A Miami city commissioner who successfully fought a pair of political corruption charges delivered a punch to the prosecutor and a longtime political foe, lodging dramatic accusations against two heavyweights in Miami’s political establishment.
Miami City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones launched a legal offensive Monday against Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle and Mayor Tomás Regalado, claiming they plotted to destroy her political career and ruin her reputation.
In a federal lawsuit, Spence-Jones’ lawyers accuse Fernández Rundle, lead prosecutor Richard Scruggs and a state attorney’s investigator of fabricating evidence and misleading key witnesses — including developer Armando Codina and former County Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler — to back up their ultimately unsuccessful corruption cases.
Spence-Jones, 45, was acquitted in one case. The charges were dropped in the second prosecution.
The suit claims that Fernández Rundle’s goal amounted to a “shocking, nefarious scheme” to remove Spence-Jones from the city commission from 2009-11 as a favor for the state attorney’s ally, Regalado, so that Spence-Jones, his nemesis, could be replaced by another politician to represent Miami’s black community in District 5.
“Even by the sometimes sordid standards of Miami politics, the Rundle-Regalado conspiracy stands out for its brazenness,” the 106-page complaint says. “As a result of defendants’ prosecution-laden brand of power politics, Spence-Jones’ life was virtually destroyed. She lost her liberty, her job, her reputation.”
Spence-Jones’ racketeering conspiracy suit claims the defendants violated her civil rights while carrying out a malicious prosecution. She is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
Fernández Rundle, in a prepared statement Monday, said: “We will review the complaint and will respond and challenge it at the appropriate time and in the appropriate manner.”
Regalado said Monday the suit came as a surprise because he had not been served, and all he knew was what he read on The Miami Herald’s website.
“This is an issue between her and the state attorney,” the mayor said, adding: “The fact is, I hope I’m called to testify under oath that I never spoke to Fernández-Rundle about Michelle Spence-Jones — ever.’’
The suit cites several examples of the state attorney’s office colluding with City Hall power-brokers to crush Spence-Jones, a former aide to ex-Mayor Manny Diaz, who was elected for the first time to the city commission in 2005 and for the second time in 2009.
According to Spence-Jones’ suit, Fernández Rundle called Miami City Attorney Julie Bru to discuss the timing of charging the commissioner, with an eye toward keeping her off the dais for a year after she was sworn in for a second term on Nov. 12, 2009. After she was charged, the governor suspended Spence-Jones, precluding her from running until the next election.
On Nov. 13, 2009, the state attorney charged another commissioner, Angel Gonzalez, who agreed to resign from office. But Fernández Rundle, the suit alleges, reached out to the city attorney again, urging her to ask Gonzalez if he could return for a few more days so that the five-member City Commission would have a quorum of three to appoint Spence-Jones’ temporary replacement. Gonzalez refused to participate.