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February 26, 2014

Suspended Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi’s bribery trial delayed until July

The federal bribery trial of suspended Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi has been pushed back to July 8 because of the time-consuming task of transcribing FBI undercover recordings that prosecutors say reveal his accepting thousands of dollars for doing political favors.

The federal bribery trial of suspended Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi has been pushed back to July 8 because of the time-consuming task of transcribing FBI undercover recordings that prosecutors say reveal his accepting thousands of dollars for doing political favors.

Pizzi, 51, who was arrested in August following a two-year sting operation, was initially scheduled to face trial on May 5. But his attorneys, Ed Shohat and Ben Kuehne, asked U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke on Wednesday for a two-month delay so they could obtain and evaluate the audio recordings at the heart of the government’s case against their client.

Pizzi is accused of accepting $6,750 in kickbacks from FBI undercover agents posing as sleazy Chicago businessmen in exchange for supporting sham federal grant applications.

The two-term mayor was charged with accepting four bribes in exchange for using his official positions as Miami Lakes mayor and Medley’s town attorney to back “bogus” grant applications for economic development that prosecutor Jared Dwyer says were only meant to enrich him and others.

In a motion to dismiss the case, Pizzi’s lawyers argue that the payments he received were lawful political donations — not bribes — though only one was disclosed on his mayoral campaign finance report. None was reported on an affiliated political action committee’s campaign finance report.

“Contrary to the government’s assertions, the alleged funds at issue in this case all arise from or involve the subject of campaign and political contributions,” his lawyers argued in court papers also filed Wednesday.

Cooke, the federal judge, must still rule on Pizzi’s motion to throw out the government’s case.

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