Politics

Report on GOP shindig to remain sealed

 

An appeal court ruled that the investigative report, about a GOP-sponsored gathering in the Bahamas, will not be made public for now.

Tampa Bay Times

Floridians will have to wait a little longer for details of that golf cart full of prostitutes.

The Fifth District Court of Appeal on Friday ruled in favor of anonymous petitioners who want to block the release of investigative reports about a gathering in the Bahamas sponsored by the Republican Party of Florida when Jim Greer was chairman.

Greer faces trial in February for allegedly defrauding the party of about $200,000. Reports of the party and prostitutes surfaced during a pretrial hearing in the summer.

Orlando Judge Marc Lubet declared the reports public record in July after hearing objections from Orlando lawyer Richard E. Hornsby who said he wanted to spare his clients from being embarrassed.

Hornsby said the four-page police report is “defamatory’’ and “salacious and basically harassing in nature.’’ He would not identify the clients who want to keep it sealed.

Lubet read the report and then asked prosecutors if GOP lobbyist Brian Ballard, former party finance chair Harry Sergeant III, former party executive director Delmar Johnson and Dane Eagle, a former aide to Gov. Charlie Crist who was elected to the Florida House in November, would be called as witnesses in Greer’s criminal trial.

When Assistant Statewide Prosecutor Michael Williams said all but Eagle are slated to be witnesses, the judge ordered the report released because it is part of the evidence turned over to defense attorneys in the criminal case. Under Florida law documents given to a defendant are public record.

But in a brief unsigned opinion Fifth District Court of Appeal Chief Judge Richard B. Orfinger and Judges Thomas D. Sawaya and Bruce W. Jacobus said “the documents should not be disseminated and should remain confidential at this time.”

They did not address the use of the report at trial, saying they would leave that up to the trial judge.

Johnson was Greer’s top assistant but has been granted immunity in return for his testimony against Greer. In a deposition released last month, Johnson said prosecutors asked him about the Bahamas event.

Johnson described a golf cart filled with women he presumed to be prostitutes.

Other witnesses questioned in the Greer investigation say the former GOP chairman often had parties for men only and refused to allow women unless they were “paid.”

Ballard and Eagle have denied knowing about prostitutes at the gathering, which was designed to thank donors who helped support a property tax amendment the party supported. About 100 people attended.

Read more Political Currents stories from the Miami Herald

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