After serving two years in prison and 15 months of house arrest in his Hialeah home for illegal contributions to political campaigns, former state Rep. Nilo Juri said he is working on an autobiographical book describing various instances of absentee-ballot fraud that led to his losing his bid for Hialeah mayor in 1993.
“This is the story of the crude reality of local politics,” Juri said Monday. “The book speaks of the roots of the absentee-ballot electoral fraud in Hialeah and in South Florida, which not only affected my life but also the popular will in an election.”
BOOK NEXT SUMMER
Juri, 63, said the book, to be published in both Spanish and English, details the intricacies of the municipal election that Raúl Martínez won two decades ago, after a judge ordered a new election given the evidence of irregularities in absentee-ballot votes. He plans to publish the book in July.
In the general count Martínez won by 273 votes. Yet the fact that he received double the number of votes with absentee ballots (826 versus 448) prompted Juri, who had won in the polls on Election Day, to dispute the process.
“I remember that Rodolfo García, former Sen. Rudy García’s father, came to tell me that if the will of the people decided in the polls that I was to be the new mayor, we couldn’t let the will of the boleteros prevail,” Juri said. “That is why we initiated the action in court.”
Sitting next to a box full of copies of judicial documents in the dining room of his townhouse in West Hialeah, Juri said that during the trial various irregularities were documented, among them the case of a woman whose signature was forged while she was traveling in Dominican Republic.
Experts hired then by The Miami Herald concluded that 36 signatures on the applications for absentee ballots did not match the electoral registry accompanying each ballot.
When the case was heard in court by Judge Sidney Shapiro, Juri said that former Hialeah police Officer Glenn Rice, along with various witnesses, refused to testify and invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid incriminating themselves.
Rice confirmed that, very briefly. For a year now, the former police officer has accompanied current Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernández to official events. During the November municipal election, he acted as one of his main advisors.
Juri said that hiring a legal team and private investigators cost him nearly $300,000, financed by personal contributions and several fund-raising events.
When Shapiro ruled that a new election be held in 28 days, Juri said that his campaign faced a great disadvantage trying to obtain new contributions.
“We had nowhere to go for more resources. My campaign was broke,” Juri said. “However, Raúl’s legal expenses were paid by the city. Then we went to a new election and he won.”
On Monday, Martínez told El Nuevo Herald that his defense was paid for with city funds because the lawsuit had been filed against the city of Hialeah, among other institutions.
“Since the accusation was against the city of Hialeah, it was the city of Hialeah that had to defend its actions,” Martínez said.
According to The Miami Herald, despite Shapiro’s conclusion that there had been fraud, only one campaign worker during the election was accused of altering ballots, but she did not work for Martínez.
Juri said he got the idea to write a book when he was in the New River federal prison in North Florida. “It was a very hard experience,” he said. “I had a lot of time to think.” He said that in 2008 he was convicted for illegal contributions to help the campaigns of candidates for the Hialeah Council and the Miami-Dade Commission in 2003 and 2004.
After an eight-day trial, the jury convicted Juri of nine serious charges and four minor ones in a scheme that involved used “false donors” to direct the money to various candidates, among them Jorge Roque, who was running against Commissioner Natacha Seijas.
Juri acknowledged that he gave about five checks to Roque to get him to accept a public financing program that granted $75,000 to campaigns that requested it. However, he criticized that Roque received a lower sentence while he was sentenced to three years in prison, two years of house arrest, 13 years of probation and restitution of $100,000.
He did the same to help three candidates for the Hialeah Council: Adriana Narváez, Vanesa Bravo and Cindy Miel. He said that to make contributions totaling $3,000, he used checks of his daughter and her husband.
“I had just arrived from Mexico, where I had gone to work for eight years,” Juri said. “I wanted to support the candidacies of these women who opposed Raúl Martínez.”