Crime

Ex-Homestead mayor now a convicted felon

A judge on Thursday dismissed one felony count but pronounced ex-Homestead Mayor Steven Bateman guilty of another felony charge of illegal compensation on Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014.
A judge on Thursday dismissed one felony count but pronounced ex-Homestead Mayor Steven Bateman guilty of another felony charge of illegal compensation on Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Ex-Homestead Mayor Steven Bateman is a convicted felon.

A judge on Thursday dismissed one felony count but pronounced Bateman guilty of another felony charge of illegal compensation for his conduct involving a secret consulting job with a company that needed government help for a construction project.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Robert Luck’s decision came five weeks after a jury convicted Bateman for wielding his influence as mayor while secretly on the payroll of Community Health of South Florida, or CHI. The judge also left intact a misdemeanor conviction for failing to register as a county lobbyist.

Bateman, who will remain free on bail, will be sentenced on Dec. 19.

“I still feel like I did nothing wrong,” Bateman told reporters after Thursday’s court hearing.

A Miami-Dade jury last month disagreed, taking just three hours to convict Bateman of the two illegal compensation felonies and the one misdemeanor count.

But the judge did not immediately rule Bateman guilty as he considered a defense request to acquit the former mayor because of a lack of evidence. Earlier this month, Luck denied a separate motion to dismiss that was filed before the trial began.

The case revolved around Bateman, who ran a construction company, soliciting a job as a $125-an-hour “consultant” for CHI.

At the time, CHI was planning to build a new children’s crisis center in downtown Homestead, but construction was delayed because of a lack of connections to a sewage pump. The city had agreed to build a bigger pump station, but Miami-Dade County officials had halted the project over concerns about the facility’s design.

Defense attorneys insisted that Bateman’s job was legitimate and wholly separate from his role as mayor.

In the first felony count, Judge Luck ruled that prosecutors never showed enough evidence that Bateman had “corrupt intent” when he initially accepted the job because the city had already agreed to build the pump station.

“There is no evidence that Bateman represented he would sell his vote, or twist the city’s staff to approve the water pump,” Luck wrote in a 26-page order.

But Bateman crossed the line when he used his position to try and sway county officials to speed up their approval of the pump station, the judge ruled.

The focal point of the state’s case: A February 2013 meeting in which Bateman, outwardly acting in his elected role, met with Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and county staff to push the pump issue. In that meeting, he never revealed he was on CHI’s payroll — and later, Bateman billed the company for his meeting at County Hall.

“He was serving two masters: the people of Homestead and Community Health,” Luck wrote. “For that influence — for the time he spent influencing county officials — Bateman was paid twice: by the city and then (more handsomely) by Community Health.”

Bateman, 59, was first arrested in August 2013 as he was running for reelection, a campaign he eventually lost.

Thursday’s ruling comes just days after the Miami-Dade ethics commission released hundreds of pages of documents that showed Bateman and his former wife, in recent years, reaped more than $200,000 in payments from companies with issues before the city.

Bateman was not charged in those cases, and on Thursday, he insisted the Miami Herald story on the allegations was “totally miswritten.”

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