BY BUDDY NEVINS
The nightmare isn’t over for Tamarac Mayor Beth Talabisco…or taxpayers.
Corruption charges against Talabisco were thrown out by Circuit Judge Cyndy Imperato in March, 2012.
Judge Cindy Imperato: Threw out case for lack of evidence
Imperato ruled there was no evidence that the mayor received a personal benefit from contributions by a pair of corrupt developers to get her elected.
You though that was the end?
Not by a long shot.
In our American Justice system, cases have more twists and turns than a soap opera and drag on just as long.
In all the ruckus about recalling Commissioner Patte Atkins Grad after her acquittal by jurors on corruption, the active case against Talabisco has been forgotten.
It is alive and kicking.
Arguments were heard on State Attorney Michael Satz’s appeal of the dismissal early last month. That’s more than a year after the case was tossed out.
Attorneys await the decision of the three-judge Fourth District Court of Appeal panel, which may not come for another six months.
The case could go different ways from here:
- The appeals court affirms the dismissal without comment. Most likely the case ends there.
- The appeals court affirms the dismissal with a decision. This could generate an appeal by prosecutors to the Florida Supreme Court contesting the appeals’ judges reasoning.
- The appeals court overturns the dismissal and orders a new trial. This starts the process over again in Broward County Circuit Court.
The only sure things is that the meter is running for taxpayers.
Tamarac has already shelled out $138,998 in legal fees for the mayor’s trial — $125,000 in fees for Talabisco’s criminal defense attorney Larry Davis and another $11,998 in costs such as taking depositions and paying for transcripts.
I looked at Davis’ preparation for the case. I think he charged too little for the reams of research he produced during his initial groundwork for the case.
Initial groundwork because if this case is ordered back for a trial, Davis will have to take more depositions and investigate further.
If Talabisco is eventually convicted after a new trial, she must repay the money. If she is acquitted in a trial or the case is thrown out for good, the city owes more.
I have no idea what Satz has spent, but there is no reason to believe it is any less than Davis.
The case hinges on whether contributions of more than $17,000 by crooked builders Shawn and Bruce Chait to fund attack ads and a poll by an independent committee constituted an illegal benefit to Talabisco under state law.
The committee was supposedly run without Talabisco’s knowledge.
Judge Imperato, a former cop and prosecutor who has the reputation of being pro-prosecution, ruled that Satz never proved Talabisco personally benefitted from the shady contributions.
What will the appeal judges rule as the case climbs the ladder of justice?
We’ve got a long way to go and many more dollars to spend before this case is finally stamped “closed.”