Miami-Dade County

Where did Joe Carollo make his late-night phone calls from? His job could depend on it

Joe Carollo, left, beat Alfonso “Alfie” Leon in a race for the District 3 seat on Miami’s City Commission. Now, Leon is accusing Carollo of being ineligible to run. The legal challenge is playing out in a trial in Miami-Dade civil court.
Joe Carollo, left, beat Alfonso “Alfie” Leon in a race for the District 3 seat on Miami’s City Commission. Now, Leon is accusing Carollo of being ineligible to run. The legal challenge is playing out in a trial in Miami-Dade civil court.

In a final day of testimony in the trial to determine if recently elected Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo was eligible to run for office, both legal teams scored points as attorneys zeroed in on Carollo’s cellphone records and electric bills.

In particular, Carollo’s team mounted an aggressive defense after all of Friday’s testimony was dedicated to witnesses called by Alfonso “Alfie” Leon, Carollo’s opponent in the race to represent District 3 on the Miami City Commission. Carollo beat Leon in November’s runoff, and Leon is suing Carollo, arguing he didn’t meet the city’s residency requirement that a candidate live in the district he seeks to represent for at least one year before the deadline to qualify for the ballot.

Now that witness testimony and presentation of evidence has concluded, Judge Thomas Rebull expects post-trial briefs from both sides by the end of the day on Jan. 16, in place of closing arguments. After he considers the written arguments, he will call a hearing and announce his decision in open court.

At the heart of the trial is the question of whether Carollo lived in the West Brickell apartment he leased in September 2016. While Friday’s testimony focused on the lifestyle and daily habits of Carollo and his wife, Marjorie, Monday’s hearing shifted to interpretations of Joe Carollo’s electric bills and cellphone records. Both sides presented dueling expert witnesses to prove their points.

Benedict Kuehne, Carollo’s attorney, scrutinized the analysis provided by Oubay Atassi, a telecommunications executive and witness for Leon. Atassi examined the phone records and determined Carollo made few nighttime calls from the vicinity of the Brickell apartment, but made many more near his Coconut Grove home on Morris Lane during the first few months of the lease. Carollo has testified he spent nights at the Brickell apartment.

Kuehne found a mistake in one of the maps that incorrectly locates one of the towers and that Atassi did not receive a complete set of data to interpret.

Kuehne also emphasized that Atassi had no experience with cell tower infrastructure in the United States, only overseas.

“It doesn’t matter,” Atassi responded. “It’s the same technology.”

Carollo’s electric bills also set the stage for another faceoff between expert witnesses. Leon’s team called a master electrician, Johan Pedraza, who testified that he doubted anyone lived at the Brickell apartment during the first few months of the lease, given the low power consumption.

“I don’t see how that’s possible,” Pedraza said.

Two professionals in the energy audit and engineering fields did see how that’s possible, especially if Carollo didn’t use the top energy-using appliance: the air conditioner.

“My conclusion is that the apartment was occupied by humans who interacted with the apartment almost daily,” said Bill Dalton, an energy auditor.

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