prosecution rested its case.
Maddox took a plea deal in 2019, pleading guilty to Honest Services Wire Fraud, Honest Services Mail Fraud, and Conspiracy to Defraud the Government. Under the plea agreement, Maddox was required to provide testimony against JT Burnette. The government will file a motion to reduce Maddox’s sentence and officially drop 41 charges at the end of the trial, in exchange for his full cooperation.
But in cross-examination Monday, Maddox denied knowingly extorting the fake development company Southern Pines. Much of Maddox’s testimony in cross-examination focused on his knowledge of the $40k checks from the FBI. Maddox repeatedly said he genuinely thought the money was for Carter-Smith to serve as their consultant.
Maddox testified Burnette told him Southern Pines wanted to hire Paige Carter-Smith for the FallsChase deal and when the check from Southern Pines arrived, neither he nor Carter-Smith knew who it was from.
Maddox testified that when drunk, he made a lot of claims he couldn’t back up.
“I was bragging. At one point, I said I set it up. I was bragging like it was my great idea when it was not.” Maddox said of the plans to have JT Burnette build a sound barrier in the Myers Park neighborhood.
While Maddox was going through his divorce, he said he saw Undercover FBI Agent Mike Sweets at Madison Social. Sweets is heard in a recording asking Maddox if $20,000 is a good payment for Governance services. Maddox says he assumed that price tag was to support a whole team, wit Paige Carter-Smith as the consultant, and a host of other engineers and contractors.
Maddox says of the $40,000 dollars paid in equal installments over four months, he never pocketed the money because he believed it was for Governance services.
Undercover Agents say during a dinner at Table 23, they could sense a change in Maddox. Maddox testified that the agents were “overly aggressive” that night. He says they only focused on services from Governance and seemed to be fishing for answers.
“You get her professional services. They thought by hiring her, they would get favorable services. I told them it didn’t work that way,” Maddox said thinking back to the last interaction he had with the FBI Agents.
Maddox says while he never once thought of the money as a bribe, he accepted some responsibility for how it all played out.
“I should no have said the things I said at Madison Social intimating it would be favorable treatment,” Maddox said. “I gave them the impression in my first meeting that I was the wizard behind the curtains. I could get it done.”
After Maddox, the prosecution called the special agent who initially interviewed Burnette.
In a recording Special Agent Evan Hurley told Burnette undercover agent Mike Sweets, who posed as a medical marijuana mogul, was being investigated for dealing in illegal drugs.
In the recording, the agent repeatedly asked Burnette if he knew of any elected officials Sweets might have paid off to get his way.
Burnette said he knew Sweets met Scott Maddox in passing but maintained that he didn't know anything about bribery payments or connections to local officials.
The defense called two witness. When court resumes on Tuesday, JT Burnette is expected to testify.
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.