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Trial Date Set in Secret Recording Case

By: Julie Montanaro; Capitol News Service; The News Service of Florida; AP Email
By: Julie Montanaro; Capitol News Service; The News Service of Florida; AP Email

By: Julie Montanaro
January 30, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - A trial date has been set in the secret recording case of Carletha Cole. It is set for May 20th.

"This is an old case, it needs to be tried," Judge Sheffield said. "You better be ready."

There is still no definitive word on whether the lieutenant governor will be questioned or called to testify.


January 18, 2013 by Julie Montanaro

A circuit judge has ruled that attorneys for Carletha Cole can depose LT Governor Jennifer Carroll, her chief of staff John Konkus, the governor's former chief of staff Stephen McNamara and Beatriz Ramos.

Judge Frank Sheffield said defense attorneys can ask these witnesses about whether they have knowledge of the recording at the heart of this case and recording policies within the Lieutenant Governor's Office.

"That's fair game," Sheffield said but stressed the scope of those interviews would be limited. "We are not going to have a fishing expedition here."

As for the deposition of the Lieutenant Governor, Sheffield said, "We are not going to talk to her about a fire, what her sexual preferences are" none of that, he said.

Sheffield denied requests to see Carroll's personnel files, her travel records or her personal phone records.

The judge says he will review Carroll's work phone logs and emails from September and October to see if any of them are relevant.

An attorney for the Lieutenant Governor and Beatriz Ramos thanked the judge for limiting the scope of the questions, but General Counsel Pete Antonacci said he objects to Carroll "being deposed in the first place."

The judge said if the Lieutenant Governor has information about this recording he will require her to testify. Sheffield did agree to depose the Lieutenant Governor last to be sure there is a need for it.


Associated Press Release

Tallahassee, FL - A Leon County judge is rejecting a request to shield Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll from a criminal case involving a former aide.

Circuit Judge Frank Sheffield SAID that ex-aide Carletha Cole is entitled to defend herself.

Cole was arrested in 2011 for allegedly giving a reporter a secret recording containing a conversation between Cole and Carroll's chief of staff.

The Scott administration sought to block questioning of Carroll after lawyers for Cole filed court documents in which Cole claimed to have found Carroll in a compromising position with her travel aide.
Carroll called the allegations false and absurd.


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - July 25, 2012 -

A judge has admonished lawyers on both sides to limit their public comments in a criminal case against a former aide to Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll.

Circuit Judge Frank Sheffield spoke privately with the lawyers Tuesday, but he denied the prosecution's request for a formal gag order.

Carletha Cole is charged with violating state law by secretly recording a conversation with Carroll's chief of staff. She then allegedly gave the recording to a newspaper reporter.

Cole's lawyers subsequently filed court documents in which she claimed to have found Carroll in a compromising position with another female aide, Beatriz Ramos, which Carroll denied.

The defense lawyers also accused Ramos of setting fire to a trash can in Cole's office and asked for a fire marshal's investigation, which was denied.


Tallahassee, Florida- July 25, 2012

Circuit Judge Frank Sheffield on Tuesday denied a request by State Attorney Willie Meggs to bar attorneys in the case of Carletha Cole from talking to the media. Sheffield has set a Sept. 25 for a status conference in a case against Cole, a former aide to Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll who faces felony charges for disclosing tape recorded conversations to a Jacksonville reporter. The case has gained attention after Cole made allegations that she was fired after she walked in on Carroll and another female aide in a sexually compromising position in Carroll's office, an allegation the lieutenant governor vehemently denies. Meggs requested the gag order after Cole's attorneys gave repeated interviews earlier this month. Cole's attorney, Steven Andrews, said the judge admonished both sides in a private meeting in his chambers, telling them to adhere to the rules of the Florida Bar. "I'm certain the state attorney felt like they weren't getting a fair shake," Andrews told reporters after the meeting. "We felt like we weren't, but now the playing field seems to be balanced from our standpoint."


Tallahassee, Florida- July 24, 2012

A motion to gag attorneys defending a woman making accusations against Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll fell flat today. But even though a gag order was denied both sides have agreed to tone it down.

In a quick court hearing, following a long closed door meeting, a Leon County Judge refused to silence attorneys making allegations against Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll.

“I’m not going to enter a gag order, but I’m expecting compliance with the rule of professional conduct,” said Judge Frank Sheffield from the bench in a Tuesday morning hearing.

The prosecution sought the gag order in the case of Carletha Cole, the former Carroll employee charged with distributing an illegal recording.

Cole’s attorneys claim their client was setup because she caught Carroll in a “compromising position” with a female aide. The allegations made headlines across the globe.

The Governor’s office dismissed the claims as “outrageous” and directed me to the state attorney’s office for any comment on the case, but after Tuesday’s hearing the prosecutor bolted out of the courtroom without talking to reporters.

Steve Andrews, one of Cole’s attorneys, stuck around. Andrews says the judge wasn't happy with how attorneys on both sides were handling the case.

“It was joint scolding. You know Judge Sheffield wants a fair trial and so do we,” said Andrews.

“All sides should air on the side of caution with regards to public statements and we will,” said Andrews.

Before Andrews began speaking out, he says Cole wasn’t being treated fairly in the media. Now, he feels, as he backs away from the spotlight, the playing field for his client in the court of public opinion has been leveled.

The next move for the defense is to file a deposition list, and Carroll will be on it.


Tallahassee, Florida - July 24, 2012

State Attorney Willie Meggs has filed a motion in Leon County Circuit Court to bar Carletha Cole and her attorneys from discussing with the press details of Cole's case. The gag order request, filed on Friday, comes in response to allegations by Cole that she walked in on Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll and another female aid in a sexually compromising position.

Meggs said recent actions by Cole and her lawyers is making it difficult to prosecute the case against Cole, a former Carroll aide who was fired and faces charges of illegally leaking tape recorded messages to a Jacksonville reporter. Carroll is not a party in the case.

"The efforts on the part of the defense to try this case in the media include an on camera interviews given by Mr. (Stephen) Webster (Cole's attorney) to a local news station on at least two separate occasions within the last week," Meggs wrote in his motion. "The extensive media coverage in this case will effect both the State and the Defense's respective rights to a fair trial here in Leon County."


Tallahassee, Florida- July 23, 2012

The state is trying to silence accusations against Florida’s Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll. Today prosecutors filed a gag motion in the case of Carletha Cole.

Cole is the former Carroll employee charged with distributing an illegal recording. Earlier this month Cole’s attorney filed a motion alleging Carroll carried on a sexual relationship with a female employee and covered up a fire in Cole’s office. Prosecutors say those claims have nothing to do with the criminal case. They want the defense to stop talking about them. But Cole’s attorney Steve Webster says the allegations show his client was bullied and setup and he’s speaking out to protect his client’s reputation.

“I stand by it 100 percent and I’m going to fight doggedly to show, to bring to light these motives and biases that exist and clearly exist and are corroborated by public records.”

The judge is expected to rule on the gag motion tomorrow morning after a nine o’clock hearing. In the state’s motion, the prosecution claims an Internet search of Cole and Carroll returns more than 235 news stories, signally the jury pool could become contaminated.


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