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Scott Maddox, Paige Carter-Smith plead guilty in FBI corruption case

Posted at 10:39 AM, Jul 31, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-06 17:21:29-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Suspended Tallahassee Commissioner Scott Maddox and his longtime aide and business partner Paige Carter-Smith pled guilty before a federal judge on Tuesday.

This is a case that has been a black mark on city government for more than a year.

The plea agreement only dealt with three charges. Two for extortion and one for tax fraud.

The extortion charges come with a maximum of 20 years. Tax fraud can hold up to 5 years.

The legal journey for Scott Maddox and Paige Carter-Smith is one step closer to ending. Before a federal Judge, both admitted their guilt and accepted a plea bargain.

"He has accepted responsibility for what he did but there were a lot of things in the indictment that we felt very strongly that he wasn't guilty of and that's what he was stressing," said Stephen Dobson, Maddox's attorney.

39 of the charges were dropped because of that plea deal.

Meanwhile, the other defendant, JT Burnette, will still go to trial despite his attorneys attempting to push the trial date back.

"Every day, we find more evidence," said Tim Jansen, Burnette's attorney.

Burnette's attorney tried to get more time to go over the thousands of pages of documents and hundreds of hours of recordings.

It's all part of a large scale FBI probe that is still plaguing city government.

"Cases like this one are the reason for our Public Trust Unit and its broad mission," said Larry Keefe, U.S. Attorney.

The US Attorney's Office announced the creation of the task force following Maddox and Carter Smith's guilty pleas.

"We shall identify, investigate, disrupt, and prosecute anyone and everyone who threatens our way of life and our system of government by abusing their official power," said Keefe.

Now on the third floor of the US Attorney's Office, FBI agents, the IRS, and the Department of Justice will work alongside them to crack down on any form of corruption in government.

Corruption that Maddox's attorney says his client regrets being a part of.

"He hopes Tallahassee heals after all of this because much of his life has been devoted to Tallahassee and trying to make it a better place to live," said Stephen Dobson, Maddox's attorney.

Maddox and Carter-Smith will be sentenced November 19.

JT Burnette will go to trial November 4.

Suspended city commissioner Scott Maddox and longtime business partner Paige Carter-Smith now face a maximum of 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to fraud charges.

The pair both plead guilty to two counts of honest service fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud tax at a Tuesday morning hearing in Tallahassee.

The duo plead guilty to working with a ride sharing company to influence Maddox’s vote as a commissioner as well as extortion regarding a company set up by the FBI.

They could get up to 20 years in prison for the first two counts and 5 years for the tax fraud. All other charges were dropped with the plea agreement.

Maddox's Stephen Dobson attorney says that’s a win.

In the year and a half since the indictments happened, the duo has filed multiple motions to dismiss the charges, alleging that there was no evidence of Maddox and Carter gaining anything from their actions. Those motions were all denied.

Sentencing has been set for November 19. Shortly, businessman JT brunette will also see a judge about his involvement in this FBI probe.

This is a developing story. Stay with us for details.

After initially entering a 'not guilty' plea, former Tallahassee Commissioner Scott Maddox is now changing his mind.

Maddox and longtime business partner Paige Carter Smith will go before a judge at 10 a.m. in Tallahassee's federal court. The two won't be sentenced Tuesday, but a sentencing date could be set.

"The allegations that have come out recently are untrue," said Maddox. That's what former Tallahassee city commissioner Scott Maddox said in February 12, 2018, a week after his name popped up in an FBI search warrant.

Now, Maddox and his longtime associate Paige Carter Smith are changing their tune, opting to go back on their not guilty plea and instead plead guilty on some of the corruption charges. Maddox and Carter-Smith were charged with 44 counts including bribery, extortion, bank fraud, and racketeering in December 11, 2018 as part of that FBI probe into corruption at Tallahassee City Hall.

"That web in those kinds of cases is usually highly complex, which makes it difficult to go to trial and to get a jury. It's get hard to understand some of the complexities of financial shenanigans, if you will, which is kind of what the accusations are," said Dr. Ed Moore, the president of the Independent Universities & Colleges of Florida.

Then Governor Rick Scott wasted no time suspending Maddox from his seat as a city commissioner a day later. Mayor John Dailey opening the search up to replace him just hours after the suspension.

"I have 3 dedicated colleagues along with myself," Dailey said. "We are committed to an accountable and transparent process. We are going to select the best individual in the city of Tallahassee to fill out the rest of this term."

And Paige Carter-Smith resigned from her role as CEO of the Tallahassee Downtown Improvement Authority that same day.

In the year and a half since the indictments happened, the duo has filed multiple motions to dismiss the charges, alleging that there was no evidence of Maddox and Carter gaining anything from their actions. Those motions were all denied.

Tallahassee businessman JT Burnette, who is also charged in the case, will be in federal court for a status hearing at 1 p.m. Trial is currently set for Burnette in November.

It's possible that the move by Maddox and Carter-Smith could crop up additional indictments as there are several other individuals and companies referenced throughout the defendant's court documents.

A change of plea hearing has been set for suspended city commissioner Scott Maddox and former executive director of the Downtown Improvement Authority Paige Carter-Smith.

Attorneys for Maddox and Carter-Smith filed a notice of a change of plea hearing on Wednesday. Both are facing charges on 44 counts related to racketeering, bank fraud, extortion, bribery, conspiracy to interfere with the IRS and filing false tax returns.

That hearing is set for August 6.

A hearing for Tallahassee businessman J.T. Burnette, the third defendant in the case, has also been set for August 6, just three hours after Maddox and Carter-Smith's. The court has not ruled on whether Burnette will be tried with Maddox and Carter-Smith.

Maddox and Carter-Smith's trial was delayed until November 4.