The trial was to have included testimony from former Attorney General Bill McCollum, who initiated the investigation that led to the charges, former House Speaker Dean Cannon, former Senate President Mike Haridopolos and dozens of other party officials. Just being hauled into court and questioned would have been something of a spectacle for a party that has dominated the state’s political scene since the mid-1990’s.
Crist said Monday he would have been happy to testify if the trial proceeded, “to go over there and tell the truth.”
“When people lie and steal, there is a price to pay,” Crist said of Greer.
Republicans blame Crist, now a Democrat who is looking at a possible run for governor, for selecting Greer in the first place. And they were quick to pounce when word of the guilty plea spread Monday.
“For the past three years, Jim Greer has tried to damage the reputation of the Republican Party and its leaders, but the truth is now known that Jim Greer broke the law, stole from the (state party) and our donors, and then said and did everything he could to cover up and distract attention from his crimes,’’ said Republican Party of Florida executive director Mike Grissom. “Everything Jim Greer has said and done over these past few years should be considered in that light.’’
The biggest winners aside from statewide prosecutors, who emerge from the fight with pleas to five felonies, are likely those who made the now notorious trip to the Bahamas. Delmar Johnson, former executive director of the party was prepared to testify about prostitutes he saw at the 2008 gathering that included Crist, lobbyist Brian Ballard, former party finance chairman Harry Sargeant III and dozens of other big GOP donors.
Johnson, who helped create Victory Strategies with Greer, was granted immunity by prosecutors in exchange for testifying against his former boss.
“It’s Finally Over!” Johnson posted in a statement on Twitter. “I’m looking forward to finally having the opportunity to fully tell my side of the story and move on with my life!”
Greer’s plea, however, may not end the state Republican Party’s brush with the criminal justice system. Federal prosecutors are pursuing an apparently unrelated investigation that touches GOP campaign contributions in North Florida.
Panhandle developer Jay Odom is scheduled to appear in federal court in Pensacola Tuesday (today) and plead guilty to campaign finance violations in an investigation being conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section. The presence of the Washington, D.C.-based prosecutors generally signals a much broader investigation of public corruption.