POLITICS

Ex-RPOF chairman Jim Greer faces sentencing hearing

 

The News Service of Florida

Former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer, who pleaded guilty on the eve of a potentially politically salacious trial that could have aired the laundry of the state GOP and former Gov. Charlie Crist, will find out his prison fate Wednesday.

Greer’s pretrial guilty plea in February allowed him to avert the possibility of up to 75 years in prison for fraud, money laundering and theft when he again appears before Circuit Judge Donald Myers at 1:30 p.m. in Orlando.

Instead, Greer, 50, faces the prospect of a maximum sentence of 35 years on four counts of theft and a reduced money-laundering charge. The recommended sentence, according to state guidelines, is more likely to put Greer in prison for closer to 3 1/2.

Greer, who ran the party from 2007 to 2010, has been able to stay at home since his plea announcement on Feb. 11. A grand jury indicted Greer in 2010 on six counts, including a charge of organized fraud that was dropped with the guilty plea.

Greer’s attorney, Damon Chase, who had fiercely claimed “the evidence was overwhelmingly in our favor,” was not immediately available for comment Monday.

Greer’s guilty admission accepts the state premise that he created a shell fundraising company called Victory Strategies that was used to steer Republican Party of Florida money into his personal bank account, on top of the $130,000 salary he got from the party.

Greer long claimed the party was aware of the arrangement, even approving a secret $123,000 severance deal that was supposed to shroud him from criminal liability. He filed suit against the RPOF, former Senate President Mike Haridopolos and Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, seeking the severance money and $5 million in damages.

The suit was dropped with the guilty plea.

RPOF leaders have spent the past three years trying to distance themselves from Greer, whom they have accused of lavishly spending party money.

While chairing the RPOF, Greer first drew complaints from inside the party for taking side in a number of primary contests.

Greer has blamed his banishment from the party and eventual downfall for his ties to Crist, and particularly his support of Crist’s controversial embrace of President Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus package and later Crist’s run for U.S. Senate in 2010 against Marco Rubio.

After Greer pleaded guilty, RPOF Executive Director Mike Grissom referred to Greer as “the man Charlie Crist personally picked to lead the Republican Party of Florida.”

“The truth is now known that Jim Greer broke the law, stole from RPOF and our donors, and then said and did everything he could to cover up and distract attention from his crimes,” Grissom said in a release. “Everything Jim Greer has said and done over these past few years should be considered in that light.”

Crist also disassociated himself from Greer’s actions, claiming under oath to have had no knowledge of Victory Strategies until one day reading about it in a newspaper.

Democrats, meanwhile, have tried to keep Republicans from ducking blame. But the Florida Democratic Party may also start to push the matter into the past as Crist continues to fuel speculation he will run, as a Democrat, for governor in 2014.

Read more Political Currents stories from the Miami Herald

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